There is a vibrant sense of pageantry to this year’s Pawtucket Foundation Prize Exhibition. A veritable crowd of art jostles for attention; from a multitude of bold 2-D works installed salon style one above the other, to sentinel 3-D works that arch, bend, gallop or stand at attention.
A large-scale painting on panel by Jaclyn Tomasso holds center stage, both in the gallery space and by its commanding presence. In the midst of purple and golden clouds stands a young woman looking down from on high and directly at the viewer. Deified with a bright halo around her head, barely dressed in a translucent, open robe, the figure stands with arms flung wide, as if she were creating the entire exhibition around her. Titled Can You Dig It?, Tomasso’s painting was selected by Juror Morris Nathanson for the top award in the exhibition, a $1000 prize from the Pawtucket Foundation. Tomasso explains that the work “is about strength and vulnerability. It is a challenge to the viewer and a statement about femininity and a female’s ‘place’ in society.” Jaclyn studied for a year in Rome where she learned the technique of fresco painting. “The application of light, watery layers of paint which soak into the surface and build up the image gradually creating dimension, is very similar to the way I paint on wood.”
Farmer’s Wife, a textile piece by Jacqueline Bartlett, won the $250 Pawtucket Arts Collaborative prize. It is a simple, prim dress made from the woven plastic fabric of chicken feed bags and a coarse burlap, presented on a headless dress mannequin. Utilizing the typeface on the feed bag, “PRIDE” is written across the dress’s collared bib. Bartlett describes Farmer’s Wife “as a 3-dimensional self-portrait inspired by raising chickens.” A child of immigrants, Bartlett credits both her heritage and her education as strong influences on her artistic development.
An additional prize, presented by Mr. Nathanson, went to Of Myth & Messenger by Jillian Barber. The meticulously created, found-object assemblage, fitted inside a carved wood frame that resembles a church window, pays homage to birds, time, the Madonna, and other religious icons. “Of Myth & Messenger speaks to the sanctity of woman as the bearer of life, the greatest miracle,” says Barber.
Juror, Morris Nathanson told the crowd at the opening that the high quality and success of the exhibition is a culmination of his long-held vision of, and advocacy for, Pawtucket as a thriving center for the arts. Jan Brodie, Director of the Pawtucket Foundation, concurred, adding, “It is clear that the creative spirit of Pawtucket is growing and growing.”
Other highlights in the exhibition include the perfectly composed Serians by Gretchen Dow Simpson which seems to give off light; Shadow Boxing,Gibara, a punch of a color photograph by Cindy Horowitz, Rob Lynch’s large-scale painting Twenty Seventeen, in which a male portrait vies for attention with the pink grid background; Joyce Converse’s dark and brooding oil on canvas, The Moon; Rebecca Sienering’s 3-D necklace Ruff Neck, Kelly Lee’s Home of My Heart, a delicate pencil rendering that evokes the quiet of a Japanese scroll.
There are eighty-four artists represented in this densely populated and enriching show. Works are for sale. Exhibit runs through May 10th at the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative Gallery, Thursdays 5:30 -7:30 and weekends 1-5 pm. 560 Mineral Spring Avenue, Pawtucket. Free and open to all. The Mill building is wheelchair accessible. Entrance adjacent to Mixed Magic Theater. Plenty of parking.