Pills & Bills A Commentary on American Society


  • Jo Hay Open Studio Gallery 167 Commercial St. Provincetown, MA 02657

Reception August 5, 7 - 10pm

PILLS AND BILLS depicts the greed and decadence that has transformed the United States. These paintings of currency, coins, and prescription drugs form a conceptual show that will attempt to convey the abuse of power by Wall Street and pharmaceutical companies.

Assembly Line, Date Medium Size

Originally from New York and now based outside of Boston, Tess Barbato is a young realist oil painter with a larger-than-life vision. Her meticulously detailed still lifes take seemingly mundane objects and infuse them with layers of meaning. The artist’s decision to paint in large scale gives her subjects a surreal, iconic quality.

Barbato’s latest exhibition at the JO HAY OPEN STUDIO GALLERY is divided into two themes, as referenced by the title. Whether considered separately or in tandem, both make provocative commentaries on American society.

PILLS is a series of extreme close-ups of prescription drugs. Glistening capsules spill out of a plastic vial like candy, painted in alluring and lurid hues. Barbato was inspired to create this work after witnessing the addictions of family and friends, which led to her examination of excessive prescription drug use in the United States. “The bright and shiny textures make the pills attractive to our minds on a primal level,” she notes, “and we blindly accept anything that comes from a prescription drug manufacturer

In the BILLS paintings, impeccable compositions of crisp dollars and gleaming coins emphasize the obsession and idolization of money. “In our current political climate, the disparity between the have and have-nots is a central theme,” Barbato writes. “We have a problem in this country and at its root is money… I would hope that in viewing my work the audience will take a moment to reflect on what money is to them and how it has affected our current culture.”

These two series contrast and complement each other. While Barbarto renders currency in stark green and greys, her treatment of pills is more vibrant and lush. Both subjects, however, rest on reflective surfaces and shine with a cold gloss. Her exceptional skill with oil paint lends a seductive atmosphere to these thought-provoking paintings of false idols, each deeply entwined in American politics and society.