Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism

Sheila Pepe, Red Hook at Bedford Terrace (detail with artist), 2008, shoelaces,
Click images for larger view
On View Oct 19, 2018 - Mar 10, 2019
Exhibition Location: Museum

Linde Gallery
2nd Floor Galleries
Foster Galleries

For over twenty years, Sheila Pepe has made large-scale sculptures and installations using domestic and industrial fibers. This exhibition, the first mid-career survey of Pepe’s work, examines how the artist plays with feminist and craft traditions to counter patriarchal notions of art making. While Pepe incorporates personal and cultural narratives into her work, she also invites a broad range of viewers’ interpretations. Many of her fiber-based works respond to architectural spaces, adding a layer of awareness about the context of museum display to the meaning of her work.

Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism is organized by Phoenix Art Museum and curated by Gilbert Vicario, the Museum's Selig Family Chief Curator.  It is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, with contributions by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Elizabeth Dunbar, Lia Gangitano and Gilbert Vicario.

Support for this exhibition was generously provided by an anonymous donor. DeCordova also wishes to thank the Board of Trustees and Council of Overseers, who generously provide crucial unrestricted support, without which our exhibitions would not be possible.

Press Release

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Sheila Pepe (b. 1959, Morristown, NJ) has longstanding connections to New England. She earned a BFA in Ceramics from Massachusetts College of Art + Design, Boston, and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. She was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, from 1997-1998. Pepe has also held teaching positions at many area institutions, including Rhode Island School of Design, Brandeis University, and Williams College. In 2015, Pepe was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award from Massachusetts College of Art + Design. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Member Preview Afternoon

Thursday, October 18, 12–2 pm
Before the fall exhibitions open to the public, deCordova members are invited for exclusive preview hours of Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism and Larry Fink: Primal Empathy. Get the first look into the galleries and join in a special discussion with deCordova Curator Sarah Montross.

ARTfull Explorations

Sunday, October 21, 1–3 pm (drop-in)
Join us in constructing a chaotically beautiful outdoor dining room as we celebrate the opening of the major traveling exhibition Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism. Best for ages 5–12, but all are welcome.

Curator-led Tour of Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism

Thursday, November 8, 12–1 pm 
Curator Sarah Montross provides an in-depth exploration into the remarkable bodies of work on view in this exhibition.

Luminous Chaos!

Sunday, November 11, 1–3 pm (drop-in)
Sculpt, paint, paste, mush, twist, and illuminate messy materials to create your own luminous mini-sculpture inspired by Sheila Pepe’s mixed media “votives.” For children (and adults!) of all ages.

Random Weave Basket Workshop with Artist Ellen Solari

Thursday, November 15, 6:30–9 pm
Follow your intuition when you learn the fun and easy “random weave” technique to create a unique basket using studio materials with reed and other natural objects collected from the Sculpture Park.

Fall SAORI Weaving Workshop with Mihoko Wakabayashi

Sunday, November 18, half- and full-day sessions available
From the Zen vocabulary “sai”, meaning everything has its own dignity, and “ori”, meaning weaving, this freestyle contemporary weaving technique emphasizes the individuality of the maker through spontaneity and freedom of expression. With this adaptability, SAORI weaving is an excellent medium for artists of all ages and abilities.

Conversation with Sheila Pepe and Nancy Bauer

Thursday, November 29, 6:30–7:30 pm
Join us for a conversation between artist Sheila Pepe and Dr. Nancy Bauer, Dean of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, to learn how philosophy, gender, and feminism inform Pepe’s work.

Studio Workshop with Exhibiting Artist Sheila Pepe

Friday, November 30, 1:30–4 pm
Join exhibiting artist Sheila Pepe as we experiment with new and familiar materials to create personal votive sculptures inspired by her work in Hot Mess Formalism.

ARTfull Play

Wedesday, December 5, 10:30–11:30 am
Sheila Pepe’s knitted and crocheted creations have been compared to that of nature’s weavers: spiders. For this week’s ARTfull Play, we will observe the techniques of both spiders and the artist, and then design our own interconnecting webs. Best for children ages 2-5 accompanied by a caregiver.