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Ellen Harvey

   
 

Mirror Images . . .

   

 

  

 

Since the 1990's, Williamsburg painter Ellen Harvey has been charming us with her intellectual take on mimesis.  She began with reproductions of everyday objects - personal ID cards, pants, shirts - clever riffs on everyday objects and how they are perceived.  She painted dozens of similar items and also created variations on a theme as in the same pair of jeans painted different sizes and from different angles.  Harvey's obsession reached its apogee when she reproduced paintings from the Whitney's permanent collection in miniature at the Altria gallery in 2001. 

We were even more convinced of Harvey's talent when she spent the better part of three years illicitly tagging random urban surfaces such as post boxes and subway girders with forty miniature oval-shaped romantic European and Hudson River School landscapes.  The English-born Harvard graduate documented these efforts in her first art book, the wry New York Beautification Project.

At the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Harvey presented Museum of Failure: Collection of Impossible Subjects and Invisible Self-Portraits, a contemporary hall of mirrors which included empty frames of different sizes and shapes, some cut out to provide views of the rooms beyond.  Down the street at the Armory, at 100 Biennale Visitors Immortalized, she exchanged a 15-minute portrait for a critique of her performance.  For her efforts, Harvey was rewarded with a Best in Show. 

In some of her mixed media self-portraits in Museum of Failure Harvey's face is obscured by a camera flash.  The artist cleverly implies that her true subject may not be mimesis itself but the ultimate futility of the artist's attempt to live up to an idealized image of an object or self.  If as Shelley observed, poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which it distorts, then perhaps art is a mirror which necessarily distorts that which it makes beautiful.

Private Collections, which includes recent pieces as well as selections from Harvey's Museum of Failure, is currently on show at Philadelphia's Locks Gallery through December 13. 

  

Visit: Private Collections, Locks Gallery 

Buy: Ellen Harvey, Luxe Gallery 

Discover: New York Beautification Project

 

Tags: art 

 

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New York Beautification Project

 

 

       
 

 
       
     

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