ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Ellen Carey: Struck By Light
Part One: On view in the Helen T. and Philip B. Stanley Gallery
Part Two: On view in the Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Foundation Gallery
Since the early 1990s, acclaimed Hartford-based artist Ellen Carey (b. 1952) has created experimental and abstract works that defy photographic conventions. Ellen Carey: Struck by Light represents the largest retrospective of Carey’s innovative photo-objects and lens-based artworks in a decade. Tracing 30 years of her prolific career, the exhibition includes examples of her Photography Degree Zero practice (1996–2023) of Polaroid 20 X 24 lens-based images—including Pulls and Rollbacks—as well as her Struck by Light series (1988–2023) of camera-less photograms—Dings and Shadows—which are inspired by the earliest examples of paper photography.
A two-part exhibition, Ellen Carey: Struck by Light spans first and second floor galleries. On our second floor, works from the early 1990s to 2000s explore the development of Carey’s innovative career and showcase gifts and acquisitions from the NBMAA’s collection. This gallery features recent works from the last decade, including large-scale camera-less photograms and Pulls that demonstrate Carey’s boldly experimental approach to image-making. Evoking a kaleidoscope of dazzling hues and shapes, Ellen Carey: Struck by Light celebrates Carey’s enormous contributions to the field of photography through her pioneering explorations of light, color, and shadow.
Ellen Carey received her BFA from KCAI-Kansas City Art Institute (1971-1975) and her MFA (1976-1978) from SUNY@Buffalo (now UB). She is Associate Professor of Photography (1983-2023) Hartford Art School (HAS)-University of Hartford.
A recent article written by Chris Wiley for The New Yorker (February 2023) sees the arc of her career as well as the solo exhibition Light Struck at Fox Talbot Museum (2023-2024), the home of photography in Lacock (England).
Ellen Carey’s Artist Statement:
Photography changed our world. Now universal, a photograph links a global humanity with our picture culture from each image to hundreds, millions, billions seen every day; we are visual.
A Picture is a Poem without Words - Horace
Struck by light is a phrase that sparks imagination, tells of inspiration, a metaphor for discovery, to conceive something anew, a rare feeling, a brainstorm … Eureka! … says it all. Photography, discovered in the 19th century, is Greek - phōs for light, graphis for drawing - light drawing.
Light’s immateriality challenges its ‘camera operators’ today. Analog versus digital technologies double these challenges. Struck by light has multiple meanings for my experimental and lens-based works. It names my creative practice in photogram, while Photography Degree Zero sees my Polaroid 20 X 24 works. Light, wherever/whenever it strikes, is to be free.
Struck by Light is different in meaning for photographers. When light-sensitive paper/film is exposed to/struck by light, if intentional, a negative/film or image/paper is made; however, if light strikes the paper/film, accidentally it is “fogged” - darkened - light travels. Photographers are often called light travelers; I see my work in this context, giving content to it.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware - Martin Buber
Photographers use light in all different ways - silhouette, shadow, outline, reflection; however, I often cannot see light while I work [in the darkroom], leading me to wonder what the light does on its own. What are light’s first traces?
Light finds my Catholic birth name - Celtic, Gaelic, Irish - a prescient gift from my parents; Ellen means light or bringer of light. Color is universal, an artist’s universe, in that universe is photography’s planet, where light and color overlap and meet; it is called photographic color theory - RGBYMC - a palette that conceptually underscores my twin practices.
Struck by Light is the DNA of my dual artistic endeavors, a double helix with light and color, photography within process, that combines destiny and fate. When light becomes visible the photo-object speaks. My photographs say craquelure, parabola, hue, abstract, process, minimal, photogram, light, beauty, color, wonder, invention, innovation.
Members Opening Reception | Ellen Carey: Struck by Light
Thursday, July 20, 5 p.m.
Virtual Lecture | Ellen Carey
Sunday, November 5, 2 p.m.
Lighting the World
Nell Porter Brown, Harvard Magazine, November-December 2023
New Britain Museum of American Art opens Ellen Carey solo exhibition
By Jessica Fontaine, New Britain Herald, June 26, 2023
The New Britain Museum of American Art Presents Ellen Carey: Struck by Light
The E-List, August 1, 2023
The New Britain Museum of American Art announces Ellen Carey: Stuck by Light exhibit
Finding Connecticut, June 22, 2023
Ellen Carey’s artworks on display at New Britain museum
Republican American, June 28, 2023