Beatrice Modisett

I pour, throw, layer, and sculpt paint, utilizing gravity, moving air, and additive and reductive processes that mimic those that shape landscapes. Rocks of varying weights and sizes and other natural debris, as well as my old worn garments, are placed under and on top of the canvas – the resulting hills and valleys direct, disrupt and imprint the paint’s flow and surface. Walls of paint on the canvas also direct the flow of material – poured paint moves quickly and freely until it rushes up to and is confined or redirected by my parameters. These levees are formal devices that reintroduced drawing into my painting process and serve as metaphor for the systems humans construct in an attempt to control, suppress, contain and navigate landscapes. The levees are often breached and thinned paint moves across the surface in unanticipated ways. A moment is created in which to consider the natural course of our environment and the one human intervention has set it on. What does it look like when systems of control and containment fail?

When working on these large paintings decision making flickers between meditative and urgent, there is a constant back and forth of cause and effect, reaction and response similar to our engagements with our constantly shifting landscape and environment. I am interested in the accrual and erosion of paint and it’s ability to preserve the history of my labor while also conveying geological processes and time.

I work flat on the floor, and the largest paintings require that I build a makeshift bridge to reach the center. Standing in the middle of this plank, I recall growing up on an island when bridges were central to daily life and essential to navigation. The immersive, physical exertion required to make these paintings—I am always pushing, dragging and lifting large and heavy canvases around the studio— harkens back to the many excursions I have gone on to experience remote landscapes and geological phenomenon firsthand.

Solitary trips devoted to these investigations, from the island of Grímsey in the Arctic Circle to the central hill towns of Myanmar, continually influence the research. Specifically, for more than two years, the forms in the paintings were culled from photographs I took during a month long trip to Iceland.  I traversed the island documenting lava fields, calving glaciers, hot springs and ancient cairns — piles of rocks built by humans that when viewed in relation to each other became some of the earliest navigational tools and mapped this dynamic landscape.

The works from the last two years flowed fluidly from one to the next, and similar to cairns, they exist on their own and strengthen when seen in relation to each other. These large, labor intensive pieces, which I work on one at a time, can take months to resolve. Similar compositions from painting to painting act as maps and rebar. By working with these predetermined and familiar structures, I allow more room for the uncontrollable and unpredictable elements of my process to unfold over the weeks. The small painting Fissure informed the larger Fissure III – using the colors and composition from the former as a guide for the latter allowed me to take other risks that led to a more complex painting and the creation of the first “levee”. Every Ninth Wave, Every Ninth Wave II and Deep in the Water all followed, each informed and supported by the one before it. My progress was slow and fruitful. After two years, and with the completion of Deep in the Water I felt a true shift in the way I was thinking about the work. I had followed this path to a natural break. Knowing that travel and changes in perspective invigorate my research, I moved out of my studio and went to Brescia, Italy for a month long residency.

I attended this residency with the goal of identifying and eroding studio habits. With this in mind I eschewed paint and canvas and spent my mornings moving through town taking photographs. These walks and images would fuel the work for the day. Utilizing the immediacy and malleability of charcoal to process and expand on these daily experiences, I created dozens of drawings which eventually informed much larger ones. These layered works documented my complex experiences with the place while challenging my formal inclinations and have been fueling all of my in-process work in the months since my return. I was fascinated with the ancient buildings of Brescia, each one was dependent on the ruins or foundation of the one that came before it. This resulted in highly visible strata of erosion and creation, reminding me daily that the systems and infrastructure humans create to thrive in landscapes will always be subject to the forces that carve it.

b. Washington, DC
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY




2016    MFA, Painting and Printmaking, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

2007    BFA, Painting, Montserrat College of Art, Beverly MA




2020   TBA Solo Exhibition, Maier Museum of Art at Randolph University, Lynchburg VA (forthcoming January 2020)

2019   TBA Solo Exhibition, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic CT (forthcoming September 2019)

2014   Field Work, Carol Schlosberg Gallery, Beverly MA

2013   By Way of Bangkok, HallSpace, Boston MA




2018   Queens International:Volumes, Curated by Sophia Marisa Lucas and Baseera Khan, Queens Museum, Queens NY

Temporal Escape, 326 Gallery, New York NY

2017   To Bonus and Back, SIM Gallery, Reykjavik Iceland

 Whateverbeing, Present Company, Brooklyn NY

2016   Perspectives, MFA Thesis Exhibition, VCUarts Anderson Gallery, Richmond VA

2015   Emerge, Page Bond Gallery, Richmond VA

2014   Pallet Cleanser, MFA Candidacy Exhibition, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

Southern Hospitality, Glass Gallery, University of Georgia, Athens GA

Housewarming, FAB Gallery, Richmond VA

2013   PURPOSE, Migrant Salon, Newtown CT

2012   New Media|Fresh Paint, New Art Center, Newton MA

           Art’s Not Dead, 17 Cox, Beverly MA

2011   X: Associate Members Exhibition, Kingston Gallery, Boston MA

Dialogues, Kingston Gallery, Boston MA

           Play at Work, 17 Cox, Beverly MA

2010   Faculty Exhibition, Faye Chandler Gallery, Maud Morgan Visual Art Center, Cambridge MA

2008   Artcetera, The Cyclorama, Boston MA

From Painting to Drawing, HallSpace, Dorcester MA

           Party for the Park, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln MA

2007   Emerging Line, The Temporary Gallery, New York NY

Equinox, The Copley Society of Art, Boston MA

New England Biennale, New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester NH

Introducing…, Clark Gallery, Lincoln MA

           The Copley Edge, St. Botolph Club, Boston MA




2016   Fulbright Research Grant, Iceland, Finalist

Graduate Research Grant, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

Graduate Teaching Fellowship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

2015   Covington Scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

E.I. Kirkland Scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

Graduate Teaching Assistantship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA

2010   Exceptional Merit Award, Copley Edge, St. Botolph Club, Juried by Camilo Alvarez, Boston MA

2007   Montserrat College of Art’s Commencement Award in Painting

Montserrat College of Art’s Commencement Award in Fine Arts

Montserrat College of Art’s Painting Department Merit Award,

2nd Jurors Prize, Copley Society of Art’s 18th Annual Student Exhibition, Juried by Kirsten Dodge, Boston MA

Carol Schlosberg Excellence in Painting Award




2019   Palazzo Monti, Brescia Italy

2018   Samband Íslenskra Myndlistarmanna (SÍM), Reykjavík Iceland

2010   The Hambidge Center for Arts and Science, Partial Fellowship, Rabun Gap GA

2008   Vermont Studio Center, Partial Fellowship, Johnson VT