Hester Simpson

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Artist’s Statement


The echoes of childhood define who we are. We live in memory. — Benjamin Bush, Dust to Dust

My abstract paintings are founded in early memory, creating an emotional space that pervades my everyday life. This emotional space is what I paint. When I paint, I mix thinned acrylics to a pourable consistency, allowing an even flow over panel. I work slowly, building strata of paint in even, smooth layers, evolving mutable patterns. In this way, I record time spent, an accumulation of memory and of returning again and again to the activity of paint on panel. Color is the expressive component of my work, informed by dreams, memory, and theory. The interaction of purple, brown, green and yellow, for example comes directly from a dream, in which a visitor to my studio points to four colors on my palette and states, “These are your colors. This is what you must do.” I know immediately that these colors represent my immigrant grandparents, influential in my formative years, and essential to my present. While I play with systems of pattern and color, challenging what I know, I revisit these seminal colors during times of change.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke describes this phenomenon:

And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Such change recently occurred in the wake of my mother’s death and the clearing of my childhood home. What has emerged is a new form which pays homage to the life of trees, and how they bear witness to our own existence. My research tells me that we share 25% of our DNA with trees. As I pass them on my daily walks, they speak to me of regeneration. I respond with new paintings.

Work creates its own time. — Ad Reinhardt

Hester Simpson grew up on Long Island’s north shore in the embrace of her immigrant grandparents. Her grandfather, a painter, lavished his enthusiasm for art in every corner of life. Today, decades since his passing, Simpson credits his spirit with her own passion for her practice. Simpson studied at Carnegie-Mellon University and Cranbrook Academy of Art, and has been a Visiting Artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tyler School of Art, and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, among others. The highlight of her 30-year teaching career, however, is in leading and evaluating workshop programs for the homeless, the disabled, and the incarcerated. Simpson is represented by more than 30 works in the William Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, a philanthropic arm of the Harlem Children’s Zone. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Gottlieb Foundation Grant, a Wolf-Kahn Exhibition Grant, and three residencies at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico which transformed her sense of light and color, profoundly influencing her painting to this day. Simpson has exhibited her work internationally and is represented by Ricco Maresca Gallery New York City, where she has had five solo shows. Phyllis Braff of The New York Times has described her work as “mesmerizing.”

Dee Shapiro

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Artist’s Statement


As in a dream of alternative realities, absurd connections, or on a trip passing familiar landscapes in unfamiliar settings, new conscious and unconscious associations are brought to a 2-dimensional surface in my work. In the recent pieces, geometry (seen even in the structure of organic forms) directs composition: arbitrary drops of color undermine control and create shapes that succumb to the overwork of drawings, rendering obsessive intricacies and paint application building the forms. Collage material adds extraneous influences in a subtle blend.

In the beginning was pattern. First the Fibonacci progression color coded on graph paper, followed by a series of work that included architectural elements off the grid. With all the work, always color, a nod to the Albers studies. A redirection to small horizontal paintings of the geometry in cities and landscapes ensued for a number of years.

Missing the early fascination and engagement with pattern led to more recent work exploring evocative biological and organic forms, the evolution of which is the more recent work as well as borrowing from sources that include other artist’s work in a collaborative effort.

Another direction takes me to appropriate iconic paintings of women by well-known artists in the past and to rework those images in pattern with paint, ink and mixed media.

Always a continuum in my current practice is the exploration of pattern wherever it appears in other sources and cultures as well as imagined and combined.

In this newest body of work, I am unflinchingly forging ahead to newly wrought terrain with the underlying echoes of the beginnings.

Featured in the Pattern and Decoration exhibit at PS I, Dee Shapiro has exhibited in New York and elsewhere since the late 1970’s, with solo and group exhibitions at AIR, Andre Zarre Gallery, Everson Museum, Nassau County Museum, David Richard Gallery, Bernay Fine Art and many other galleries and museums in the US and abroad. Her work is in the collections of the S.R. Guggenheim Museum, Heckscher Museum, Albright Knox Gallery, Birmingham Museum, William Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection, and other university, corporate, and private collections.


A painter who also writes and makes artists’ books, Shapiro’s practice explores the intersection of pattern, nature and geometry. Her imagery is borrowed and imagined from weaving, beading and the crafts of other cultures, as well as biomorphic forms overlapping within each individual piece. She employs a variety of media and has produced several bodies of work including systemic patterning, city and landscapes, prints and large figurative mixed media pieces. She has been teaching art history and studio art at Empire State College, SUNY, and Old Westbury, NY.