Polyptych Installations

The word polyptych (POL-ip- tik) comes from the Greek poly, meaning many, and ptyche, meaning fold.

Traditionally, a polyptych was an arrangement of four or more panels hinged and folding together like the altarpieces created by early Renaissance painters for churches or cathedrals. Borrowing from this tradition, I have expanded the polyptych form by bringing together abstract, mixed-media works on panel, paper, and canvas. I make polyptychs of many sizes, including site-specific, polyptych installations

using as many as thirty-three paintings and drawings.


There is a dynamic that occurs when individual works, strong enough to stand on their own, are carefully selected and placed in close proximity. Each painting affects the others and is affected by them. The vocabulary of line, color, texture and space generate a visual conversation. Although each painting speaks for itself, it functions as part of a bigger conversation, as do the empty spaces on the walls and the shape and space of the gallery. Here are details of two of my site-specific installations. Please view the exhibition catalogs to see the installations in situ.

Referring to Rembrandt

Referring to Rembrandt is an installation of thirty-two paintings on panel designed specifically for the Women’s Health Resource Center at Sutter Health California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CA.

In preparing for the installation, I thought about the purpose of the Women’s Health Resource Center and about providing support for women facing different and often difficult challenges. I wanted to create work that would feel calm and uplifting, and interesting to those who would see it day after day over several months. 

To view the
Referring to Rembrandt exhibition catalog,
please click on the image to the right.

Shifting Weights

Shifting Weights is a 42-foot installation of 17 paintings on canvas, panel and paper designed specifically for Gallery III in the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, California.

The work was inspired by a sentence from the book On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry:

How one walks through the world,

the endless small adjustments of balance,

is affected by the shifting weights

of beautiful things.

I began the installation with a diptych, two pieces side-by-side.  Then, carefully adding the next piece, a triptych. Then another and another until one wall, then two, then three, then four were complete.

To view the Shifting Weights exhibition catalog,
please click on the image to the right.

© 2021 by Elizabeth (Betsy)  Kellas

  • Instagram Social Icon
Referring to Rembrandt (detail)

oil and latex paint on panel