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GALLERY: SoWa First Fridays offer meet-the-artist chats, grow network of local artists

First Friday visitors left the evening showcase from 450 Harrison Ave. in South Boston. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/Boston University News Service)

By Thalia Lauzon

Boston University News Service

BOSTON — Marketed as a celebration of culture, the March 3 First Friday event invited art lovers to experience a network of artists’ studios, galleries, and shops at the SoWa Art + Design District.

Over 50 of SoWa’s resident artists, spanning over more than three jam-packed floors and specializing in a variety of mediums, opened their doors to the public for a face-to-face showcase of their unique ideations and creations. Their displays ranged from wire sculptures and mosaics to oil paint abstractions and hyper-realistic pieces. 

“There’s a lot of visibility,” said Sophia “Phia” Dubuisson, a self-taught multimedia artist and behavioral therapist. “I get to meet a lot of people and connect. There’s a lot of talent in this building, like I can’t even start to name them, so that keeps me going.”

Creators also took the opportunity to market their art, workshops, and community to visitors.

“Having a residency here, there’s so much foot traffic,” mosaic artist and workshop teacher Audrey Markoff said. “I mostly do group stuff, so people come through that are interested in making their own art or interested in bringing it to their company. I think just being here: it’s a nice building, there’s good people, it establishes you as a serious artist.”

Visitors were able to weave through the network of artists’ studios to meet with the SoWa residents, watch many designers create their latest pieces live, and converse with them about their work’s inspiration and impact.

“I get a lot out of it,” painter and sculptor Denny Caruso said. “People come through and they think I’m giving them something, to look at or whatever, but I get so much from that feedback-wise actually.”

Boston University contributor Thalia Lauzon was on site to photograph the First Friday event.

Crowds gathered between the open SoWa buildings on Friday, March 3, during a night of art and culture. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Art lovers explored Bead + Fiber, a women-owned bead and yarn shop for art projects, in Studio 217 before it leaves SoWa at the end of March. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Artist Profiles:

Monrüd Becker

Multimedia artist Monrüd Becker detailed his latest work using oil paint. Becker is part of the SOWA Artists Guild and participates in First Fridays where people can see him paint live. “They come in, and they want to see what’s going on, fine. If they don’t, fine. I have time, I’m here. I’m going to paint,” Becker said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Becker worked on layering paint into his New York City St. Patrick’s Cathedral piece. Becker said he was inspired by Monet to create a moonlit piece with texture using oil paint and acrylic-based caulking to form a 3D effect. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Becker showcased his figure pieces at his second-floor studio at 450 Harrison Ave. Becker works with natural and organic inspiration to create dimension and meaning throughout his realistic and abstract work. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Kat Masella

Mixed media artist Kat Masella touched up her latest painting at SoWa’s First Friday of March. Masella has been at SoWa for two years. “The first 80% paints itself, and the last 20% is this torture session, tweeking it to infinity,” Masella said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Masella used oil paint and casein, a medium made from milk protein, to create abstract works of art. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Masella showcased her unique artwork in Studio 214. “I have a bigger studio in Gloucester, but it gets kind of lonely, so it’s good to talk to people. I come here for my people-fix basically, and it’s a great way to show the work and sell the work without going through a gallery,” Masella said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Sophia “Phia” Dubuisson

Sophia “Phia” Dubuisson readied one of her paintings for a customer. As a multimedia artist, Dubuisson works with oils, acrylics, collages, abstract work, and fabrics to create life-inspired art. “I choose to live life on a positive note, so I think my art is optimistic, very bright, and it looks forward to the future,” Dubuisson said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Dubuisson showcased her abstract portrait work in Studio 300A. She has resided in SoWa for three years and works as “a behavioral therapist by day and an artist by night,” according to Dubuisson. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Studio 304 Feature: Mary Mandarino and Pat Vinter

Mary Mandarino (left) and Pat Vinter (right) explained the weaving process to visitors at First Friday. Both weavers worked in the same studio with five other artists and created woven items. “It’s a lonely craft. If you’re doing it in your basement or on your first floor, you’re by yourself, and so it’s nice to have people around to talk and collaborate with,” Mandarino said.  (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Mandarino and Vinter worked on the studio’s looms to create products for South End Woven with help from a computer program that determines the integrity and structure of each pattern. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
The studio showcased its wine bottle covers for sale. The weavers worked on many items, such as rags, rugs, shawls, pillow cases, and wall art. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Denny Caruso

Artist Denny Caruso surrounded herself with wall-to-wall portraits, paintings, and sculptures in Studio 204. Caruso has worked as a full-time painter and sculptor in Boston and Connecticut since 2019 after leaving interior design. “Here, there are absolutely no limitations, and I think that’s so freeing,” Caruso said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Caruso showcased her figure portraits during the first Friday of March. Caruso is often inspired by historical references, especially King Henry VIII and Marie Antoinette times, while creating her work. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Katherine Downey Miller

Painter Katherine Downey Miller showed off her two-level studio at SoWa. Miller has worked on her “Wildfire/Wildheart” series (left) throughout the last year and a half after a series of wildfires around the world, including Puerto Rico, Australia, and California. “I think that nature has the most beautiful abstractions if you really look for them, but as horrifying as the wildfires are, it’s beautiful imagery, beautiful, powerful imagery,” Miller said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Miller displayed her dog portraits outside her studio. Miller works on commission to create dog paintings through her separate business and also teaches drawing and painting online. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Studio 213 Feature: Cedric Harper, Adriana G. Prat, and Carol Moses 

In a studio shared by seven artists, Cedric Harper presented his work created on recycled wood taken from the trash and curbsides. Harper exclusively works with reclaimed canvases to make panels, totems, sculptures, and tables, which will be displayed in his first solo exhibition “Ancestral Language” from March 11 to April 15 at the Boston Center for the Arts. “I just want to make art that can go back into houses that threw it out,” Harper said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Carol Moses (left) and Adriana G. Prat (right) presented their featured artwork at the front of their studio. Moses, Prat, and Harper are all part of i3c Artists, a group that focuses on inspiring change for the climate crisis by using repurposed material, like cardboard and coffee bean bags. “I use my art to inspire action for the climate crisis,” said Prat, the i3c curator. “I became more aware of the devastation that art brings: the materials used, like cement, and anything that has a high carbon footprint. For me, it’s very important to try to find sustainable practices and ways to produce art.” (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Brian Murphy

Wire sculptor Brian Murphy bent a single line of steel wire to create a new piece in his studio. Murphy began creating art 22 years ago as a child therapist for kids who were non-verbal to help express information not available through speech. “I knew I needed to do something with them where we could make something together,” Murphy said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Studio 405 visitors discovered Murphy’s wire sculptures. Murphy is inspired by humor, politics, and sociology for his artwork. “I try to plug into everyday life things for people, and they can enjoy it and laugh at it,” Murphy said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Murphy showed off his bobbling “Martini ladies” at SoWa. His work is meant to pick up vibrations and interact with people’s touch to show movement, like laughing, through his contoured wire drawings. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Paul Pedulla

Minimalist painter Paul Pedulla explained his process to visitors at First Friday. Pedulla has been a resident at SoWa since 2010. “I’m attracted to things that are pretty simple, so what I leave out of my work is probably as important as what I put in,” Pedulla said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Pedulla presents his minimalist artwork in Studio 314. He also showcases his work around the U.S., which affects how people interpret and see Pedulla’s simple yet ambiguous paintings. “They’re all valid,” Pedulla said. “Since it is half memory and half imagination, you can put into it what you see.” (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Maria Palkon

Paper miniatures artist Maria Palkon fronted her studio and workspace during March’s First Friday event. Palkon works with a single-sheet of paper to cut out intricate designs to resemble lace and also creates paper figurines. “It’s complete peace, and joy in living,” Palkon said. “When I am working on my own art, nothing else matters.” (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Palkon displayed her house figurine made out of paper and protected in a glass cover. Originally from Poland, Palkon has been a resident at SoWa for four years after being invited by her studiomate and works at Josiah Quincy School as an art teacher during the day. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Jaime Herrera

Painter and digital artist Jaime Herrera spoke with customers about his work and inspiration. Originally from Chile, Herrera moved to Boston from Spain where he worked in video games and digital illustration, impacting his contemporary style. “I try to paint and to draw things that I would buy, so that for me is a big rule I have,” Herrera said. “I don’t paint everything. I sit and I think, ‘Would I buy this?’” (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Visitors explored Herrera’s paintings and prints in Studio 300C. Herrera has been a resident at SoWa for three years after moving into a physical medium and finding that it was easier to get materials in the U.S. than Spain. “I just want to try new things because I love the materials themselves,” Herrera said. “The materials give me a lot of inspiration.” (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

Audrey Markoff

Mosaic artist Audrey Markoff worked on reorganizing a slurry of empty ice cream jars and clear containers filled with handmade polymer clay tiles. Markoff has been a resident artist at SoWa for six years after working in marketing. “The best part is that it’s an expression. It’s a way to share some of the feelings inside, and it occupies a different part of your brain,” Markoff siad. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Markoff displayed art in Studio 208 for viewers to experience and interact with. She has been making mosaics for 15 years after being inspired by art books.  (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)
Showcasing some of her smaller pieces, Markoff provided different options for visitors to view and buy. Markoff also taught people how to make mosaics with workshops and collaborative group projects. “Best part for my job, specifically with the collaboration, is seeing people enjoy making the art that I enjoy making,” Markoff said. (Photo by Thalia Lauzon/BU News Service)

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