Mary Ellen Bartley



All Night Near the Water

The Damp Moon


In contrast to Ion Zupcu’s White Cubes, we have the talented Mary Ellen Bartley’s Blue Books.

I have been a fan of Mary Ellen’s work for years. She hit the trifecta for me years ago, combining books, white and architecture. Three of my favorite things. As the daughter of a writer, and a collector of books, the subject hit home for me. These precious objects that are slowly disappearing need documentation. Yet without specific regard to the books subject, the structure of these piles lend themselves to the weight, substance, and texture of these tomes. The beautiful lines and soft edges, color contrasts remind me of Rothko’s beautiful quiet, yet powerful paintings. Subtle shades and variations allow us as the viewer to engage in the images in an emotional way.

We are showcasing the Blue Books today, just recently named a finalist in the Top 50 of Critical Mass 2010. Her Paperbacks series was a finalist for the Critical Mass Top 50 in 2009.

I can’t wait for whats next.

Mary Ellen Bartley

Artist Statement/ Blue Books:

The sensation of night falling is both lovely and scary. In Blue Books, my third series using books as subject, I work in the palette and light of twilight when shapes are barely defined and the sense of space becomes unreliable, feeling very close and very deep and the same time.

As a child I had an obsessive habit where I would line things up with my eyes, titling and adjusting my head until the scene before me seemed straightened out and ordered. I also played with squinting my eyes and softening everything.  It was a calming behavior that distracted me from my highly dramatic family.

It’s a personal tic I‘ve taken to my still life work where I can use the camera to capture the alignments and relationships of objects that I set up. I am again avoiding drama by purposely excluding hints to the books contents, muting the stories they contain.

The colored planes of the books are seeped with damp blues some nearly black, like color field paintings that revel in the sensation of color. The texture of the book cloth reads like canvas stained with paint. I love the way color in a Reinhardt or Rothko painting seems to hover around the canvas. I play with camera focus to achieve that hovering effect and to evoke a sense of space up around your skin but fathomless like a lake at night.


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