"...Phelan's collection of dolls provided the inspiration for these evocative expressions that reveal the secret places of human emotions. Using the dolls as her models, Phelan composes arrangements within her studio, proceeding to render psychologically charged narratives that address the powerful themes of self-identification, cultural roles and memory... Ellen Phelan achieved a reputation in the 1980s for abstract landscape paintings, luminous and atmospheric works that were formally inspired by such historical sources as Antoine Watteau (French, 1684-1721), J.M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851), and Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875).. In the mid-1980s, while still engaged with her landscapes, Phelan began a series of works on paper depicting dolls in a manner that animated not so much their bodies as their psyches. This seemingly different direction is, in fact, a continuation of Phelan's artistic predilection for evoking moods. Atmospheres which infused childhood play with dolls are here described with the talent of a masterful artist and the experience of a grown woman...In Applause, a formally gowned diva stands beside a smaller, androgynous looking companion. Both figures have their arms outstretched in acceptance of the accolades bestowed by an unseen audience. Although the relationship between the two characters is ambiguous, the innocence and vulnerability of the unformed, smaller figure, in comparison to the developed refinement of the larger, is underscored by its isolated shadow against the brightly lit background. As is typical of Phelan's doll series, Applause is imbued with a psychological choreography reflecting the complexities of human nature."