My quest for Balance has always been innate. Baked in. It shows up in many facets of my life. And so, when I was introduced to non-objective abstract artmaking, I realized that I had found my creative sweet spot. While building an abstract work, it is natural for chaos to develop as I express the Idea supporting my marks. Eventually, my job becomes turning randomness into a semblance of order. The act of doing the work facilitates the journey to find its end. A comfortable composition emerges: Balance – as it occurs to me. The outcome, therefore, reflects the experience.

-Barbara Ellis


A native New Yorker, Barbara Ellis’ Harlem family roots are steeped in the arts. Her great-grandfather was a composer, pianist and owned a well-known Harlem jazz club during the 1940s; her father played the bongos. The sounds of jazz abounded in her childhood home. Always encouraged to express herself creatively, Ellis used music to fuel her creativity, and the movement and narrative of jazz music frequently finds its way into her abstract paintings, and often serves as her inspiration. Now based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ellis’ work is inspired by reflections of the Spiritual, the socio-political, and memory. Her intention is to motivate contemplation and conversation through her paintings, and perhaps, even encourage personal growth. Ellis works with many mediums: oil, various forms of acrylic paint, art crayons and sometimes tissue or pastels on canvas or fabric. Ellis also creates figurative abstraction evoking images of African American ancestors. These works are often inspired by poetry or personal memory and explore words and symbols that are used to express proverbs and other philosophical ideas.


Ellis earned her B.A. in Commercial Art from The City College of New York (CUNY); she has studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY, NY), The School of Visual Arts (NY, NY), Central Piedmont Community College (Charlotte, NC) and independently with artists Louise Farley, Lee Baumgarten, Walter Stanford, and Steve Aimone. Ellis’ work has been exhibited across North and South Carolina. She is also one of the North Carolina-based artists featured in The Art of The State: Creating, Collecting and Celebrating the Visual Arts in North Carolina.

Listen to Barbara Ellis’ Artist Statement Regarding New Works on View During Levels of Abstraction