University Gallery - University of Massachussetts Amherst

Amherst, MA



Light on the Familiar: The Paintings of Scott Prior


The University Gallery of University of Massachusetts Amherst is honored to host Light on the Familiar: The Paintings of Scott Prior from January 29 through March 17, 2000. The exhibition is a retrospective selection of 45 of Prior's paintings completed between 1971 and 1999 and includes examples of his early surreal paintings and more recent paintings of the people, interiors, places and objects that are most familiar to him. Light on the Familiar was organized by the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts where it was on view last fall. An opening reception for the exhibition's showing at the University Gallery will be held on Friday, January 28th from 5 to 7 p.m. and the artist will be present. Scott Prior will give a slide lecture about his work on Wednesday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the University Gallery. (right: Barbeque in Winter, 1998, oil on linen, 28 x 22 inches, Collection of Leslie and Stephen Shatz)

Light on the Familiar is the first major exhibition of Prior's work to be presented in the Pioneer Valley, his home since 1967 when he came to Amherst to attend the University of Massachusetts. Prior is a 1971 graduate of the University's department of art from which he received a B.F.A in printmaking. After college he settled in the area and taught himself to paint, finding a supportive artistic community among the so-called "Valley Realists": Randall Deihl, Robin Freedenfeld, Gregory Gillespie, the late Frances Cohen Gillespie and Jane Lund. As the exhibition's curator Rachel Rosenfield Lafo suggests in her catalogue essay, the realist style has found great acceptance in the Valley, perhaps because the area is largely populated by writers, academics, small presses, book artists and illustrators who are naturally receptive to literary art. (left: Sand Box and Hollyhocks, 1980, oil on canvas, 54 x 42 inches, Collection of Robert and Esta Epstein)

Prior's early surreal paintings combine realistically painted passages with odd and often humorous objects. The real and invented images are rendered in minute detail, and show Prior's absorption of the techniques and style of Renaissance painting which he combines with contemporary subject matter. After 1980 Prior's interests turned to depicting natural phenomena - light as it bathes or illuminates places and things, time of day, and the change of seasons. Prior has said about his landscapes and still lifes painted in the 1980s and 1990s that he has been "...particularly interested in depicting solitude and light. Solitude because it can be illuminating. And light because it is like God's voice, the way it touches and plays over all things." Prior works from both photographs and life. After his marriage to Nanette Vonnegut in 1981 he began to incorporate portraits of real rather than invented people into his work. His family and their domestic surroundings have inspired a body of work that includes the interiors, still lifes and landscapes of his daily life. Prior captures the sense of intimacy and tranquility that exists in the space of the everyday lives of the people he loves.

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