DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park

Lincoln, MA



Light on the Familiar: The Paintings of Scott Prior

September 18 - November 28, 1999


There is much more happening in a Scott Prior painting than initially meets the eye. Prior's paintings are a dialogue on his intimate surroundings, including people, places, and things. Light on the Familiar: The Paintings of Scott Prior, which includes 45 paintings created over a 28-year time span, is Prior's first comprehensive survey. As the first museum to buy Prior's work in 1971, it is especially fitting that DeCordova presents the first major museum exhibition of this contemporary realist painter.

Starting with early work from the 1970s, the exhibition traces Prior's development from the time of his graduation from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to the present. His early work can be characterized as surreal, with elements juxtaposed from a variety of sources including science, technology, religion, and Northern Renaissance art.

In the 1980s. Prior turned to his family and their domestic surroundings as his primary source of inspiration. Working from life as well as from photographs, Prior depicts aspects of daily life in his paintings. His subjects, however, no matter how ordinary they may seem, take on a mythic and poetic quality. Prior captures the sense of intimacy that exists within the space of the everyday lives of the people he loves while revealing the beauty that can be found in even the simplest moments. Light on the Familiar celebrates the unique vision of this highly gifted and talented artist. The exhibition, organized by Senior Curator Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, will travel to the University Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst from January 30 to March 17, 2000. The DeCordova Museum is publishing a poster and an illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition. In addition, there will be a videotape showing Scott Prior in his studio and at home that will be screened continuously in the galleries.

Paul Master-Karnik, Director of the DeCordova Museum, said in the Forward of the exhibition catalogue "There is much more 'going on' in a Prior painting than might initially appear to the eye of the casual viewer. This might be stated of all good paintings, and all good art, yet it is especially true here due to the deceptively approachable way in which the works present themselves. What might first seem to be a casual assembly of ordinary household objects, a glimpse of a suddenly interrupted activity, or the surreptitious encounter of a private moment can become a complex narrative interaction of place, figure and objects, upon closer study. The real is always edging into the surreal in Scott Prior's vision. And it is this very special vision of a truly gifted artist which is being exhibited."

Rachel Rosenfield Lafo explains in the exhibition catalogue's Introduction "What is unusual about Scott Prior's career is how young he was when his first painting was purchased by a museum. The DeCordova Museum's founding director, Fred Walkey, saw the painting Reconciliation Triptych in an exhibition in Maine, awarded it the show's first place prize, and bought it for the Museum's collection in 1972. Prior was 23 at the time and had graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst only the year before. Prior was subsequently included in several group exhibitions at DeCordova, and by 1977 the Museum owned five of his paintings. Recently, the Museum purchased another of Prior's paintings, Nellie in the Backyard. Thus, as the first museum to pay serious attention to Prior's art, it is fitting for DeCordova to organize his first retrospective exhibition, including paintings that range in date from 1971 to 1999.

Prior's dealer since 1973, the Alpha Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston, will show his most recent paintings from September 9 through October 6, 1999. The opening reception for the Alpha Gallery exhibition is Saturday, September 18, from 3 - 5 pm.

A 48-page catalogue with 25 color images will accompany the exhibition. Prior's Still Life in Autumn, 1997, is available in poster format at The Store @ DeCordova. Funding for Light on the Familiar: The Paintings of Scott Prior is provided by Alpha Gallery and the Poss/Kapor Foundation.

Images from top to bottom: Nanny and Rose, 1983, oil on canvas, 66 x 55 inches, Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Bedroom in Winter, 1980, oil on wood, 66 x 48 inches, Private Collection; Still Life in Autumn, 1997, oil on linen, 50 x 66 inches, Private Collection; Nanny and Ezra in the Kitchen, 1988, oil on linen, 88 x 66 inches, Collection of James S. Maxwell; Early Spring Still Life, 1985, oil on canvas, 42 x 38 inches, Collection of Ropes and Grey; Mollye Napping, 1999, oil on linen, 50 x 38 inches, Collection of Jonathon and Diane Harr; Chair and Ball, 1991,oil on linen, 48 x 42 inches, Collection of Edward and Joyce Linde; Still Life with Spherical Objects, 1973, oil on wood, 9 x 10 inches, Collection of Burson-Marsteller.


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