May 27, 2004 • Volume 12 Number 18

"Fantasy Garden #51: Pungo River Grass" (above) will be among the works featured in the McMullen Museum's retrospective on Sarah Westlake, while "A Girl's Best Friend," by Adj. Assoc. Prof. Andrew Tavarelli (Fine Arts), will be part of the museum's "Refigured" exhibition.

At McMullen Museum, It's Art of the (Bay) State

Two summer exhibitions will feature artists from Massachusetts

By Rosanne Pellegrini
Staff Writer

The work of Massachusetts artists, including the late accomplished abstractionist Sarah Westlake, will be featured in two exclusive exhibitions beginning June 14 at the University's McMullen Museum of Art.

"Refigured" showcases six Bay State artists, among them Adj. Assoc. Prof. Andrew Tavarelli (Fine Arts), whose non-traditional approaches using a variety of media seek to "refigure" the complexity of the human condition.

Running concurrently with "Refigured" will be an exhibition of 26 drawings, sculptures and folding screens by Westlake, one of the few female abstract artists of her generation from the Boston area.

Both exhibitions will be on display through Aug. 29. An opening public reception to be held June 14 at the museum from 7-8:30 p.m. is expected to include appearances by artists featured in "Refigured." For more information, or to arrange attendance, call the museum at ext.2-8587.

"The McMullen is pleased to examine the work of these outstanding local artists and to focus on their previously unexamined relationships to one another," said McMullen Museum Director Prof. Nancy Netzer (Fine Arts).

Exhibition organizers say the artists in "Refigured" - Tavarelli, Todd McKie, Jo Sandman, Joseph Wheelwright, Heidi Whitman and Leslie Wilcox - each invent a different visual language for their depictions of the human. Following in the footsteps of early Modern artists like Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Jean Dubuffet, who were inspired by non-Western tribal art, children's art and the art of the insane, each of the six use the image of the human form as a springboard for exploration into human experience.

Tavarelli, Wilcox and Sandman portray themes of mortality and physical vulnerability; McKie, Wheelwright and Wilcox incorporate humor and word play into their titles and imagery; and Sandman, Wheelwright and McKie present correlations between human likeness and natural forms.

"Refigured," which comprises 54 works of art, including paintings, sculpture and photography, will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by McMullen Museum Chief Curator Alston Conley, principal curator of the exhibition, and co-curators Naomi Blumberg, the museum's exhibition coordinator, and Adj. Asst. Prof. Katherine Nahum (Fine Arts).

The exhibition on Sarah Westlake examines the period of her mature work, from 1984-2002. Westlake, who died last year, came of age as an artist during the 1940s and '50s, entering the cerebral male-dominated world of abstract art.

Synthesizing the structural elements found in the minimal reductive work of Agnes Martin, the rich, decorative aspects of Henri Matisse, and the flat space of Japanese prints and painted screens, Westlake's oeuvre exudes a dynamic tension between unruly, natural forms and planar structures.

Between 1984 and 2002, Westlake alternated working in two and three dimensions which, when viewed together, approximate a graphic depiction of her creative process.

According to Conley, who is principal exhibition curator and also wrote the accompanying catalogue, "Westlake moved between media with complexity and variation, graphically recording her creative thought process. These works from the last 18 years of her career show a searching, personal visual language that was strongly felt, yet steeped in restraint. They were exhibited, but perhaps not seen and appreciated widely enough."

The catalogue also includes an essay by exhibition co-curator Mary Armstrong, who met Westlake in the mid-1980s and corresponded with the artist. Conley and Armstrong are both faculty members in BC's Fine Arts Department.

Organized by the McMullen Museum, the summer exhibitions have been underwritten by BC with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum of Art.

For additional information, visit the McMullen MuseumWeb site at or call ext.2-8100. -Office of Public Affairs

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