Finding Beauty: The Abstract Images of Tony Ellis

By introducing different ways of seeing things, art can open wide our perspective, encourage us to transcend our current reality, and ultimately lead us to understand a greater truth about who we are.

I believe art plays an important role in connecting people to a greater reality. As human beings, it is all too easy to get so caught up in our day-to-day routines and responsibilities that we become trapped in a narrow and superficial view of life. Our sense of place in the universe can shrink to a point where we feel disconnected and divorced from the world in which we live. We forget to see and appreciate the beauty of life. We forgo our compassionate relationship to other things. Our cosmic perspective flies out the window in the face of selfish interest.

By introducing different ways of seeing things, art can open wide our perspective, encourage us to transcend our current reality, and ultimately lead us to understand a greater truth about who we are: cosmically conscious beings in an infinitely connected universe, which is as much a part of us as we are of it. Our world is a truly magical place, endlessly fascinating and full of surprise and beauty.

Once we know that, how could we possibly want to do harm to it? – Tony Ellis

Tony Ellis takes high-resolution photographs of detailed sections of things like train cars, trashcans, and truck doors. Once these detailed images are lifted from their context they appear abstract, but not fully so, since they are sourced in reality. Then, he prints the images onto a large canvas or paper. The result is instant transportation into the fantastic potential reality holds.

Ellis brings to eye level the cosmic wonders of a small section of sidewalk. He reveals startling beauty on the side of a dumpster. That these abstract images could stand on their own is indisputable, but I’m glad he gives us the backstory. Being privy to the original context provides contrast and increases their potency. Irony is definitely part of the work and it engenders the question: who did make these images? Ellis simply frames them in the camera with little, if any, tweaks later.

Ellis isn’t throwing any curve balls. His images are sourced well within the safety zone. There are no stunning abstract images sourced in tar sands or GMO-filled fruit bowls. He has simply lured innocent bits and pieces of The Great Mystery to stand witness for us.

Given that human beings are so obviously in “last place” when it comes to living seamlessly in the environment, and, given that Tony Ellis is extremely adept at perceiving and reproducing beauty, he got the job of teaching us to see for our own sake. He’s hoping that if we become proficient at perceiving the glory of Creation we’ll honor and protect the Earth and each other. It’s a survival strategy. He’s pulling on one of the strongest levers for influencing the spiritual development of humanity: art.

His entire Abstract Images collection can be found here.

Sue Berkey lives and works in Fairfield, Iowa, holding a BFA and MFA (with honors) from Kent State University. She attended The Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in New York City, and is an installation artist who primarily makes outdoor public art. She has exhibited all over the United States, in Canada, Belgium, and South America, and her work can be found in prominent private collections. She also writes art criticism, renovates spaces, grows organic food, and is a Rebirther (Emotional Healer).

A previous version of Sue's review originally appeared in The Fairfield Weekly Reader (July 5, 2013).

Discussion and Comments

  1. Fantastic! Micro-cosmic photography on the theme of urban “decay.” Beauty in every atom . . .

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