Joan Ryan:

Myth Busters


November 18 through December 18, 2021

ArtsWorcester East Gallery

Public reception: Friday, December 3, 6:00 to 9:00 PM, 44 Portland St.

Joan Ryan uses painting and drawing as a critical language to explore contemporary society, politics, and concepts of identity in our modern world. Myth Busters combines active layers of light, intensity, and value with imagery of American history, cartoons, childhood fairy tales, and political iconography. Through this installation, Ryan confronts the viewer with an intersection of American cultural moments across the past and present.

Nostalgia is an important part of the American legacy. Its pervasive influence has defined much of the post-modern American identity. Ryan’s appropriation of images of American life does not perpetuate the mythology of the past, but rather confronts the fear and denial of Post-War World II America.

The re-representation of historically familiar images challenges the viewer to critique traditional stereotypes of cultural identity. By examining images of identity through our cultural myths, Ryan works to bring into question the belief system through which our society sees the world. Her work questions our manufactured desire for a fictitious past while revealing the complexity of our contemporary culture.

Myth Busters features large-scale charcoal drawings set against custom-painted gallery walls, giving the illusion of American nostalgia ripping into present time and space.

ArtsWorcester exhibitions are sustained in part by the generous support of the C. Jean and Myles McDonough Charitable Foundation.


Joan Ryan is a Boston-based artist whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include 2016's Mask of Power at the AIR Gallery in Brooklyn, New York; Myths at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas; Ruinlust at SOHO20 in Chelsea, New York City; and Cock and Bull at the Kit Schulte Gallery in Berlin. Ryan has received grants from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, Mass Cultural Council, The Puffin Foundation, and George Sugarman Foundation. She has been awarded artist residencies at Mass MOCA, DADA POST in Berlin, and the Santa Fe Art Institute. Ryan lives in Boston, where she maintains her studio and is a professor of painting and drawing at Lesley University's College of Art and Design.

Ryan was the subject of an Artist Spotlight as part of ArtsWorcester's collaboration with Clark University and Worcester Magazine. Read Slyvie Hack's essay, "In My Room: Joan Ryan and The Indoctrination of Violence," here.


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.

Masks are required for all visitors.

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.



charcoal, 60" x 42", 2021, $4,000

The Smell of Ice

charcoal, 60" x 42", 2021, $4,000

Artist Talk

Artist Joan Ryan chats with Sylvie Hack (Clark University '22) about her wall installation, Myth Busters, in ArtsWorcester's East Gallery. Watch as Joan discusses her process in creating these large-scale drawings, and the importance of symbolism and visual nostalgia in her work.

Myth Busters

charcoal, 60" x 42", 2019, $4,000

Mud Flap Heaven

charcoal and pastel, 58" x 42", 2021, $4,000

Listen to the Crumbling

charcoal, four panels, 60" × 42", 2021, $4,000

Shifting Paradigm

charcoal, 60" x 42", 2012, $4,000

What's Left

charcoal, 60" x 42", 2020, $4,000

Contemplating Venus

charcoal, 72" x 26", 2018, $4,000