20 IN 2020: Celebrating 2 Decades July 15 – September 7

  • July 09, 2020

This year marks the twentieth anniversary celebration of Barbara Prey Projects with an exhibition of Prey’s monumental watercolors, producing a new understanding of contemporary American watercolor landscape painting and pushing the medium in new directions.  


Prey’s paintings are in prominent collections worldwide including The National Gallery of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Smithsonian American Art Museum and The White House, where she is one of two living female artists represented.

20 in 2020 will feature Prey’s recent, innovative body of new large-scale watercolors as well as those created for her solo exhibition BORROWED LIGHT at Hancock Shaker Museum. A core of Hancock Shaker Museum’s exhibition program is to invite well known contemporary artists to come and reinterpret the space and ethos of the Shakers. The Boston Globe writes in describing this new body of work:


Her attention to windows recalls Vermeer..it’s a painter’s job to notice, and to draw out the nuance and light in what the rest of us ignore.  Prey has that eye and hand... what she makes touches the divine and  has staying power.


Prey’s paintings capture the fleeting luminosity of the light-filled interiors and elegance of the Shaker’s simplicity and utilitarian approach as seen in Channeled Light. These light imbued paintings are an extension of Prey’s exploration of the universe in a larger and more meaningful way. She is the only female commissioned four times by NASA to document space history, which broadened her perspective universally -  executing extensive research on space, which, back on earth, made her an expert in depicting vast interior spaces. This can be seen in both her recent large scale commission for MASS MoCA - the museum commissioned her to create the world’s largest known watercolor painting (8 by 15 feet) for its new Building 6, prominently displayed in “the prow” - and the large-scale paintings for Hancock Shaker Museum on view in this exhibition.


For more than 40 years, Preys’ highly original approach to landscape painting has challenged conventional understandings of the genre.   Her work is part of a trajectory of American Art through a 21 Century female lens, revising the male dominated art-historical watercolor tradition, but built on abstract painting as well, with a conceptual underpinning of the composition and points of empathy around color, composition and subject.  Beginning with marks on paper, and then built up through her evocative use of color (her dialogue with color drove Prey to develop groundbreaking, intricate layering techniques) and dozens of thin washes, often incorporating parts of her surrounds  - water, soil, crushed shells add distinctive character to her work. She references art history but transcends and creates a contemporary view with her unmistakable voice exploring the depth of the American landscape and American identity. 





Barbara Ernst Prey, (American, b. 1957 in New York) is a contemporary painter, most recently commissioned by MASS MoCA to create the largest known watercolor painting  (8 by 15 feet) for their new building. Prey’s work also resides in the National Gallery of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the New York Historical Society, Kennedy Space Center and the permanent collection of the White House, where she is one of just two living female artists represented.


Prey has served for the past ten years as the sole visual artist on the U.S. President-appointed National Council on the Arts, the advisory board to the National Endowment for the Arts. Artists are appointed for their contributions and recognition in American Art. In 2003, her painting of the Diplomatic Reception Room was featured on the White House Christmas card.  With dozens of artworks commissioned by government agencies and institutions, such as four paintings for NASA, Prey is a global ambassador for American Art. Tapped annually for the U.S. Art in Embassies program, Prey’s work has been on display in over one hundred U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, including those in Paris, Hong Kong, and Madrid. Her painting Gallantly Streaming is currently selected for exhibit in the lobby of the U.S. Mission to the U.N.


Prey earned a Bachelor’s degree from Williams College, where she is an adjunct faculty member, and a Master’s degree from Harvard University. She has received numerous institutional accolades, including a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and the New York State Senate’s “Women of Distinction” Award. She maintains studios in New York, Maine, and Massachusetts.




Press Contact: (516) 316-7477, (207) 372-8087, info@barbarapreyprojects.com

Opening Reception: Monday, July 29 from 6 - 8 PM   

Gallery Hours: 10am - 5pm, and by appointment  www.barbaraprey.com 

         Follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @barbaraprey.com   

Download PRESS KIT and HIGH RES images here


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Kate McKee

PO Box 338
Port Clyde  ME  04855