Domestic Drama Exposed at the Worcester Art Museum

WORCESTER, MASS., May 25, 1999 - Continuing its commitment to showcase contemporary art, the Worcester Art Museum presents Domesticated, a striking and beautiful exhibition of photography, from June 19 - September 2, 1999. The Worcester Art Museum is the only venue for this show, which features 17 works by five internationally recognized artists. The exhibition promises to both agitate and intrigue the audience.

Capturing the drama of our private lives, the photographers Uta Barth, Richard Billingham, Gerald Cyrus, Laura Letinsky, and Shellburne Thurber expose us to the joys and sorrows of the ordinary and the everyday. Domesticated is the third in a series of contemporary exhibitions organized by Jessica Morgan, the Museum's former curator of Contemporary Art.

The exhibition presents the unique perspectives of each artist through their photographs of domestic settings. The works of these artists alert us to the striking similarities as well as the shocking disparities of our lives and others'.

Canadian artist Laura Letinsky's photographs of couples capture the tenderness, vulnerability, and sorrow that pervade relationships, while her still life images reflect the absence of these emotions and stories. American Gerald Cyrus focuses on his own middle-class African-American roots in photographs of his family and friends. Richard Billingham, a British artist, exposes the truths of his own family with a familiarity and directness that is at once oddly tender and thoroughly disarming. Treating subjects of alcoholism, poverty, and violence, Billingham confronts us with truths we would prefer to ignore. Alternatively, Boston artist Shellburne Thurber and German-born Uta Barth use architectural portraits of private residences to treat issues of memory and domesticity.

In 1998, the Museum strengthened its affinity to contemporary art by endowing the position of curator of Contemporary Art and a related programming fund. The Museum's goal is to ensure an ongoing presence of contemporary art in the form of exhibitions, artist residencies, and lectures. It may also link contemporary art with earlier works from its permanent collection.

The Museum defines contemporary art as work that has been produced during the past 10 years. According to Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, director of Collections and Exhibitions: "Each year the base line of the department will advance, ensuring that the exhibition programming is forward-looking. The Worcester Art Museum is committed to exhibiting the works of emerging artists, and those artists who may not have been shown in a large museum." The Worcester Art Museum is one of the first museums in the country to adopt this innovative practice.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.