Ellen Harvey

New York Beautification Project. Ellen Harvey, 1998–2001. Gesso and oil on forty graffiti sites and photographic edition in frames, each painting: 5 x 7" (12.7 x 17.7 cm), orientation variable. Photograph: Ellen Harvey Studio
Photograph: Brooke Williams, 2017

Ellen Harvey is a British-born artist living and working in Brooklyn.

This is the second interview with Ellen, the first interview (part one) is here.

She is a 2016 recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in the Visual Arts and a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program.

She has exhibited extensively in the U.S. and internationally and was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Solo exhibitions include Metal Painting at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, The Unloved at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, Belgium, The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington DC at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, The Nudist Museum at the Bass Museum in Miami Beach, Ruins are More Beautiful at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland, Mirror at the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia and A Whitney for the Whitney at Philip Morris at the Whitney Museum at Altria in New York.  She has completed numerous commissions, including Arcadia for the opening exhibition of the Turner Contemporary in Margate, UK and permanent public works for New York Percent for Art, New York Arts in Transit, the Chicago Transit Authority, the Philadelphia International Airport, the Federal Art in Architecture program and the Flemish National Architect.

Her Belgian project Repeat, won the Wivina Demeester Prize for Commissioned Public Art in 2016.  She is currently working on Atlantis, a new permanent installation commissioned for the renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center.  Her work has been the subject of several books including New York Beautification Project, published by G. R. Miller & Co. in 2005, Mirror, published by the Pennsylvania Academy in 2006, Ellen Harvey: The Unloved, published by Hannibal in 2014 and Ellen Harvey: Museum of Failure, published by G. R. Miller & Co. in 2015.  She is represented by Danese / Corey Gallery in New York, Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Meessen de Clerq Gallery in Brussels, Belgium and Galerie Gebruder Lehman in Germany.

This current show at the Children’s Museum of the Arts mentioned in the interview is here. And the book mentioned in the interview is here, a click away.

New York Beautification Project. Ellen Harvey, 1998–2001. Gesso and oil on forty graffiti sites and photographic edition in frames, each painting: 5 x 7″ (12.7 x 17.7 cm), orientation variable. Photograph: Ellen Harvey Studio
The Irreplaceable Cannot Be Replaced. Ellen Harvey, 2008. Painting 3 of 11 oil paintings on gesso board and thirty framed texts, each painting, board, and text: 16 x 20″ (40.6 x 50.8 cm).
Exchange Your Luck. Ellen Harvey, 2012. Two sets of seventy-seven bronze charms, Polaroids, swapped items, and two wood shelves, each charm: approx. 1–3″ (2.5–7.6 cm) high; each shelf: 19′ (579 cm) long, acrylic on wall. Edition of charms: 2 plus 2 artist’s proofs. Commissioned by Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Art Production Fund. Installation view, Exchange Your Luck, Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, December 5–23, 2012
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  1. […] Ellen Harvey joined Praxis for a second time to discuss her work. Many of her projects incorporate free services or gifts in a sense. Harvey has a strong affinity for the concept of art as a gift removed entirely from exchange of money. She believes there is a certain luxury and a definite benefit to both giver and receiver when something is given away. The first project Harvey did that incorporated giving away free art involved illegally painting 5×7″ oval landscapes in oil over graffiti sites. At the time Harvey wished to incite interesting public conversation about graffiti artists and their rights. As the project progressed and she encountered people on the street she began to realize that in a sense her art was a gift to the community at large. Harvey completed 40 paintings for the project which began garnering publicity. Amid some concerns she might be jailed if she continued, she moved on. She did have one rough encounter with NYPD who mistook her for a homeless person and questioned her about her activities. Ultimately the project opened up conversations Harvey couldn’t have imagined at the outset. For another project during an artist residency in a Las Vegas casino, she considered the concept of good luck. The project was titled Exchange Your Luck. For the piece, she crafted 77 bronze good luck charms. Unlucky gamblers could swap their unlucky charms for her lucky ones. Harvey took Polaroids of each exchange and asked participants to write on the photos the reason for the exchange. She found there was a lot of skepticism from casino patrons at first, always looking for the catch. In New Orleans, Harvey participated in a project called Something from Nothing curated by Dan Cameron. Rather than follow the guidelines of the project which called for artists to create art from the debris of Hurricane Katrina, Harvey placed an ad in the Times-Picayune asking people to tell about things they lost in the hurricane. She created paintings of items, and in one case the partner of a woman who perished when the generator in the hospital where he was staying failed. She was unable to create paintings for all of the responses she received but found that just printing each story brought a certain amount of satisfaction to the participants. Harvey puzzles over the tension in the art world between the focus on the monetary value of art and the widely held belief that art is something that should not be attached to money. To hear more stories from Ellen Harvey, listen to the full interview. […]