13Forest Gallery

UPDATED May 21: 13Forest Gallery, 167A Mass. Ave. in East Arlington, held an opening reception for Nicole Duennebier's fourth solo show on Saturday, May 20, from 4 to 6 p.m..

Continuing the floral work that she began with her captivating 2021 solo show "Floral Hex," Duennebier offers paintings consumed by increasingly ostentatious floral displays.

Duennebier's exquisitely detailed paintings contain many surprises, including monochromatic sculptural figures, masses of worms, or even fragments of older paintings that she has repurposed. Read more about this new body of work here, and make sure to come out to the opening to dig into the details of "Tender Burden" yourself.

At right, "Still Life with Wreath and Blue Sculpture," acrylic on panel.

"In this exhibition, Duennebier revisits the theme of memorial flowers and the trinkets we leave behind to commemorate other people’s lives. While the specific significance of these memorials can be lost to an outside observer, the emotion compelling their creation is palpable. For Tender Burden, Duennebier creates memorials that overflow with meaning that is just out of reach. Heavy wreaths and lush blossoms are densely piled on provisional altars; woven throughout enticing bouquets are Duennebier’s signature elements of surprise: dead frogs, snails and writhing masses of tent worms. Fascinated by graveside mementos, Duennebier includes her version of them in the form of small totems that contribute mystery and a slight threat of violence. Like her more repulsive inclusions, these statues build a mood within the paintings that create dissonance with the loveliness of the blooms. Like the plucked flowers she paints, hovering between life and death, Duennebier’s work manifests dualities: beauty and disgust, clarity and obscurity. 

"For three of the paintings in Tender Burden, Duennebier made the unusual choice of repurposing some of her previous work. Reflecting on these earlier paintings, Duennebier could see her old preoccupations: a focus on technical skill and recreating images from photographs or models, rather than trusting her own interpretive vision. Though she no longer believes that these compositions worked as a whole, she could still appreciate the techniques that her younger self was striving to perfect. In an act of creative destruction, Duennebier preserved her favorite components from the past and painted over the rest. 

"These repurposed paintings serve as a self-contained retrospective that brings a body of Duennebier’s more rigidly accurate earlier work into direct conversation with her assured and expansive floral work of today. As their own type of memorial, shards of the older paintings intrude on the floral scenes of Tender Burden as strange shapes that disrupt compositional logic and act as windows to the artist’s younger self. Though revisiting older paintings might invoke nostalgia, Duennebier’s shrewd excisions prevent treacly sentimentality about her own work. Far from a staid memory of the past, these reworked paintings are an evolving testament to Duennebier’s progress as an artist.

"TENDER BURDEN, May 20 through July 14, 2023. On view at 13Forest Gallery, at 167A Mass. Ave., Arlington, MA 02474

For all inquiries, please contact Marc Gurton or Caitee Hoglund at 13Forest Gallery by phone 781-641-3333 or by email atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."

This news announcement was published Thursday, May 18, 2023. based on information from a 13Forest email sent to YourArlington. It was updated May 21.