Laura Chasman|  Nancy Gruskin|  Leslie Sills

Life: from life

March 9 - April 22, Reception: Saturday, March 11, 3-5

Laura Chasman, Orion, gouache on paper

Laura Chasman, Orion, gouache on paper


Laura Chasman, Nancy Gruskin, Leslie Sills

March 9 - April 22

Reception:                      Saturday, March 11, 3-5                    


Room 83 Spring is pleased to present Life: from life, a show exploring the intimacies of proximity and place in contemporary portraiture and interiors. In paintings by Laura Chasman, and Nancy Gruskin, and sculpture by Leslie Sills, the domestic domain is celebrated as a deeply personal cache, tender, trend-free, timeless. From Alice Neel to Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter to David Park, Marisol to Mapplethorpe – Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills extend a lineage attesting to the visual richness of familial inspiration. 

Friends and family could be a loaded subject. Yet, through the lens of love, Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills disarm any notion of a fraught dynamic. Each artist elevates the ordinary, honors the awkward, and delights in the spontaneous. In socks, t-shirts, and sneakers, their kin and kindred spirits savor informal rituals, revel in the moment, and embrace the everyday. Life and lives observed and cherished, Chasman, Gruskin, and Sills transmute paint and clay into expressive equivalents of the heart.

Intimate in scale and deceptively immediate in execution, Laura Chasman’s gouache portraits on paper are invitations to a private encounter. Each of her subjects is noble-ized by her gaze and touch. Economic and essential, Chasman’s skillful painterly description deftly opens the door to a deep human connection. Casual, exact, candid, and formal, the fundamentals of her painting give way to something more foundational, something beyond how a person looks to who they truly are.

Chasman prioritizes a relational experience for the observer. The portrait of the artist’s niece, “Jessica”, as in many of Chasman’s paintings is an example of the expert hierarchy of viewing that the artist activates. Drawn in by the painting’s small scale and familiarity, Chasman’s sure-handedness and speed excites. One’s eye moves quickly from the broad spacious strokes of the interior or background to the finer yet no less charged strokes that define the figure, ultimately coming face to face with the subject’s eyes. The intensity of the exchange is further animated by the spaces between the paint strokes and the areas that Chasman leaves unpainted – the visual volley between the two lending energy and breath to the engagement.

Nothing escapes Nancy Gruskin’s affectionate attention. Not the toaster, not the take-out, not the sinewy lengthening limbs of adolescence or the gesture of a dog’s paw at rest. Here is the stuff of life; large and small, extraordinary and average, rendered in a way that equalizes and democratizes all – people, places, and things. It is this equanimity that generously inhabits Gruskin’s world. Solid, trustworthy and hospitable, Gruskin’s acrylic gouache paintings are homages to a home-centric life, peripherally viewed and underpinned with metaphor.

Harmonizing with her choice of subject matter is an intentional palette, abundant with mixed values and a range of mid-tones. Together with her puzzle-like compositional aplomb, the paintings deliver a relaxed and delectable observational meander. In a depiction of self, “You Look Like One of Your Paintings”, Gruskin stands barefoot, arm akimbo, in an orange floral dress. The figure embedded in a balanced asymmetric arrangement of pattern, color, shape, and stroke is emblematic of Gruskin’s fair, objective and confident endeavor.

Sculptor and author of award-winning books for children, Leslie Sills is naturally inclined toward story and narrative. Her portraits and figures startle with an innocence to convey human qualities informed by empathy and insight. They represent friends and acquaintances and become dimensional memories preserved in clay, fabric, paint, and glaze. The artist’s home is her studio, her classroom, and her muse.

Giving form to the human spirit in its many manifestations is Sills’ passion. In “Blue Hill Boy” the artist portrays an unlikely yet believable bond between a boy and a duck. Emphasizing only that which is honest and essential, the hand built sculpture is alive with tactile delight. A sense of presence is further expressed by a rich vocabulary of marks made with tools incising the clay and paint applied after firing. Blue eyes, brown feathers, flushed cheeks and tender hands are very simply – made real.

About the Artists

John Christian Anderson remembers childhood visits to Simon Rhodia's Watt's Towers, which could be seen near his home in Los Angeles. These towers made a profound impact on him representing symbols of pure artistic vision, independence, and the down-to-earth attitude of using whatever materials are available. Building on this experience, Anderson's art has led to embracing Indian and Buddhist sand painting, Fluxus objects, Minimalism, Funk Art, bricolage and assemblage. Impermanence, imperfection, and incompleteness have become fundamental to his sculpture as a way to express personal narratives while also reflecting a world that is becoming more ephemeral and out of balance.

Anderson has exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the United States. These include the Robert Freidus Gallery in New York, the Rose Art Museum, the ICA Boston, The DeCordova Museum, and the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. Recently his work was included in an exhibition at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana, and room83spring in Watertown, Massachusetts. This past year he was awarded an individual Artist Resource Trust grant and a prestigious School of the Museum of Art Traveling Scholarship. His work is included in both public and private collections.

Brian Bishop is an artist and educator who lives and works in Boston where he teaches painting and serves as the chair of the Department of Art and Music at Framingham State University. He attended The School of Visual Arts in New York, Ny; Memphis College of Art in Memphis, TN (BFA 1993); and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI (MFA 1995). Prior to joining the faculty at Framingham State University in 2008, he taught at The University of Alabama, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of Memphis, and Memphis College of Art. In addition to his teaching experience he has also served as Director and Curator of the Art Workers Union/Plan B Gallery in Memphis and as Director of Exhibitions at Memphis College of Art.

Bishop's work has been widely exhibited including solo exhibitions at the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville, TN; Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, CT; The University of Delaware in Newark, DE; Artspace in Raleigh, NC; Georgetown University in Washington, DC; and at Youngblood Gallery in Atlanta, GA. He has also participated in select group exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; A+D Gallery at Columbia College in Chicago, IL; Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in Wilmington, DE; BECA in New Orleans, LA; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC; Catalyst Arts in Belfast, UK; Galway Arts Centre in Galway, Ireland; Gallery 111 in Johannesburg, South Africa and The Painting Center in New York, NY.

Venetia Dale is a metalsmith/sculptor whose work explores shifts in utility, mobility and exchange between people, place and things. Dale received her MFA from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2009 and BFA at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. She exhibits work, lectures, curates and performs workshops nationally and internationally. Dale has participated in exhibitions at 92nd Street Y Tribeca Gallery in New York, NY, Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, MI, Racine Art Museum in Racine, WI and Eastern Bloc Centre for New Media and Interdisciplinary Art in Montreal, Puebec. She has participated in artist residencies at Oregon College of Art and Craft and at Kohler Company in Sheboygan, WI. She has most recently been awarded the 2015 Emerging Artist Platform Award from Sienna Gallery in Lenox, MA. Venetia Dale resides in Boston, MA where she maintains a studio practice and teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Pier Gustafson began creating his "three dimensional drawings" and (trompe l'oeil) installations in Madison Wisconsin while in Graduate School. He created life-sized rooms filled with objects, all made of paper and ink wash. It almost seemed as if you walked into a drawing. Later in that career he switched materials, drawing on black paper with white gouache and discovered that the objects seemed to have a different presence. Rather like you were " imagining" the objects as opposed to "remembering" them. Shortly after that switch in medium, he re-acquainted himself with "flat" drawing and began his present career as an illustrator and graphic designer.

Judy Haberl is Professor of Sculpture at Massachusetts College of Art and Design where she teaches in Graduate and Undergraduate Programs. She is the 3-D MFA Graduate Area Coordinator and has created many interdisciplinary courses including Image & Object, (with Laura McPhee); Food and Art; Installations, Mixed-Media, and Sculpture Seminar: addressing - Living as Form. With a deep interest in the evocative potential of objects, Haberl has always embraced a cross-media approach to her art, often merging the disciplines of sculpture, photography and installation. Photoluminescence, mystery, and cultural phenomenology are persistent subjects in her work.

A Founder of the Claflin School Studios, an Artist's Residence in Newtonville, MA, Judy is the recipient of numerous grants including LEF New England, General Fund Visual Artist Award, Artist's Resouce Trust, Massachusetts Cultural Council and The George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship at Brown University, and Massachusetts College of Art Faculty Fellowships.