Beautiful My Desire – Mary Ellen Bartley


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Sea Change

I visit and photograph the ocean nearly every day and, over time, have amassed stacks of prints of minimalist seascapes. One day while working in the studio I watched as a rectangle of pure illumination shaped by a skylight raked across a large print drying on the floor. I photographed it, a timeless yet specific chronicling of multiple moments. This inspiration led to my new series: using only the natural light that enters my house, I try to capture the interplay of light and shadow on the prints, creating multiple, altered versions of the same photographs. The original seascapes explore the water’s surface, often in fog, on days when the color is drained from the scene and have the quality of graphite sketches. When I re-photograph the prints I look for happy accidents—moments when strong sunlight falling from skylights, squeezing through blinds, and projecting from windows draws and interacts with the surface of the paper and the image.

The work is improvisational. I record the fleeting light touching the various skins, matte, luster or gloss of the prints as I place them throughout the rooms of my house. I further explore the surface and materiality of the prints by folding, scratching or tearing them before shooting them again. Besides the layering of surfaces there is a more subtle aspect: the layering of time, place that I’m exploring. The action taking place on the surface of the prints underscores the flatness of the photographs and the “drawing with light” that is the very essence of photography.


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I intend to create a book of these new photographs, in which the vast Atlantic down the road becomes a sheet of paper on a table, a still life illuminated by a window, and then a page in a book placed on a shelf.


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About Mary Ellen Bartley

A New York City native, Bartley now resides in Wainscott, on the east end of Long Island. She earned her BFA at Purchase College, where she began her fine art studies in painting and drawing. Bartley was chosen as a Photolucida Critical Mass top 50  photographer in 2012 and 2011. A combination of her book projects was exhibited in a solo show at The Drawing Room Gallery in East Hampton last summer and she was chosen by the painter Ross Bleckner to exhibit her work alongside his at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, New York. Other recent shows include Out of Print, Altered Books at The Bakersfield Art Museum, Anthology at The Southeast Museum of Photography, Exposure 2012 at the Photographic Resource Center juried by Alison Nordstrom and Equivalents at Photo Center NW juried by W. M. Hunt.

It is our pleasure to represent Mary Ellen’s beautiful work at the gallery, please stop in to see her stunning work in person. To see the full range of her stunning images please log onto her website.


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