Prilla Smith Brackett


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Prilla Smith Brackett is known for working with landscape conceptually, depicting more than a

description of a place. Her new body of work explores ideas of enclosure, ambiguity, refuge and the

human body, using spaces from Cappadocia's ancient underground cities and architectural motifs

from its early churches, carved inside the rocky mounds that dot the landscape.

Brackett has exhibited throughout eastern US including a solo show traveling to 8 venues in

New England and the mid Atlantic States. Other venues include DeCordova Sculpture Park and

Museum, MA, National Academy of Sciences, DC, DanforthArt, MA, and Hanoi Contemporary Art

Center, Vietnam.

Her honors include a finalist award in painting from the Massachusetts Cultural Council,

residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation, an award &

residency at the Ucross Foundation,  an Earthwatch Artist award in Madagascar, and a fellowship in

painting at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Born in New Orleans, Brackett has social science

degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and the University of California/Berkeley. She earned her MFA

in drawing & painting from the University of Nebraska/Lincoln. She added printmaking to her practice

in 2003. Brackett lives and works in Boston, MA.

Statement 1: Refuge

This work looks at ideas of enclosure, ambiguity, refuge and the human body, using spaces from

Cappadocia's ancient underground cities and architectural motifs from its early churches, carved

inside the rocky mounds that dot the landscape.

Many peoples traversed and invaded Turkey’s central Anatolia, and I am fascinated by what they

left behind. Groups including the Hittites and the earliest Christians carved secret underground cities

in which they and their animals could live for up to three months to survive attack. The soft volcanic

tufa hardened after being carved out leaving organic, strangely shaped spaces and orifaces. While the

church fragments probably originated in later centuries than the underground cities, they represent

another aspect of the culture of Anatolian peoples, another reality from a different era. While

archeologists might know the function of many of these spaces and orifices, to me they remain

mysterious and appealing.

As in my earlier work, these new images continue to be informed by layering, transparency, the

evocation of memory, a conceptual use of landscape, and the juxtaposition of the natural with the

human-made.  I like the translucency of Duralar, and work on both sides, with acrylic inks and Acryla


Initially I wanted to obscure the the cave-like spaces so they would be difficult to read and to

integrate pattern from the churches, isolated from the architecture on which it was found. More

recently I have been experimenting with allowing the spaces to be visible, even those rendered in flat

color. In some pieces the spaces are dominant and spatial. Their shapes reference the body,

suggesting the subconscious. Integrating patterned fragments of architecture suggests the role of

the spiritual, the intellectual, and references the memory of lost peoples.

Statement 2: Dreams of Home

My approach to landscape is conceptual; I use landscape to convey more than a description of a

place. I explore the intermingling of the domestic man-made with the natural, in monoprints, mixed

media paintings on panel, and drawings: forest images & semi-transparent old furniture from a house

my mother’s family lived in for 90 years. Everyone from my great grandmother, widow of a young

painter who died in 1882, down to my children contributed to the rich ambiance of that house.

Placing furniture from previous eras in forests I have known creates a narrative uncertainty I find


In both monoprints and paintings I play with the furniture's transparency and its location in the

forest: floating above, embedded within, or buried below. Over time the furniture has become less

substantial and less grounded. The prints in my two recent monoprint suites have a quiet quality in

which the furniture sometimes disappears into an etherial forest.

Over time I have alternated doing monoprints and paintings. The monoprints have greatly

influenced the paintings. In the latter I have layered transparent colors with the (often surprising)

color results found in my monoprints, "printed" with paint, and used paint applied linearly, influenced

by small drypoint marks. Similarly, the distilled quality of a group of mostly black and white drawings

led to large, mixed media works on panel using drawing materials and limited thin acrylic and oil

paint. These works remain open in feel and explore how scale contributes to meaning.

Old growth forests show the whole life cycle of trees. Trees struck by lightning or fallen trees

with their branches making wild gestures show nature's violence. The domestic in such settings

seems jarring, although our traditions see forests as places of make-believe, of solace & spirituality, of

refuge & hidden secrets. But in the dreams of old furniture made of forest wood might there also be

dark scenes of family discord? How do these disparate domestic & natural elements resolve shared

conflict to arrive at peace at last?

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