November 7 – December 18, 1992
From the Lives of Dolls
The University Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is pleased to present From the Lives of Dolls, the first major survey of Ellen Phelan's doll imagery, created by the artist between 1985 and 1992. Phelan's collection of dolls provided the inspiration for these evocative expressions that reveal the secret places of human emotions. Using the dolls as her models, Phelan composes arrangements within her studio, proceeding to render psychologically charged narratives that address the powerful themes of self-identification, cultural roles and memory. The exhibition, which was guest-curated by Marge Goldwater, includes 41 drawings and 11 oil paintings which evolved from the drawings and were created by Phelan in the last year.
Ellen Phelan achieved a reputation in the 1980s for abstract landscape paintings, luminous and atmospheric works that were formally inspired by such historical sources as Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721), J.M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851), and Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875). At this same time, the artist was producing gouache drawings rendered from her own observations of nature during trips to Norway, Ireland and Belize. Phelan eventually came to consider these drawings as starting points for another series of oil paintings which served as ethereal mementos of the sensations she experienced on her travels.
Ellen Phelan, Traveling Costume,
watercolor on paper,
20 x 18 3/4 inches, 1987
Ellen Phelan, Applause,
1985, gouache on paper,
22 1/2 x 19 1/2 inches
Ellen Phelan was born in Detroit in 1943. The artist has had recent one-person exhibitions at the Albight-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (1991) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (1989). Her work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions, among them RE:Framing Cartoons, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus (1992); Allegories of Modernism: Contemporary Drawing, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1992); 1991 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Minimalism and Post-Minimlism: Drawing Distinctions, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth Colege, Hanover, New Hampshire (1990). The artist lives and works in New York City and Westport, New York.