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Five Central Mass. Artists You Need to Know

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Central Mass. is full of talent, and GoLocal has compiled a list of five local artists you need to know. Take a look at their amazing work and don’t miss their openings and shows around the area.

Quyen Truong

Worcester in its own ways is a mixture. Many different families, backgrounds, cultures, and ideas have made it a patchwork of people. Quyen Truong is an artist who has used this mixture in the city to find her own identity, which turns out is a mixture in itself.

“The primary rationale and mission of my artwork is to share work that is relevant to my personal life history and family history. I’m interested in duality,” Truong said. “I think a lot about where I come from and where I’m born and this adopted country – America. These are two joined aspects of my identity.”

Truong comes from a Vietnamese family and has reflected on her roots while doing work in Worcester. One look at her work’s vibrant colors and magnificent illustration and dynamics will show her portrayal of her background. Koi fish, swaying trees, and intense black and white sketches all contain the emotion of someone seeking to find her identity.

“I think we all have questions of who we are and who we want to be in the world. Not just for teens I love to mentor and teach art to, but it’s relevant for everyone in America. We are this young, new, somewhat rebellious country started on religious freedom and pioneers – people who wanted to start a new life,” she said. “We’re all trying to figure out who we are in the context of the larger world.”

Truong hopes that by sharing her personal journey to figure out her identity with this universal language of art will move viewers to ask who they are and what they bring.

“It asks of them who are you and how to you fit into the diaspora of immigrants in this country. As such there’s a lot a movement in my work,” Truong said.

Worcester has given a lot to her as an artist and pushed her to think about new avenues for her work.

“Nine months in Worcester have come to a head in terms of figuring out who I am. Now I’m interested in the intersection of different art forms,” she said. “Being in a small city like Worcester has been an incredible learning experience. Worcester has been an amazing place to focus on… and be away from other stressors and focus on me and how I need to challenge myself.”

Truong has shown work around the city. Currently, her exhibit East Meets West is up at One Love Café at 800 Main Street. The exhibit is comprised of explosions 5 feet by 6 feet and depicts the concept of obsession.

She is currently working on a series of mixed media pieces for a couple different galleries, one being the Hunt-Cavanaugh Gallery in Providence, which will feature work she started years ago at Brown University.

Sue Sedgwick

When you ask an artist what draws them to their work, be prepared for any answer. Whether is a job, hobby, or obsession, each artist has a different reason propelling them to do their work. For photographer, Sue Sedgwick, that reason started in Africa.

“It was back in 1981 or ’82 when I took a trip by myself to Africa on a safari. I borrowed a camera to take on this trip and I was hooked from then on,” Sedgwick said. “When Peter Faulker at the Craft Center retired, I joined a critique group which is fun because it’s a diverse group.” While a critique group can’t hold a candle to the excitement of an African safari, Sedgwick has been experimenting with different aspects of darkroom and digital photography ever since.

Sedgwick primarily works in black and white and her work reveals the mood of certain spaces. Whether it’s capturing the open landscapes in New England or highlighting the serene mood and architecture of an old home, there is a clarity and classic nature to her work.

“I’m basically a landscape photographer, and I have been fortunate enough to travel a lot, so my one weakness is photographing people because I don’t like intruding in their private lives,” Sedgwick said. Currently, she has been experimenting with working with 4X4, a Worcester area collaborative of four poets and four artists. “We were at The Sprinkler Factor last month. We meet once a month, and it has brought me a whole new perspective.”

Her critique group has also forced her to rethink other aspects of her work.

“I was primarily a black and white photographer, but this group really opened my eyes. It was what I was trained in,” Sedgwick said.

Sedgwick will be featured at the The Fitchburg Art Museum Regional Show of Arts and Crafts, which she has belonged of for many year. Her contributions this year showcase the serenity and calm nature of her classic black and white shots.

She has been the recipient of an Arts Lottery Grant to photograph spaces in Holden. She is also continuing to work with combining the fields of poetry and art.

Christina P. O'Neill

Worcester is a colorful city, and watercolor artist, Christina P. O’Neill has worked to showcase its vibrant nature in her work.

Striking reds and golds of brick buildings in the city shine in sunset hues. O’Neill has used the area’s urban landscape as a source of evocative inspiration since she move to the area in the early 1980s.

O’Neill is currently showing work for the summer at Five Loaves Bakery in Spencer, where six of her watercolor paintings of vegetable vendors are on display.

“I like urban settings, and I also like local things but also things that are evocative of the sense of places. Elm Park is one location I return to,” she said. “And the city of Worcester’s urban landscape. I’m city-centric.”

“I think it’s a matter of sharing a vision and letting other people see what I see, and capturing the essence of a place,” O’Neill said. “People usually see my work and react strongly to it as a sense of place. It’s not controversial, but it does evoke emotion from the viewer.”

O’Neill has exhibited at Preservation Worcester and Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s George C. Gordon Library. Her last exhibit was a series of paintings on the last working gas lights in Worcester, for which she received a grant from the Cultural Council in 2008.

While O’Neill’s landscape watercolors evoke an emotional connection with the spaces she portrays, she wants to focus more on the emotion behind her paintings.

“I’d like to get more people in my work,” she said. “I’m getting away from a reliance on photos and branch out and do more emotional stuff.”

Mike Zeis

Worcester’s urban landscape hasn’t come without its share of urban decay, a central theme in the photographs of Mike Zeis. While peeling paint, rusted signs, and faded advertisements on brick buildings might be the day-to-day scenery for some, Zeis sees it as something new and different.

“They’re unconventional subjects. Part of it has to do with how things age sometimes look kind of ugly when they age,” he said. “But the way I look at it, the things that happen become more beautiful. The colors soften, and the paint pops off and peels in different ways. It gets a new texture. The effects of age and neglect can make things more beautiful in a way.”

Zeis does most of his work in New England and New York and seeks out the seedy parts of town in cities and smaller areas. He enjoys thinking back on what cities once were.

“In Worcester there’s the old industrial buildings and the old neighborhoods,” Zeis said. “Each one of them harkens back to the days when Worcester might have been an industrial power. The old industrial buildings are sadly going away. A lot of the places I’ve had a great deal of fun photographing, those are only there temporarily.”

While Zeis says it’s good that the city is doing work to clean up old factories and brownfields, it’s still bittersweet.

“It takes away my subjects, but that’s the best kind of outcome. It represents a lot of work on behalf of the city,” he said. “The adventure of the abandonment and attractiveness of buildings in decay is really a reminder of what they have been at one time, when triple deckers were filled with workers.”

His photography can be seen at pop culture shop, That’s Entertainment, where he sells Worcester greeting cards. He also has items at local consignment shop, Trump and Disorderly.

Zeis is also featuring a show from June 13th through July 31th at the Alternatives Career Center and Community Gallery, Uxbridge. There will be a reception Friday, June 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The gallery’s normal hours are Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Seed to Stem

If you’re looking for an artistic addition that’s new and different and perfect for your home, office, or friend, Seed to Stem’s intricate, aesthetically pleasing work with air plants and terrariums will knock your socks off. Before you bemoan a house plant as too much of a time commitment, these air plants will take little of your time and offer all the natural beauty you’re looking for.

Seed to Stem combines these gnarled, intricate succulents, cacti and air plants with all kinds of different textures – glass, sand, wire, bone, wood, and stone. They do custom arrangements and terrariums, but their own tastes leave little to be desired. Their combinations are stunning and come in all sizes from over 10 inch hanging glass orbs to tiny light bulbs. Yes, they can fit a tiny terrarium inside a light bulb.

Their motto, “Connecting Humans with Their Roots” fits their design well – beautiful yet simplistic.

They offer workshops and designs for weddings as well as other one-on-one consultation.

The best news – they’re soon moving to the heart of the city.  Seed to Stem will be hosting their grand opening at their new location, 174 Shrewsbury Street in Worcester on June 16th.


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