Two Candles represents an aspect of Ellen Phelan’s ongoing investigation of personal subjects as the source for the formal painting process. These series of landscapes, family portraits, and collection of dolls are associated with the artist’s own reclaimed memories and personal experiences. Of equal importance is technique and surface handling associated with painting itself. The scumbling of the surface presents a literal as well as an associative ‘veil’ that obscures and idealizes the beauty of people and places recalled. Ellen Phelan was born in Detroit, Michigan. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, a Master of Arts degree, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University, Detroit. Phelan moved to New York in 1973, and began exhibiting her work at numerous galleries and museums there and throughout the United States. The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, has organized a survey, Ellen
Phelan: Theme and Variations 1972-2010, which runs from June until September
2010. Her teaching appointments from 1974 include Wayne State University; Michigan State University, East Lansing; California Institute of the Arts, Valencia; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; and New York University, School of Visual Arts, New York City. She was appointed professor of the practice of studio arts, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University(Cambridge, Massachusetts) from 1995 to 2001, and also served as director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, from 1996 to 2001.
Phelan’s various awards include a Visual Arts Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1978-79; Arts Achievement Award, Wayne State University, 1988; Award
of Merit, American Academy of Letters, New York City, 1995; New York Times
Fellow, American Academy in Rome, 1999; and an Archives of American Art Medal,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 2008. Her work is represented in the
collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Brooklyn Museum, all in New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
Massachusetts; The Baltimore Museum, Maryland; The Marion Koogler McNay
Art Museum; The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; The Detroit Institute of the Arts, Michigan; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California, and others.