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Life and works
Harvey is a graduate of Harvard University, Yale Law School and attended both the Whitney Independent Study Program and the PS1 National Studio Program. She is the sister of the poet Matthea Harvey.
Harvey has exhibited extensively both in the United States and internationally. She has been the recipient of several awards including a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Artist’s Award in 2004, a Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative Award in 2004, and a Lily Auchincloss Foundation Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2002. She is known for work that uses traditional aesthetics and media in surprising ways to call into question the social or physical situation in which it is placed. She has often stated that her goal is to “seduce people into thinking”.[this quote needs a citation] Her work ranges in size from intimate pieces to large scale installations and interventions and public works.
Harvey first garnered attention with the New York Beautification Project for which she painted small romantic oval landscapes in oils directly over graffiti sites without permission throughout New York City from 1999 - 2001. In 2005 Gregory Miller & Co. published New York Beautification Project in which Harvey detailed her experiences on the streets while making the project.
Many of Harvey’s larger institutional installations can be categorized as a form of "institutional critique" that attempt to make visible the desires implicit in particular situations. For Bad Boy Klimt in 2002, she decorated the Vienna Secession with graffiti based on Gustav Klimt's Beethoven Frieze which is located in the Secession’s basement. In 2003 for A Whitney for the Whitney at Philip Morris, she inserted an 80 ft painting consisting of copies of all the images contained in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s catalog of its collection (American Visionaries) into the Whitney Museum at Philip Morris’ gallery.
In 2005, the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Philadelphia, PA received a grant from the Pew Charitable Trust as part of its Pennsylvania Exhibitions Initiative to produce Mirror, an installation consisting of a hang-engraved rear-illuminated mirrors and videos that combined to form a 360 degree 12 ft high representation of the Academy’s famous entrance as a ruin. The Academy published a catalog, Mirror, to accompany the exhibition with texts by Shamim Momin and Alex Baker.
For The Irreplaceable Cannot be Replaced, as part of “Something from Nothing” in 2008, Harvey asked people to send in images (if they had them) or descriptions of things that had been lost to Hurricane Katrina and then selected twelve entries at random to be painted. The paintings and all of the descriptions were exhibited at the New Orleans Contemporary Art Center and at the end of the exhibition the paintings were given to the participants.
Harvey was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, for which she exhibited her installation, Museum of Failure, as well as a site-specific video and a performance piece titled 100 Visitors to the Biennial Immortalized.
Recent large projects have been focused on cliches of traditional art production, in particular the picturesque landscape, in projects such as Observations Concerning the Picturesque, a commission for S.M.A.K., the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, Belgium in 2009 for which she created a guide to the Citadelpark surrounding the museum, along with a fake archive of his chronologically impossible visit and tours of the park using Claude Glasses produced by artist Alex McKay, the Rooms of Sublime Wallpaper, two installations produced in 2008 and 2009 in which the viewer sees a painted landscape fractured in a salon-style hanging of angled mirrors and Ruins are More Beautiful at the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland in 2009, for which she covered all the windows of the new Laboratorium gallery with engraved mirrors depicting the surroundings as a ruined wilderness. In Nudist Museum at the Bass Museum of Art,
Harvey shifted her focus to the nude, copying every nude in the museum’s collection and hanging the resulting paintings over contemporary images of nudity drawn from the mass media. For Arcadia, a commission for the opening exhibition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate,UK built on the site of Turner’s Margate residence, Harvey created a ¾ scale plywood copy of the London gallery that Turner built to promote his work replacing the paintings that were in it at his death with rear-illuminated mirrors hand-engraved in the style of 18th Century engravings to create a 360 degree panorama of contemporary Margate. The exterior of the gallery featured an amusement arcade sign reading “ARCADIA” and a projection of the Coney Island ocean creating an experience that oscillated between an exhibition and a mirrored fun house, referencing both Turner’s experience of Margate as an arcadian site and Margate’s history as an amusement destination. Harvey has completed several public art projects including Look Up Not Down, a mosaic showing the view that would be seen by commuters if they were above rather than below ground, commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit for the Queens Plaza subway station in Long Island City, Carpet, a mosaic of a carpet for the walkway of the Francisco El station, commissioned by the CTA Arts for Transit and Home of the Stars, a mosaic showing the sun setting over the Bronx and the stars coming out in 15 minute installments commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit for the Metro-North Railroad Yankees – East 153rd Street station.
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- "New York Beautification Project". Artbook. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
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- "MTA Arts for Transit". Mta.info. Retrieved 23 April 2013.[permanent dead link]
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- Media related to Ellen Harvey at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- Interview with Heidi Lee
- Lecture at University of Michigan School of Art and Design