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Wilmington wonder, Part II

This review by Victoria Donohoe appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer Friday, July 23, 2010.

Ellen Priest goes solo at the Delaware Division of the Arts Mezzanine Gallery in the Carvel State Office Building. A painter (with a master's from Yale Divinity School), Priest deliberately blurs the boundary between painting and jazz in her Venezuelan Suite painted collages. These use form as a language of music, as she angles and interlocks long, curling cornucopias of color to form a network of diagonals that move in and out of space over whole images. Seeing jazz as full of joy and energy, able to transform sadness, Priest uses it successfully here to create materialized movement in actual worlds of colored space.

Joy of jazz lives up to its space

This review by Victoria Donohoe appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday, January 28, 2007.

Ellen Priest is a painter of celebrations. Her subject matter for 17 years has been jazz. "The jazz that attracts me is full of joy and energy, able to transform sadness," she has said.

Now her exhibit, "Ellen Priest: 'Jazz Paintings' on Paper: Improvisations on The Venezuelan Suite," is at Ursinus College. With this show, Priest dives headlong into the expectations that threaten to overwhelm any soloist who attempts to fill Ursinus' unusually large main exhibition room with paintings.

In this case, her 22 vinyl-based paintings on layers of cut paper are displayed in that huge space and an adjoining small room.

There is a sense of special occasion in these pictures by the Wilmington artist. The vast majority of these are grandly stylized, luminously colored, lyrical abstract works of large size, and it is only fitting that each should be a celebration itself. That's the effect of this handsome exhibit which, being epic scale, holds its own in that large space as few one-person shows have done previously.

Priest created this artwork in collaboration with Venezuelan Suite's composer, Edward Simon of Miami, and the music will be performed here Feb. 24. But in the end, this is Priest's show.

Those who have watched her work grow over the years will take deep delight, and the rest of us will be introduced to it. Priest is unmistakably a celebrator of the "big moment" here. It's good to see the Berman Museum has gone to such lengths artistically to make Priest's big moment at Ursinus memorable.

Ursinus College's Berman Museum of Art, Main St, Collegeville
To April 5. Tue-Fri 10-4, Sat-Sun noon-4:30. Free. 610-409-3500