Ellen Harvey’s subversive but humorous installations question what we talk about when we talk about art.
For nearly 20 years, Ellen Harvey has been creating installations, site-specific projects, and works in many different mediums that gently spoof and question the conventions underpinning traditional art forms—portraiture, landscape, and even architecture. The titles of her different endeavors give a clue to the nature of her inquiries: “The Museum of Failure,” “The Room of Sublime Wallpaper,” “The Nudist Museum Gift Shop,” and “The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington, D.C.”—to name just a few. “I like to make things strange so that people really see what’s going on,” she says. “I want to seduce them into thinking about what art is for.”
The British-born artist, who was once mistaken by New York City police for a homeless person, talks about befriending graffiti artists, cutting back on her hours and travel since becoming a mother, and the unifying themes in her many different and ambitious undertakings.