Ellen Carey - Portrait in the Polaroid (detail), Photo by Douglas Levere

Ellen Carey

United States 1952



Ellen Carey
Ellen Carey
United States
May 24, 2016

Basing her work on the complete contradictions, Ellen Carey creates lens-based art in a context of abstraction and minimalism. The usual imagery of the photographs is replaced with imagined, chemically created colors, with the use or light or no light. Mixing the conventional practice with experimental processes, her inventive techniques create colors and its combinations never seen before. For the past three decades, Carey uses the large format Polaroid 20 x 24 camera that reflects her creative efforts and strivings in expression in artistic medium highly regarded for its technical advances. Unlike the traditional photography where both process and invention are transparent and equally important, in her work the process becomes the subject seen in the final object.

Ellen Carey - Push Pins, 1995
Ellen Carey – Push Pins, 1995

Timeless Photographs Made with Forgotten Camera

Her early work, Painted Self-Portraits (1978), first exhibited at Hallwalls, an alternative art space, launched her into the world of avant-garde. In 1983, The Polaroid Artists Support Program invited her to work in their studio. Carey’s pioneering series The Pull (1996) and Rollback (1997) named her practice Photography Degree Zero (1996-2016). Exploring the minimalistic and abstract images with Polaroid technology with innovative approach of using only light or none, emphasizing zero. Following the same aesthetics, she also creates photograms, photograph works made without camera. The series Struck by Light (1992-2016) represents her final concept of the less-is-more rule and consist of photograms that makes parallel practice with the Polaroid lens-based Photography Degree Zero.

She explores the minimalistic and abstract images using the Polaroid technology

Ellen Carey - Multi-Paneled Dings & Shadows, 2015
Ellen Carey – Multi-Paneled Dings & Shadows, 2015

Photography and Photograms

The Photography Degree Zero images have no subject or any reference to a place or object. They are created with camera, in studio, but without the use of darkroom. She remained faithful to her large-format Polaroid 20 x 24 camera that she has used since 1983, and whose new possibilities she discovered thirteen years later. It has been represented in artworks Pulls and Rollbacks. Carey’s visual breakthrough and creative innovation introduces the visual form called parabola as a conical loop, or a hyperbola, the shape seen in the nature, for example, in the frontal curve of a comet.

Struck by Light, series of photograms, are not studio-based, but made in a darkroom, with the exclusive use of light upon exposure. Literally and figuratively Struck by Light, these images are the embodiment of her photogram research. Carey started with a reductive palette of black and white, successively adding warm tones and muted color. Using the light in a combination of photographic color theory, she incorporates unconventional objects, metal push pins, glass marbles or photographic grey card, to interrupt the light beam that strikes the paper. All Carey’s photograms in the color darkroom are light-tight, i.e. no light (zero again) allowed except upon exposure; literally blind, without sight, she introduces an aporia to our notions in photography and its camera vision.

Carey started with a reductive palette of black and white

Ellen Carey - Photogenic Drawings, 1992-2015
Ellen Carey – Photogenic Drawings, 1992-2015

Themes of Love and Loss Hidden in Abstraction

Creating the work that consist of conceptually connected elements posted through visual characteristics as shadows and shapes seen in the object as negative, Carey considers the formal issues of size and scale conjoined with color palette. The content echoes in her choices of method and material asserting the symbols and signs that give the deeper meaning to her art. Themes on love and loss, seen in her monumental Mourning Wall (2000) and her new project To Paris with Love are captured in the large format Polaroid grey negatives. Monochrome palette of black, white and gray have a conceptual value putting the images into to specific context. Carey’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows and also is a part of the permanent collections of over twenty museums.

Featured image: Ellen Carey – Portrait in the Polaroid (detail), Photo by Douglas Levere
All images © Ellen Carey

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2015Ellen Carey: Polaroid 20 X 24 Self-Portraits M+B, Los AngelesSolo
2015Photography Sees The Surface Higher PicturesGroup
2015Part-Picture Museum Of Canadian Contemporary Art (MoCCA), Toronto Group
2015One-Of-A-Kind: Unique Objects From The Center For Creative Photography (CCP) University Of Arizona, TucsonGroup
2015Art Today: 2000 – Present New Britain Museum Of American Art (NBMAA), New BritainGroup
2015Aspects Of Portraiture: Photographs From The Wadsworth Atheneum HartfordGroup
2014Let There Be Light: The Blacks Swans Of Ellen Carey Akus Gallery, Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU), WillimanticSolo
2014Altarations: Built, Blended, Processed Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton Group
2014Modern Alchemy: Experiments In Photography Heckscher Museum, Huntington Group
2014CHEM 101: The Beauty Of Chemistry In Photography Benton Art Museum, UConn, StorrsGroup
2014After Life, Luckman GalleryFine Arts Centerlifornia State University, Los Angeles Group
2013The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography And Experimentation Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar Group
2013A Democracy Of Images: Photographs From The Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, D.C.Group
2012Photography Degree Zero Joseph Bellows Gallery, La JollaSolo
2012In Hamlet’s Shadow: Self-Portraits As Photo-Lithographs From 1987 Celeste LeWitt Gallery, UCONN Health Center, Storrs Solo
2012Struck By Light Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloSolo
2012Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-Garde In The 1970s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, BuffaloGroup
201250@50: Selected Artists From The Gerald Mead Collection UB Anderson Gallery, BuffaloGroup
2012Focus: New Photography Acquisitions New Britain Museum Of American Art Group
2011Process(ing) Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, ParisGroup
2011The Minimalist Aesthetic Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art, HartfordGroup
2011For Once, Then, Something Burchfield-Penney Art Center, BuffaloGroup
2011Recollection: Thirty Years Of Photography At The New York Public LibraryThe New York Public Library, New YorkGroup
2011The White Show: Subtlety In The Age Of Spectacle Clarion University Art GalleryGroup
2011Women Artists at New Britain Museum New Britain Museum Of American Art Group
2010The Black Swans Of Ellen Carey: Of Necessary Poetic RealitiesWest Hartford Art League, West Hartford Solo
2010Spectra: New Abstract Photography Silver Eye Gallery, PittsburgGroup
2010Plucking The Rainbow Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloGroup
2010Polaroid: Instant Joy A.M. Richard Fine Art, BrooklynGroup
2010The ART Of POLAROID Gallery 4, Tiverton 4 CornersGroup
2009Struck By Light: Ellen Carey: Photogram Retrospective (1992-2009)St. Joseph University, West Hartford Solo
2009Color Field Photography The Princeton Arts Council, Princeton Group
2009Exposed Creon Gallery, New YorkGroup
2008Picture Nothing Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloSolo
2008Click eo art lab, ChesterGroup
2008Color Me Real Windsor Art Center, WindsorGroup
2007Photography Degree Zero Ibu Gallery, Palais Royale, Paris Solo
2007Shadows & Pulls… A Short History Diana Birdsall Gallery, Old Lyme Solo
2007Connecticut Contemporary Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art, Hartford Group
2006Moirés, Blinks, Monochromes, Start & Stops, Mixes Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New LondonSolo
2006femme brut (e) Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London Group
2006Seeing The Lightrl Solway Gallery, CincinnatiGroup
2006The Persistence Of Geometry Cleveland Museum Of ArtGroup
2006Shifting Terrains Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art Group
2005Moirés, Blinks, Monochromes, Start & Stops, Mixes Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloSolo
2005Romancing The Shadows The Palo Alto Art Center, Palo Alto Group
2005Black & White Paesaggio Gallery, West HartfordGroup
2004Photography Degree Zero-Matrix #153 Wadsworth Atheneum Museum, Hartford Solo
2004Inside Out: Selections From The Permanent CollectionSan José Museum Of ArtGroup
2004LeWitt’s LeWitts New Britain Museum Of American Art, New BritainGroup
2003Photography Degree Zero Katrina Traywick Gallery, BerkeleySolo
2003Photography Degree Zero 1996 – 2003 Beacon Camera Club, BeaconSolo
2003Mourning Wall For 9-11 Mercy Gallery, Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor Solo
2003This Is Not A Photograph DePaul University, ChicagoGroup
2003Light =Index Visual Studies Workshop (VSW), RochesterGroup
2003Prima Facie Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloGroup
2003Primary Colours City Gallery, Leicester, England UKGroup
2002Push Pin PhotogramsNina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloSolo
2002Mourning Wall For 9-11 PABA (Photo Art Book Art), New HavenSolo
2002Mourning Wall And Birthday Portrait Museum Of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Columbia College, Chicago Solo
2002Self-Portrait @ 48 Connecticut Commission On The Arts, HartfordSolo
2002Photography Degree Zero, NEW-NOW New Britain Museum Of American Art (NBMAA) Prima Facie, Paesaggio Gallery, West HartfordSolo
2002American Visions: Highlights From The Photography Collection Whitney Museum Group
2002Photography’s Antiquarian Avant-Garde Sarah Morthland Gallery, New York Group
2002Self-Portrait @ 48 Connecticut Commission For The Arts, HartfordGroup
2001Mourning Wall Pamela Auchincloss Project Space, New YorkSolo
2001Photography Degree Zero PABA (Photo Art Book Art), New HavenSolo
2001What’s New Whitney Museum Of American Art, New YorkGroup
2001Eccentric Photography Islip Museum, East Islip Group
2000Mourning Wall-Family Portrait-Birthday Portrait Real Art Ways, Hartford Solo
2000Pulls Beacon Camera Club, BeaconSolo
2000American Perspectives: Photographs From The Polaroid Collection Tokyo Metropolitan Museum Of Photography, Tokyo Group
2000Portraits PABA (Photo Art Book Art), New HavenGroup
2000UnknownYard SaleC Lab School, New YorkGroup
2000This Is Not A Photograph Pamela Auchincloss Art Projects, New York Group
2000Being Human: A Portrait PABA (Photo Art Book Art), New HavenGroup
2000Selections Paesaggio Gallery, West HartfordGroup
1999Photogenic Drawings Paesaggio Gallery, West HartfordSolo
1999Photography Degree Zero Loughborough University, Loughborough, EnglandSolo
1999Female Wessel & O’Connor, New YorkGroup
1999Here’s Looking At You Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art, HartfordGroup
1999Fellowship Awards Exhibition Connecticut Commission On The Arts, HartfordGroup
1999100 Years Of Photography: Personal Visions On The 20th Century In The Art And Technology The Discovery Museum, BridgeportGroup
1998Pulls, RiccoMaresca Gallery, New YorkSolo
1998Art That Happens To Be Photography Nina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloGroup
1997Family Portrait-Birthday PortraitCleveland Center For Contemporary Art, ClevelandSolo
1997Photography Degree Zero Todd Mauritz Gallery, Columbus, OHSolo
1997Eye Of The Beholder: The Avon Collection International Center For Photography (ICP NY), New York Group
1997The Big Picture Show The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG), BuffaloGroup
1997Diverse Visions-Photographic Perspectives The Pittsburgh Center For The ArtsGroup
1996Photography Degree Zero Ricco Maresca Gallery, New YorkSolo
1996From Transition To Abstraction Center For Photography At Woodstock Group
1996Collecting In The 90s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art, Hartford Group
1996Delirium Ricco-Maresca Gallery, New YorkGroup
1995Ellen CareyNina Freudenheim Gallery, BuffaloSolo
1995Not A Metaphor Arts Projects International, New YorkGroup
1995Alternatives: Twenty Years Of HallWalls 1975-1995 Burchfield–Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo Group
1995Moholy-Nagy And Present Company Museum At The Chicago Art Institute, Chicago Group
1994 Ellen CareyJayne H. Baum Gallery, New YorkSolo
1994Ellen CareyGallery 954, ChicagoSolo
19944 + 4 + 4 = 95 Charter Oak Cultural Center, HartfordGroup
1994Issues And Identities In Contemporary Photography Museum Of The Art Institute Of Chicago Group
1994UnknownMaking Picturesldwell College Group
1994Beyond The Camera, Large-Scale Manipulated Photographs Artspace, New HavenGroup
1994The Abstract Urge Ansel Adams Center, San Francisco Group
1993Departures Photography 1923–1990 College Of The Holy Cross, WorcesterGroup
1992 Ellen CareyJayne H. Baum Gallery, New YorkSolo
1992Back To The Future: Ellen Carey National Academy Of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Solo
1992The Abortion Project HallWalls Gallery, BuffaloGroup
1992Abstraction In The 90s Jan Kesner Gallery, Los AngelesGroup
1992The Colt 4 Wadsworth Atheneum Museum Of Art, Hartford Group
1992Photography (CCP) University Of Arizona, Tucson Group
1992Selections 6 Photokina, Polaroid Corporation, Cologne Group
1991Art That Happens To Be Photography Texas Gallery, Houston Group
1991Fifteen Years Of RAW Real Art Ways, HartfordGroup
1991Mixing The Medium: Beyond Silver Photography Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Universitymbridge Group
1991People And Places 100 Pearl Street Gallery, HartfordGroup
1991Resonance Lyman Allyn Museum, New LondonGroup
1990Self-Portraits In Polaroid 20 X 24 Schneider-Bluhm-Loeb Gallery, ChicagoSolo
1990Against Interpretation CEPA Gallery, BuffaloGroup
19905 Person Exhibition Vrej Baghoomian Gallery, New YorkGroup
1989Stack And Abstract: Polaroid John Good Gallery, New YorkSolo
1989Abstraction In Contemporary Photography Emerson Gallery, Hamilton College Artspace, New HavenGroup
1989Artists’ Portraits by Timothy Greenfield–Sanders Mary Boone Gallery, New York Group
1989Fotografie, Wissenschaft Und Neue Technologien Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf Group
1989Nature And Culture: Conflict And Reconciliation In Recent PhotographyFriends Of Photography, Ansel Adams Center, San FranciscoGroup
1988Appropriation And Syntax: Uses Of Photography In Contemporary Art Brooklyn MuseumGroup
1988Chaos John Good Gallery, New YorkGroup
1988Complexity And Contradictions Zilka Art Gallery, Wesleyan University, MiddletownGroup
1988New Surrealism The Catskill Center For Photography, Woodstock Group
1987Ellen Carey: Survey 1978-1986 International Center Of PhotographySolo
1987Self-Portraits In Polaroid 20 x 24 Simon Cerigo, New YorkSolo
1987Photo-Mannerisms Laurence Oliver Gallery, PhiladelphiaGroup
1987Photo Synthesis Frank Bernarducci Gallery, New YorkGroup
1987Poetic Injury: The Surrealist Legacy In Postmodern PhotographyAlternative Museum Group
1987Portrayals International Center Of Photography: ICP-Midtown, New York Group
1986Self-Portraits In Polaroid 20 x 24 Art City, New YorkSolo
1986Self-Portraits In Polaroid 20 x 24 Real Art Ways (RAW), HartfordSolo
1986Self-Portraits In Polaroid 20 x 24 Zone, SpringfieldSolo
1986UnknownBaskerville-Watson Gallery, New YorkGroup
1986Context As Contenttskill Center For Photography, WoodstockGroup
1986Four Photographers Promenade Gallery, Bushnell Memorial Hall, HartfordGroup
1985 Ellen CareyConcord Gallery, New YorkSolo
1985Ellen CareyDorry Gates Gallery, Kansas CitySolo
1985Acquisitions Dorry Gates Gallery, Kansas CityGroup
1985KCAI Centennial Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas CityGroup
1985Persona Non Grata Daniel Newburg Gallery, New YorkGroup
1984 Ellen CareyTexas Gallery, New YorkSolo
1984Chill Out The Kenkelba House, New YorkGroup
1984HallWalls: Ten Years The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG), Buffalo Group
1984The Heroic Figure, 17th Saõ Paulo Biennial Rio De Janeiro MoMA, Brazil Group
1983 Ellen CareyMemorial Union Art Gallery, University Of California, DavisSolo
1983Contemporary Self-Portraiture In Photography MIT Hayden Art Gallery, Cambridge Group
1983Three Dimensional Photographsstelli Graphics New YorkGroup
1983Faces Since The 50s Center Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisberg Group
1982 Ellen CareyUniversity Art Museum, University Of New Mexico, AlbuquerqueSolo
1982Altered States University Of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana Group
1982Contemporary Photography As PhantasyThe Santa Barbara Museum Of Art Group
1982Figures: Forms And Expressions The Albright-Knox Art Gallery (AKAG), Buffalo Group
1981Painted Photograph: Figures & Forms Concord Gallery, New YorkSolo
1981Carey, Dwyer, Simmons, SkoglundThe Texas Gallery, Houston Group
1981Lichtbildnisse Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany Group
1981The Markers San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art (SFMoMA), San Francisco Group
1981Photo Metro Pictures, New York,Group
1980HallWalls-Five Years The New Museum, New YorkGroup
1980Marvin Heiferman Selects The Texas Gallery, HoustonGroup
1979About Face Niagara Community College, Sanborn Group
1979Altered Photographs P.S.1 Center For Urban Resources, Long Island CityGroup
1978Painted Self-Portraits HallWalls, Buffalo Solo
1977In Western New York The Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo Group
1977Polaroid Showmerawork Gallery, San FranciscoGroup
1977Where N’ When HallWalls, BuffaloGroup
1976Ellen Carey & Cindy Sherman: Photo Bus Show CEPA-Niagara Transit System, BuffaloDuo
1976Images Of Women The Portland Museum Of Art, Portland Group
1976Manipulated Polaroids Wheelock College, Boston Group
1975Colorado National University Of Colorado, Boulder Group
1975Five Women Photographers CEPA Gallery, BuffaloGroup
1974First Light Humbolt State University, EurekaGroup
1974Subject: Women The Spencer Museum Of Art, University Of LawrenceGroup