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terri priest


For more than three centuries the women in Dutch artist Jan Vermeer's paintings have remained a mystery. They have stood quietly, performing insignificant tasks in small interiors. Until now. In her paintings, Terri Priest takes these women from their original settings and places them in the context of modernist paintings.

Priest's stunning replications of Vermeer's women are faithful and respectful, retaining the contemplative mystery and intrigue of the originals.The modern works are also rendered with careful accuracy. The resulting connections between the appropriated seventeenth-century images and those from the twentieth century have a remarkable compositional and thematic logic. In Vermeer & Hopper, a Vermeer woman is shown reading a letter to Edward Hopper's attentive wofe; the muted hues and surfaces of both originals are carefully reproduced to create a seamless orchestration.

Although the compositional devices used to hold these disparate quoted images together are of considerable interest in themselves, it is the subject matter that really captures the viewer's interest. What are these works about? Clearly, Priest is greatly intrigued by Vermeer's women and, likewise, wishes to liberate them from the strictures of their time. By enlarging them, they are given more importance; they are no longer diminutive, nor confined by either or domesticity. In Vermeer & D'Arcangelo, a woman ponders the deep expanse of a pop art highway. In Vermeer & Vija Clemins, another woman looks out into the infinite night sky. Expressed in the sources of her artistic inspiration, Priest's work reveals her own evolution as both an artist and liberated woman.

Roger Dunn, Art New England, Volume 22 Number 5,
August/September 2001

The most intimate and revealing of all the paintings in this exhibit is Vermeer, O'Keeffe & Priest in which Priest re-presents Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. In the original, the girl's faint reflection can be seen in the inwardly opened window. In this version, Priest has opened the window further so that the girl is no longer reflected but we can see a slightly diffused view of the artist herself in the back of the room. Priest fantasizes that she's there, ready to respond to the girl's reaction when she finishes reading the letter. Priest has commented that all artists are voyeurs, watching the scene unfold around them. Here, she plays the role of the ultimate voyeur caught in the act.
Leon Nigrosh, The Worcester Phoenix, March 2, 2001
Kudos to Terri Priest, whose new exhibit at Clark University is generating all kinds of sparks around the city. One art lover who attended last week's opening of Vermeer Women: Making Choices in Clark's Goddard Library said that the crowd of more than 200 people was "just electric" looking at Priest's work.

Susan Dewey, Worcester Magazine,February 21, 2001

...Priest has created a body of 31 paintings inspired by Vermeer, of which only 13 have been selected for this show. Priest states that these are very complex paintings, and in order for the audience to retain a sense of sanity and not have all the colors and images mesh into one, they need space. "This is my most important body of work to date," Priest says. "This show is not about selling art, it's about inviting people to see what I've been working on for three years of my life."

Adam Petkus, Worcester Magazine, January 31, 2001

    ...Terri Priest combines images from Vermeer with those from more modern masters. In Vermeer & Matisse, the iconic figure from Vermeer's The Milk Maid fills the foreground, but Priest places her pink face behind wrought-iron bars. In the background, she re-creates a painting of a reclining nude by Matisse. She draws similarities and tensions between the two: both are pink and curvaceous, but the Matisse side is powered by lines and planes, and the Vermeer side by light and volume. Priest makes sly social commentary, caging the milkmaid as her mistress lounges in the background.
Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe, May 11, 2000

    ...Priest crossed Matisse's The Music Lesson with a portrait of herself as Vermeer might have painted her.There is also a narrow rectangle painting that juxtaposes a Vermeer-like woman with a Tom Wesselman nude and a painting in which the milkmaid appears in a Matisse. The Wesselman first. The bombshell in it is a cartoon from our world of advertisments. Indeed, Vermeer's paintings may be mysterious in part because we see so many similar images that when we see ones made with total conviction we wonder at the power the familiar can hold for us. And we may think about how much we miss in what is plainly there to be seen.
The juxtaposition with Matisse had me thinking about light, Matisses's soft Mediterranean light and gray-tinged Parisian light against Vermeer's glare-like Northern light. Light in painting is itself a mysterious force. In a Matisse it can be there when the only source os the paint itself. In a Vermeer the source is always evident and light pours where in Matisse it suffuses. And then there are Matisse's women and Vermeer's with Priest's seeing herself as a Vermeer. A Matisse woman is liable to be both voluptuous and part of the decor, a fact of nature in the company of other facts, ottomans, chairs, windows, patterns of rugs and wallpaper. A Vermeer woman is that physical and moral presence noted above, one whom one instinctively knows but is forever describing to one's self.

William Corbett