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Ellen Lebow and Anna Poor at PAAM, Spring 2010

July 21, 2011
A mid-career survey of artwork by Ellen LeBow and Anna Poor is on view at the Provincetown Art Association Museum (PAAM) March 12 -May 2, 2010. The power of narrative generated by mythology, folklore, and religious visual culture is made evident in their work. Both Poor and LeBow explore subject matter culled from a fantastic range of contemporary and historical sources: from ancient Egypt to modern-day Haiti and from Giacometti to Doctor Seuss. Obsessively reconfiguring the objects and iconography of art history and world religions, both artists take critical positions of homage, ironic commentary or outright pillaging on their appropriated sources. They share a material fascination with the sensuous potentials of their materials, often working with innovative or unconventional techniques and combinations of mediums.
Over the course of many years of exhibiting in Wellfleet and Provincetown, LeBow has worked in a wide range of media and styles. Her recent black and white clayboard panels are drawn with a knife, producing imagery both linear and carved, drawn with light, as layers of darkness are peeled away in the lowest of relief. LeBow’s recent imagery is a radical departure from the Haitian focus of her past work. Her dense and massive visual fields disgorge tumbling, cosmic “clouds” packed with an unlikely association of characters “cannibalized” from personal and artistic influences. The artist explains that “in the marriage of seemingly disparate things I try to weave a compressed assault of ‘divine messengers’ threatening at once to overpower and exalt the earth-bound life below.”

Poor’s sculptures are often diminutive in scale and engage the viewer in critical contemporary issues of appropriation, ownership, and the destruction of cultural objects. Her anthropomorphic creatures, innocent bystanders in a violent world, combine contemporary sensibilities with age old, labor intensive sculptural techniques. Her art historical references, techniques, and objects span many centuries: from the alabaster, shell and lapis lazuli Syrian sculpture in the Iraq Museum and the carved limestone Assyrian wall relief depicting Prince Ashurbanipal II’s Lion Hunt in the British Museum, to Lorenzo Ghiberti’s cast bronze Renaissance Gates of Paradise and Alberto Giacometti’s Woman with her throat cut. Lovingly casting a delicate bronze rat skin or carving internal organs from luminous stone, Poor inverts taxonomies of the precious and the abject, creating gorgeous “stolen” or “faked” antiquities and enshrining these “relics” in glass boxes.
Both Poor and LeBow have their feet firmly planted in the art worlds of Boston and Cape Cod. Poor has taught at The Art Institute of Boston since 1992 and is a visiting associate professor. She was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant in 2001 and her work is included in numerous collections, publications, and exhibitions world wide. She is a long time executive board member at Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Truro, where she is currently the co-chair of education. She has widely exhibited throughout the Northeast, and in New York City at the New Museum, the Sculpture Center, James Graham & Sons, AIR Gallery, Atlantic Gallery and the Caelum Gallery. She is a co-owner of ArtStrand contemporary gallery in Provincetown.

Ellen LeBow has long worked as a commercial and fine artist, founding member of a cooperative contemporary galelry as well as a local art critic. She is represented by the Rice Polak Gallery in Provincetown. She has also established a successful collaborative art project, working with women artists of Matenwa, Haiti. More information about this program can be found at

This show is co-curated by Donald Beal and Maura Coughlin.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 21, 2011 8:19 pm

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