Photographer Tony Ellis: Abstract Lyricism | Finding Beauty: Abstract Lyricism in Forgotten Places

Tony Ellis photographs an old railcar in Fairfield.

Iowa artist and photographer Tony Ellis presents new work at Art Fifty Two Gallery, 52 E. Briggs, Fairfield, through July 2013.

The origin of this new series of photographs dates back to 2008, when Ellis’s work with alternative energy projects took him to remote ranches and farmhouses set in the high plains and desert canyons of southeast Colorado. Fascinated by the abandoned farm equipment, rusted silos, and old railway cars he discovered there, Ellis bought a digital camera and began taking photos for fun. As his art school training and love of contemporary art kicked in, the images took on a more abstract form.

When work took Ellis to California, the scorched desert palettes of the Mohave region and the urban-scape of West Coast cities held a treasure trove of images. “Ready-made Rothkos began to appear before me, begging to be photographed,” he says. “I was discovering pure visual magic in the most mundane of places—back alleys, abandoned buildings, sidewalks, graffiti-covered and rusting rolling stock giving up their secrets.”

San Francisco film producer Steve Herzfeld describes how Ellis “finds with his painter’s eye bits and pieces of the real world that we would never notice in the course of our busy lives, and transforms them into spectacular abstract works that hauntingly resonate with us.”

It is almost impossible to tell that Ellis’s work is photographic, especially the larger pieces, which are printed on canvas and finished with clear acrylic gels, giving them the look and feel of a painter’s hand.

“I tend to use the images as I shoot them and I do very little to them other than tweak the colors in Photoshop,” Ellis says. “I like the idea that someone or some physical event created these images by chance.”

The resulting body of work, including images taken in Iowa, is called the Abstract Image Collection and available for viewing on

The artist is also represented by Moberg Gallery in Des Moines and Chicago and will also be showing work at the Chait Galleries in Iowa City this Fall. You can follow the result of Tony Ellis’ recent wanderings on the social media page of his website or at