The Nineteenth ArtsWorcester Biennial
ABOUT THIS EXHIBITION
Since 1985, the ArtsWorcester Biennial has exhibited an exhilarating range of the region’s best visual art.
Beth C. McLaughlin, Artistic Director and Chief Curator at Fuller Craft Museum, served as this year's juror, selecting 63 works by 60 artists in a wide variety of media, practices, and themes.
Prize winners, including the winner of the Sally Bishop Prize, will be announced at the Downtown Block Party on June 12--join us!
Many thanks to ArtsWorcester for the invitation to jury the Nineteenth ArtsWorcester Biennial. It was an honor to be part of this esteemed tradition and a pleasure to immerse myself in the region’s arts community.
When selecting an open call exhibition like the Biennial, I aim for a balanced group of artworks that represent excellence in execution, creativity in concept, and a multitude of perspectives. I look for expressions that promise interesting dialogues in the gallery and ones that offer ample opportunities for meaningful audience engagement. I look for entries with a strong point of view, ones that are visually arresting and that ignite curiosity. But above all else, I seek those works that artfully unify content, material, and technique. The submissions for ArtsWorcester Biennial delivered on all of the above.
The artworks in the Biennial span a broad spectrum of mediums—from painting and photography to sculpture and video—with content that is equally expansive. Some offer powerful commentary on today’s sociopolitical issues or represent poignant responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others reveal a desire to reflect the world around us through depictions of our natural, urban, and domestic environments. Still more focus on the figure, suggesting that perhaps the most alluring subject matter may very well be ourselves.
I commend all the applicants who submitted work to be considered and I congratulate those selected. Collectively, the submissions demonstrate that while the world may have slowed down over the past year, artists and makers did not stop creating. Cheers to the ArtsWorcester creative community and their resilient spirit!
Beth C. McLaughlin,
Artistic Director and Chief Curator at Fuller Craft Museum
VISIT OUR GALLERIES
During exhibitions, ArtsWorcester's gallery hours are Thursdays through Sundays, 12:00 to 5:00 PM. Our galleries are always free and open to the public.
ArtsWorcester's main galleries are located at 44 Portland Street in downtown Worcester.
Parking is available at the Worcester Public Library (McGrath) Lot, Federal Plaza Garage, Worcester Common Garage, and Pearl-Elm Garage. Metered street parking is also available.
Congratulations to the prize winners of the Nineteenth ArtsWorcester Biennial. Juror Beth C. McLaughlin, Artistic Director and Chief Curator at Fuller Craft Museum, selected five prize winners and five honorable mentions. Three cheers for these artists!
Sally R. Bishop Prize for Best In Show
Evelyn C. Absher Prize for Abstract Art
VIEW EVERY WORK FROM THE BIENNIAL BELOW
Liberty Center, Indiana 2018
archival digital print on Moab Juniper Rag Baryta 17" x 22", framed 24" x 28", 2018, $1,195
acrylic on canvas, 30" x 40", 2018, $5,000
I want the viewer to connect with the light and shadow in the piece.
Just For Kicks
acrylic on canvas, 24" x 30" x 1.5", 2021, $1,440
can do, family debris
found object sculpture: accumulated and recycled family cans and wire, 48" x 48" x 3", 2021, $2,500
‘can do, family debris’ re-imagines the mundane and lowly can, recycled from our family leftovers. The work explores the variation and beauty of discarded aluminum surfaces while reshaping the metal objects into a range of new forms, that when combined create a shimmering wall surface, with a loving nod to El Anatsui. The goal of the family debris series is to reflect, re-imagine, re-compose, reduce, reveal and re-purpose what we already possess, and in the end: waste not, want not.
photograph on Hahnemühle Bamboo 290, 24” x 30”, 2021, $495
acrylic paint, spray paint, wood panel, epoxy resin, 48” x 24”, 2021, $1,800
Same To Same 3
acrylic paint on 3D print, 11.25” x 10” x 9.25”, 2021, $1,500
[This piece is] from my ongoing going series of 3D printed sculptures, “Same to Same.” The project confronts Anti-Blackness, specifically within my own South Asian community in response to the current moment of racial reckoning. It is contradictory that, while we ourselves experience racism, particularly in a post 9-11 world, we often perpetuate and reproduce Anti-Black racism. The structures of casteism and colonialism have systematically propagated a bias against darker skin and rewarded those with a lighter skin. As a lighter skinned upper caste Brahmin from North India, I have been privileged by this system. In my project I interrupt such criteria that deem some people inferior. For instance, I have chosen to give the sculptures a dark appearance, an unusual preference in South Asia where even dark-skinned gods are depicted in Blue. These anatomically incorrect heads question Anglocentric standards of beauty that have dominated not only our cultural institutions but also our everyday lives. “Same to Same” (meaning a shared similarity in South Asian lingo), calls for a focus on a shared similarity rather than on differences.
I made the sculptures by drawing with a stylus on a computer screen in an open-source 3D program. I printed the file on my desktop 3D printer. In many ways these sculptures relate more with drawing and print making than they do with traditional sculpting as they negotiate traditional categories of artmaking. I am inspired by the late figurative paintings of Philip Guston, not just visually in its cartoonish appearance, but also in the spirit of resistance. It is inspiring how Guston pursued figurative painting in his own style even in the face of rejection by his peers and influential critics such as Clement Greenberg who demanded that all modern paintings must be abstract.
acrylic paint on paper, folded, or mounted on , 14” x 12” x 4”, 2021, $600
This piece is part of my continued exploration of the Weaire Phelan Structure, a three-dimensional structure which describes an idealized foam made up of two similar sized bubble type shapes. You might imagine the foam that results from washing your hands. I have been investigating the shapes as construction units and as two-dimensional patterns onto which I apply all the traditional formal artistic challenges of color and composition.
mixed media mosaic using stained glass, cinca tile, and chain, 12” x 12” framed, 2019, Not For Sale
Stained glass portrait of Spinone Italiano dog using the freedom color method.
Cape Sunset After The Thunderstorm
oil on wood panel, 12” x 16”, 2019, $1,400
I witnessed this scene on Cape Cod just after a thunderstorm and was especially struck by the reflection of the sunset on the wet pavement.
pastel on sanded paper,16” x 20”, 2017, $1,800
I came upon this scene with the fall light hitting the oak leaves, turning them into a magnificenet golden color and I knew I needed to translate that experience into art.
acrylic on panel, 16” x 16”, 2021, $4,000 Not For Sale
THE INDIGENOUS SPIRIT, EVER JOYFUL, EVER RESILIENT.
embroidery thread on quilted fabric, 38” x 38”, 2021, Not For Sale
Hands hold a place of significance in lesbian and sapphic culture. They maintain a duality of softness and erotics unique to the community, represented over and over in lesbian visual art, films, and literature. Hands can be strong and soft, tools and things of beauty, messengers and readers, all at the same time. In Handmade, I connect this significance to queer and feminist histories of fiber art, specifically through the history of quilting.
embroidery thread on loose canvas fabric, 12” x 9”, 2021, Not For Sale
Despite the collective exhale that happened as 2020 ended, we entered 2021 knowing that the problems of the last year would in fact carry over onto January 1. Volume One is part of a series that reflects on the words that we use to deal with these issues. This language sometimes draws from a completely new vocabulary and at other times gives new meaning to old sayings. The repetition of the words on the book pages mirrors how often we use them in daily conversation to acknowledge shared trauma and hurt without diving in too deep with more direct language. Volume One points toward the compounding effect of our new speech patterns.
And So Was Bedlam Brought to Order
dip pen and India ink on Bristol, 18” x 45”, 2019, Not For Sale
It's All in the Wrist
glass, wood, metal, 20” x 18” x 17”, 2021, Not For Sale
acrylic on canvas,18” x 24”, 2020, Not For Sale
I choose to approach the pared-down visual images in my paintings. A minimalist? My recent body of artwork defines a figure-ground relationship of near equal color intensity on the canvas. Big Blue is the latest in the series of the Night Visitor.
WINNER - EVELYN C. ABSHER PRIZE FOR ABSTRACT ART
pastel on sanded paper, 20” x 26”, 2019, $400
Margaret Emerson’s saturated, muscular creations caught my attention right away, and I am delighted to award her the inaugural Evelyn Claywell Absher Prize. With nuance and skill, Emerson artfully brings together color, line, and surface to create sumptuous artworks that demonstrate a mastery of her medium. Formal elements notwithstanding, her intuitive work pulls at something even deeper. Perhaps it is the ingenious color contrasts or the rolling compositions. Or maybe it is the topographical forms which may or may not reference land and/or the human body. What is clear is the singularity of Ms. Emerson’s approach—one that is as fresh and timeless as nature itself.
'Feminine Remedies' is part of The New Herbarium series in which I reimagine the centuries-old process of collecting and preserving plants for science and art. For traditional herbaria, botanical specimens are pressed and arranged on paper. My technique departs from tradition when I place a foraged mushroom, gill-side down, on top of plants, which then serve as stencils. After the billions of spores contained in the gills or pores of the mushroom are released, they fall and mark the paper. Leaf and petal silhouettes are rendered in spores with organic patterns, photographic detail, and in varying textures. This image depicts red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), herbs used to support hormones associated with 'female' anatomy and fertility.
Hake and Shake
linocut print on paper, 16” x 22”, 2021, $300
This piece was made with two linocut blocks, inked and printed repeatedly.
I Had a Dream
linocut, 27.5” x 30”, 2020, $800
metallic inkjet print, 11” x 17”, 2021, $250
This work comes from my Digital Plants series. I scan flowers/plants in the dead of night to show the motion and stillness within the digital image capture. The flowers move with the scan and are even placed or pulled away to create all the digital effects.
Self Portrait in a Pandemic
acrylic paint on paper, 21” x 19”, 2021, $100
Now All We Need Is To Continue To Speak The Truth Fearlessly
reproduction quilting fabrics and acrylic on canvas, 30” x 40”, 2020, $3,400
Historical Figures Series: I began the historical figures series after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Like many, I had long been inspired by Justice Ginsburg’s persona and accomplishments. I found the images of flowers, gifts, and cards laid by mourners outside the Supreme Court moving and beautiful. This collection of items created a kind of portrait of her, of what she had accomplished, the lives she touched, and the legacy she left behind. The portrait I made of her soon after is primarily an outline filled in with flowers and patterns and other images from the reproduction quilting fabrics that are my primary medium. The portrait is titled: How fortunate I was to be alive and a lawyer. The full quote: “How fortunate I was to be alive and a lawyer when, for the first time in United States history, it became possible to urge, successfully, before legislatures and courts, the equal-citizenship stature of women and men as a fundamental constitutional principle”.
After the RBG portrait I made one each of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman, styled in this same fashion. Both too have direct quotes as their titles. The one of Eleanor is titled: The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, and the fabric painting of Harriet is called: Every great dream begins with a dreamer. From “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” I have since made portraits of other historical women including Mary Cassatt and, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Lucy Stone.
I feel as though my portraits stand in contrast to society's tendency to judge women on their appearances, by eliminating them. My goal is to portray my subjects in a more reverential and holistic manner. These paintings are memorials, installations made from love and sisterhood and reproduction quilting fabrics. They are meditations on each life, an imprint of what was. My work speaks to the impermanence and non-self nature of each of us. These women can be held or seen no longer, but their accomplishments have changed the world, and their words can still inspire and comfort us.
On The Same Side
digital photography, 16” x 20”, 2018, Not For Sale
acrylic and oil on canvas, 48” x 36”, 2021, $1,500
monotype on paper, 16”x 20”, 2020, $550
Rob, September 2020
digital inkjet print, 11” x 14”, 2020, $300
All in One Apocalypse
Neocolor crayons, Prismacolor, ink, graphite on pastel paper, mounted and sealed with acrylic on Ampersand staged board, 20” x 24” x 1.5”, 2021, $3,200
Courtesy of the Howard Yezerski Gallery
The 4 Horsemen, The Whore, The Beast, The Resurrection and Biblical Revelation 9. Trans human Series: Covid Damnation, Demons, Terrors and Pestilence arising from the opening of The Abyss when the 5th Angel sounds His Trumpet.
polymer plate etchings, collagraph on paper, 22” x 29”, 2019, $950
I am especially attracted to natural surfaces and have been fascinated by the variety of bark surfaces found among trees.
photograph (archival inkjet print),14” x 14” (image), 2019, $395
pigmented inkjet print, 32” x 20”, 2020, $800
Band Of Gold
Sumi ink and gold, 15” x 11”, 2021, $250
After being inside for many months, this piece came from a feeling of letting go and the freedom of movement. I am very interested in light and the relationship between line and shape.
acrylics on Strathmore paper, 12” x 16”, 2019, $4,000
I got hired as a mailman in Southbridge MA and had to do a 4 day orientation at 6:00 AM in the regional Postal Annex in Boston in January of 2019. The little blue rectangle on the left hand side of the painting is the Boston PO and it NEVER closes and is always busy. I then proceeded to fail the driving test as the instructor said I looked like I learned to drive in Boston. I did.
Queen Anne's Lace X
monotype, 31” x 25”, 2021, $1,400
There is a reference to time passing in this image, a few seconds or maybe days. What was there becomes a shadow as the image incorporates the crisp, sharp now.
welded steel scrap, 66” x 48” x 34”, 2021, $2,800
This figure started in 2020 and was completed in 2021. It expresses a lot of how I feel about what is important in our shared now. It is purposefully composed of a variety of steel types: stainless, rusted and painted.
oil on canvas, 36” x 36”, 2021, $1,300
Equinox refers to the balance of daylight and darkness. This work displays the balance of light and shadow, and the warm and cool palette in juxtaposed contrast to each other to define the composition.
False Front - Pants On Fire
reclaimed fabric, steel, paper, thread, acrylic paint, brass,14.5” x 11” x 6”, 2020, $500
Virginia Mahoney’s garment-related forms reference the body to reflect upon sensation, reaction and thought in her mixed media sculpture. Her objects play with language ambiguity, using text as a device to captivate, clarify or confound. Mahoney’s complex assembly of commonplace methods of making invokes both familiarity and wonder. Physical material qualities often inspire her unorthodox approach, which bypasses convention and embraces possibility. The resulting works, intricately rendered, tell stories both personal and communal.
In particular, this work started out to be about the human tendency to put up a front in certain situations where one might feel inadequate, and how these little lies can come back to bite us. But as the work progressed, frustration with the level of false information --"alternative facts"-- uttered by those in power at the time in 2020 began to take over. Maybe it was the gold that made the connection. Regardless, time has already proven that such fakery can cause pain.
Pansies at the Altar
Collage,14” x 15”, 2021, $250
Throughout history, there has been a strong connection between gay men and flowers. This connection has existed since, at least, ancient Greece, and has been built upon by each successive generation. In ancient Greece, a common mythic trope would be for the male lovers of gods to be transformed into flowers upon their (most likely tragic) passing: Hyacinthus became the hyacinth after being struck by a discus, Narcissus was turned into the narcissus, Adonis into a poppy, and so forth. Then in 16th century Italy, Caravaggio, and his contemporaries painted sensual paintings like “Boy with a Basket of Fruit and Flowers” that connected the sensual male form with nature and the wild. In the same century, in France, an effeminate man was called a pensée, which was translated into English as the pansy. Then sometime in 19th century England, a gay man was known derogatively as a fairy due to his flamboyant and effervescent nature. In the 20th century, Robert Mapplethorpe became well-known for his highly erotic photographs of men and flowers and his treatment of each was based on a stylized classical aesthetic valuing form and shape over all else.
The flowers chosen for this series come from this shared history of floral iconography, symbolism, and myth. In creating these works I wanted to create a lush, paradisal, sensuality—my own Garden of Eden. I do this through combining through collage and the combining of bodies and flowers together. In one piece, two white Narcissus’ merge with a man draped in white and references ideas of ancient Greece, and the Renaissance’s interest in male beauty and classicism. In another work, a hand grasps a bouquet in front of another man and becomes a reference to sex. Through the merging of flower and body, a second theme emerges dealing with revealing and concealing, modesty and the nude, coming out of the closet, and not being out. It also creates a discussion on how gay male sexuality is often hidden when gay men are discussed in mainstream media.
In the early gay rights movement as activists picketed across America organizers discouraged them from engaging in any type of public displays of affection. They wanted heterosexual America to see the LGBTQIA+ community as normal, boring and assimilated into middle-class society. The truth is far from that though. This show is a direct reclamation, and declaration, that queer love is not only okay but beautiful.
oil on canvas mounted to board, 35” x 42”, 2021, $3,000
Taking a moment to be grateful and wish well for all beings everywhere.
Kat Masella’s arresting The Meditation is a well-deserved recipient of the Juror’s Prize. Her innovation as a painter shines through in this work, with its muscular surface, shimmering form, and elegant use of color. I find this work to be a poignant depiction of the human condition, a subject with particular resonance in these times.
steel, pigment print on acetate, led light, acrylic, mono filament line, 14 ½” x 15 ½” x 15 ½”, 2019, Not For Sale
What do you do when you are lost? A sailor looks for a lighthouse to guide him into port, a plane waits for a watchtower to signal when it is safe to land, a hiker searches for trail markers, and a lost child is told to stay put and wait for help to find them. We seek help to point us in the right direction, we wait for a beacon, “a light or other visible object serving as a signal, warning, or guide” (Dictionary), to call us to safe ground. Beacon is a challenge, a place of calm, an escape, and memories calling like the North Star to familiar places and processes. Layered landscapes from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont come together into a composition that is simply New England. The piece asks and answers for me things and places that call to me when I feel lost. A new design on a familiar art process, an annual camping tradition when life is at its busiest, and people and friends that are dear are all wrapped up in the journey of moving forward. Like a lighthouse, the light in the middle sends out a call in every direction, guiding the viewer to safe ground and inviting a moment of peacefulness.
oil on canvas,16” x 18”, 2018, $5,000
In this topsy-turvy era, time seems to move in fits and starts. The pandemic has forced most of us to slow down and reorient ourselves. These paintings explore the rhythms and accumulations of time and how they affect us all.
These paintings are built up by layering thick paint. When you look at the overlapping marks, you can see time elapse. The paintings take months to complete, but leave their own processes open and visible, showing not only the person depicted, but how they came into being. By leaving my process open and visible, the paintings can contain—just as a person can—many overlapping stories.
graphite powder and pencil on paper, 20” x 16”, 2020, $775
This piece took 90+ hours of work, it was an attempt at replicating the effects of water and wet hair through drawing.
I am delighted to award Maggie Miller the Juror’s Prize for her astonishing drawing, Yaniris. The trompe l’oeil work is incredibly well-done, demonstrating an exceptional level of artistic skill and technical achievement. It is a thrill to see such control over an artist’s chosen media. Truly remarkable!
Dog Fur Reliquary
terra cotta, dog fur, acrylic paint, glass,15” x 15” x 10”, 2020, $7,500
WINNER - SALLY BISHOP PRIZE FOR BEST IN SHOW
Dreaming Through Snell's Window
oil on paper, 30” x 22 ¼”, 2021, $2,900
acrylic on canvas, 20” x 24”, 2019, $1,000
Time Space Continuum
mixed media collage, paper, watercolor, Bristol, 11” x 14” (13 1/2” x 16 1/2” with frame), 2021, $250
Off The Hook
acrylic paint on canvas, 24” x 24”, 2021, $1,500
clay, paper, tomatillo husks, 6” x 18” x 7”, 2021, $1,000
We as individuals are composed of many different facets that create our uniqueness, as we come together these attributes meld and we are woven together by layers of texture and beauty.
acrylic on wood, 30” x 24”, 2020, $2,200
This past year we have been doing things to feel normal and stay safe. Hiking in the woods is one of those things I do. This is the Atlantic White Cedar swamp in Wellfleet, MA.
Mendes v McGregor
oil on canvas, 24" diameter, 2021, $1,750
"Mendes v McGregor" is one of nine paintings completed in my series "The Fighters." Adapted from cropped images of UFC fights, "The Fighters" explores the vulnerability of human entanglement within the constraints of combative entertainment. "Mendes v McGregor" is the sixth painting of this series.
Jill's Garden- From the Porch
oil on panel, 30” x 30”, 2018, $3,700
I embrace the notion of beauty and create luminous, lush, layered surfaces outside painting plein-air from spring to fall. I paint and find inspiration watching the lifecycle of nature. The flowers and plants act as a catalyst, allowing me to manipulate paint and create a dance between abstraction and representation.
My garden is my sanctuary. An intuitive approach of playful and energetic mark making begins a process of looking, layering, wiping away and building up of a surface celebrating the exuberance of color and line found within nature. Instead of depicting a time-anchored botanical or geographical exactitude I work in a series of three to seven sittings welcoming weather and the passage of days to transform my viewpoint. The garden serves solely as a guide for my organic process within my outside studio.
In today’s world, with such a vulnerable environment at the forefront of politics, beauty and spirituality play a pivotal role within my work. In my paintings I strive to capture the essence of a place through its’ growth, bloom and decay. These natural rhythms of nature create a lyrical energy, a poetic mediation occurs and the end result always has the ability to surprise me, spurring me to create even more.
photography (Nikon D90),11” x 17”, 20” x 24”, 2019, $150
I believe in looking up in everything. That's where the calm comes from.
oil on linen panel, 24” x 30” x 2”, framed, 2020, $1,100
Schoolchildren at play on an overcast day. Their costumes transform them into mysterious characters.
Patrick Steele’s Halloween Playground is a true delight and a clear choice for the Juror’s Prize. He demonstrates an assured hand, a keen eye for composition, and an appreciation for the beauty to be found in the everyday. In this selected painting, he beautifully captures a familiar scene with equal parts ebullience and nostalgia.
graphite on paper, compiled into video animation,12 seconds, 2020, Not For Sale
sculpture (porcelain), 6” x 32” x 22” (total area shown), 2018, Not For Sale
The Breast Project began several years ago when a close relative was diagnosed with breast cancer. As a meditation for sending healing energy to her, I made the first sculpture at that time. It was healing for me as well, and after making it, I began to think about the many women I have known who have fought breast cancer - my grandmother, the mother and the sister of one of my closest friends, several colleagues and friends....
I continued making vessels in honor of each person, including many new friends and colleagues who also developed breast cancer along the way. Most recent additions include an uncle and a cousin, so this work has felt like a “work in progress” through the years.
sculpture (porcelain and porcelain paperclay),16” x 11” x 3.5” (area shown), 2013, $2,500
Diatoms is inspired by these mysterious single-celled organisms that help against climate change.
The Big Story
acrylic, collage, mixed media on wood, size variable, 2019, $1,500
This piece deals with myths of creation, seeking symbols for the origin and beginning of life, its proliferation and its cyclical return to the ONEness.
Derrick Te Paske
Sex Pot XIII: Abyss
black cherry wood, burned and stained, 24” x 12”, 2020, $3,750
Sex Pot XIII: ABYSS. The previous twelve "sex pots" were also made from cherry wood, but were closed hollow vessels with a burl faux ovum set into the top surface. Here, it is a tall form, with thick walls and a blackened interior. I had completed it very early in 2020, with a playful title--like all previous sex pots--but which included "abyss." It was just before the serious onset of the Covid pandemic. Now, I am reminded once again that cultural artifacts (including mine) can lose or gain meaning, changing as we come to know more about them or remember less. The contexts (at least temporal) are always in flux. Amid the pandemic, ABYSS seems less playful (for now) when real cultural chasms have been so painfully close at hand.
photography, 18” x 24”, 2016, $235
acrylic on canvas,12” x 12”, 2019, $100
Eight Of Us
oil on board, 8” x 8”, 2019, Not For Sale
Six Grumpy Old Men
charcoal and colored pencil on canson mi-tentes pearl grey paper, 18” x 24”, 2021, Not For Sale
Inspired by a series of sketches made by Albrecht Durer in 1493 who fused small caricatures of himself into the contours of six crumpled pillows.
With support from Mass Cultural Council.
Prizes are generously supported by ArtsWorcester's Artist Prize Fund and the Worcester Art Museum.
ArtsWorcester exhibitions are sustained in part by the generous support of the C. Jean and Myles McDonough Charitable Foundation.