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Five Worcester Artists to Watch

Monday, May 14, 2012


Worcester is teeming with culture, new artists, and old pros who are trying new things. Meet five local artists you should know.

Louie Despres

Artist Louie Despres at Wonder Bar in Worcester. Photo by Frank Armstrong.

One part of an artist’s role in their surroundings is as a documentarian. Whether it’s capturing moments or scenes or taking an area’s influence and transforming it – artists play a role in creating what is remembered and seen in a city.

Photographer, Louie Despres has been documenting nightlife here in Worcester for the past fifteen years, capturing its wild moments, music scene, and life on the streets. He travels throughout Worcester to create quite the documentary.

“I am really fascinated with the Green Island area lately as within the last five years this section of Worcester has gotten really vibrant with lots of great night spots opening and mixing with the places which have been there for decades,” Despres said. “On Saturday I was out in front of the Lucky Dog after the bars closed and I was bowled over by the sheer number of people walking on Green Street. It was like Worcester had arrived and everyone was joining in.”

Looking through his book “Five Months” shows the wildly diverse night scene that thrives in Wormtown, under the veil of the night. Beer cans, smiling faces, and over-the-top makeup fill his shots that are captured in time.

“I like to capture people in unguarded moments, showing emotions which, when posing for a photograph, tends to be fake or unrealistic,” Despres said. “I shoot very quickly so you usually don’t see me there in front of you until after my shutter has been clicked.”

Photo by Louie Despres.

Despres realizes his role in capturing this scene in Worcester – something that’s usually not witnessed unless you’re there in the moment.

“I get a sense of producing something which is a really part of history, constantly evolving as time passes, by documenting the city and its people at this specific moment in time,” he said of his work, adding that as an artist, he is compelled.

Last year one of his photos won “Best of Show” at the “Center Yourself” show at the Worcester Center for Crafts. Despres also took the top spot in photography for the 2011 ARTSWorcester Biennial show. “The big news for me this year is I was named one of the Worcester Arts Council’s 2012 Fellows, which has gotten me some great recognition.”

Despres will be curating a photography show at the Worcester Center for Crafts, scheduled to open in early 2013.

Sampson Wilcox

Artist Sampson Wilcox at StART on the Street.

Sampson Wilcox may be just graduating from his art studies this May, but he has become a jack-of-all-trades, working with more traditional drawing and painting, photography, sculpture, and moving to more conceptual work and performance. He thrives in Worcester and feeds off of its rich opportunities to see many layers of inspiration.

“I would say that Worcester as a city has affected my work by showing how environments in recession – things that aren’t cleanly polished – provide an opportunity to see many layers,” Wilcox said. He often walks the streets of Worcester for inspiration and materials for sculptures. “When you clean something up, you cover up blemishes, and because of Worcester’s rough past, it’s a much more interesting place because you can see all these different things mashed together in layers. In all of Worcester’s adversity it is actually a very interesting place to be.”

Wilcox is on the committee for Worcester’s annual street arts festival, StART on the Street and will be coordinating interactive events for this year’s fair.

By Sampson Wilcox.

 He also recently showed his work in a gallery in Italy, “URBAN LIFE - Cultures-Transition-Identities,” where he received inspiration for what he sees as the next phase in his work – performance.

“I have one sculpture in the show, and they also projected some of my performances on a screen during the opening. That got me thinking maybe there’s more to that,” he said. “I definitely see it changing quite a bit. I’m moving away from really traditional media. I see it changing and being more conceptual – focusing more on process and the creative act of the artists being more of the art than any finished object that you could buy.”

In this new vein, Wilcox has two ideas in mind - both of which deal with allowing himself to become another person. One work focusing on decay, domesticity, and cleaning up after people.

“I’m interested in getting a nighttime janitorial job and using that secret life as a lens to think about this domestic role of cleaning up after people. That’s going to be a lot about transforming myself to be another person,” Wilcox said. “The other piece I’ve been thinking about is the more in the form of a show. It’s going to involve the industrial nature of my previous work. The main character is afraid of becoming too automatic and losing the ability to independently think. Chances are, I will end up being that main character.”

Ella Delyanis 

Artist Ella Delyanis with recent works.

While some find inspiration in the city and Worcester’s nightlife, one landscape artist has found her muse in the serene and captivatingly diverse landscapes of Worcester County. Ella Delyanis has lived in the area since 1978 and has been making vivid, colorful paintings of New England since.

“I had a pretty traditional arts school education. A lot of focus on drawing and design, and I became interested in landscape painting,” Delyanis said of her work. “Originally I’d worked with the figure, but post-school, I got the feeling of ‘What do I do now? No one is here, hiring models for me,’ and I moved away from it. I wanted to try something different.”

"Backyard Afire #1" by Ella Delyanis.

Delyanis worked outdoors for ten years, capturing the natural light in real time. While she works from reference photos now, she still finds the same beauty in the landscape’s space and light.

“Landscapers will tell you… it’s light,” she said. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for interesting places. New England has no shortage of dynamic, engaging spaces. Space intrigues me.”

Delyanis’ work has transformed over the years to become more realistic and people often take note of her work for the color. One look through her gallery of fall leaves, rippled swirling colors in the water, and flamboyant sunsets certainly proves this to be true.

While the artists has “no grandiose” plans for the future, Worcester County continues to inspire her work. “One thing leads you into another thing,” she said. “I always try to have something on the back of my mind.”

Delyanis currently works at the Worcester Art Museum and has been featured in area galleries.

Susan Champeny

Artist Susan Champeny painting light bulb sculptures with Worcester landmarks.

An artists’ surroundings have a large effect on their work, and it’s clear that Susan Champeny works well with the city of Worcester. From Art in the Park to the Wayfinder statue/signage near the Hanover commissioned by the Cultural Coalition of Worcester, Champeny has been involved with the city.

Champeny’s work is usually colorful and playful but works hard to engage the viewer.

“My work falls in two categories: 1) sculpture installations made out of recycled and repurposed common everyday objects, such as laundry bottles, cups, hubcaps and lawn chairs. 2) Murals and paintings of an optimistic and playful vision of urban Worcester and the surrounding countryside,” Champeny said of her work. “Regardless to the medium, I am interested in brilliant color, and playful modes of expression that will engage and inspire people to see what is all around them in a new way.”

While Champeny has a special dedication to the area, part of her summer may be spent other places as far as Hawaii.

“I also will be teaching more of my popular Totem Sculpture-building workshops, which I started last year. I already have begun booking workshops for the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013,” she said. “It is a fun way to speed-build sculpture with a group of excited kids and adults.”

“In between I will be working on a couple of murals in local homes, and painting a pair of large canvases of the Reef Fish of Hawaii, which is a personal interest project,” she added.

Champeny is looking forward to this year’s StART on the Street Spring Edition on June 3rd where her group studio will have a tent.

“We will show our paintings, cards, glass and some of my totem sculptures. It will make a great start to the summer,” she said. “As for other shows, keep tuned for information on which and where my next sculpture installation is accepted.”

Stephen DiRado

Aquinnah, MA, Sage, 2011. Photo by Stephen DiRado.

 Clark photography professor, Stephen DiRado, may be a “mid-career” artist, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying new things.

While his work photographing residents of Martha’s Vineyard on the beach has earned him many awards, including a recent Guggenheim, DiRado is now exploring the realm of film.

“Seems as far as Worcester sees me, I reinvent myself every decade, noted for one style or another,” he said. His most recent work, Summer Spent, surrounds the process of photographing the “beach people” day after day.

While he stays busy making films of snails, snow, and his beloved beach goers, in light of his recent Guggenheim, DiRado will be continuing and expanding his photography on the island, particularly portraits of hipsters. His films will also involve this theme.

“I will hold true to my proposal. I will extend my stay on the island into the fall in order to work. This is a first in the 25 years of photographing on the island. I never had the financial backing in the past,” he said. “This was my third try, and with each attempt, an exhausting and stressful process. Hard to explain but I had a gut feeling about this one, so not shocked but by all means but more like humbled. And if I didn’t get it this year, there is always next.”

“I have had an amazing career, museum shows, added to collections, receiving numerous fellowships, awards and grants, and a mentor to many. What I am truly proud of is the variety of work throughout the years that I have produced that was recognized,” DiRado said. “With each success people say to me ‘You made it!’ I politely correct them that it is all about ‘Making it!’ And that is the simple fact of struggling to make the art. There are plateaus but no apexes.”


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