Inflection Points: 40 Years Painting Maine
INFLECTION POINTS: 40 Years Painting Maine July 15 – September 4
Barbara Prey Projects is proud to announce Inflection Points, the most recent works of internationally celebrated artist Barbara Ernst Prey, July 15 - September 4. Taking the viewer from watercolors to oils, the White House to the Space Station, the architecture of Maine to the interior commission at MASS MoCA, this monumental and timely exhibit captures the Inflection Points of Barbara Ernst Prey’s place in American Art.
This exhibit considers Prey's distinct perspective as a 21st century female artist, revising the male dominated art-historical watercolor tradition, as she explores the depth of the American landscape and American identity. Her work is part of a trajectory of American Art but built on abstract painting as well, with a conceptual underpinning of the composition and points of empathy around color, composition and subject. Her belief that color is the most powerful way to communicate drove Prey to develop groundbreaking, intricate layering techniques. Beginning with marks on paper, and then built up through her evocative use of color and dozens of thin washes, often incorporating parts of her surrounds- water, soil, crushed shells.
An American painter with an international reputation, Prey was appointed by the President of the United States to the National Council on the Arts, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Arts. Members are chosen for their established record of distinguished service and achievement in the arts. She has maintained a studio and painted in Maine for over 40 years. Inflection Points: 40 Years Painting Maine is a synthesis of her dialogue with her immediate environs in the Port Clyde, Mainewhich led to the Inflection Point of her MASS MoCA commission:
“Barbara’s painting will be monumental by any standard, but for a watercolor on paper – perhaps the most unforgiving combination of any painterly media — the undertaking is truly breathtaking.”
— MASS MoCA on Barbara Prey’s commission for the Museum
Inflection Points features works that mine a uniquely American tenor in which color creates the relationship between narrative and abstract creating a tension that is both serene and unnerving. This is seen in Blueberry Fields, which cuts across the color wheel, layering rich developed reds directly above saturated blues and oranges and pointing us back to these spectacular color combinations from nature. Prey’s technique is especially apparent in Tracery, each wash subtly changes the nature of the piece until the depth and balance are achieved, making the painting as much a reflection of the space changing over time and the artist’s memory changing over time.
The northeastern state has a long tradition in the history of American landscape painting, thinking of artists such as Hopper, Church, Homer, Wyeth—but few, if any, are women. And for Prey it is not only Maine’s history as a landscape subject that attracted generations of artists, there is a personal connection as she has family roots on the St. George Peninsula dating to the 1700s, when her mother’s ancestors lived in some of the same white houses that we now find in her paintings.
Born in New York, Barbara Prey is a graduate of Williams College with a Master’s from Harvard University. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and a grant from The Henry Luce Foundation. Prey was appointed by the President of the United States to the National Council on the Arts, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She is an adjunct faculty at Williams College and serves on the Colonial Williamsburg Museum board. NASA commissioned the artist to document space history and she is currently commissioned by MASS MoCA to paint a monumental watercolor for their new building which opens in May 2017.