In the Presence of Absence

A Cuban-American artist commemorates Día de los Muertos at 13FOREST

Still from the video In the Presence of Absence - Jose Maria & Ike

Schedule of Events

Fri 10/27 - Sat 11 /11In the Presence of Absence window installation at 13FOREST Gallery

Sat 10/29,  4-6:30 pm: In the Presence of Absence opening reception; Capitol Square's annual Día de Los Muertos celebration, activities throughout the square

Wed 11/8, 6-8 pm: In the Presence of Absence: an Exploration of Cultural and Ecological Loss - artist talk with Allison Maria Rodriguez


Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday of reverence for one's ancestors that dates back to the Aztec celebration of Mictēcacihuātl, Queen of the Underworld. Though Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico, people across the Americas have adopted and modified the tradition with their own unique cultural contributions. Each October Capitol Square brings Día de los Muertos back into focus with Latinx memory altars, food and live music. This year, with financial support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, 13FOREST Gallery is pleased to present the work of Cuban-American artist Allison Maria Rodriguez who will commemorate Día de los Muertos with In the Presence of Absence.

In Rodriguez's words, In the Presence of Absence is a multi-channel video installation that explores the personal, yet collective, experience of cultural and ecological loss embedded in contemporary reality. It merges two primary conceptual concerns of her practice: her personal Latinx identity and environmental conservation. Through portrayals of her hybrid Cuban-American identity, deceased family members, extinct animal species and climate change, Rodriguez creates an interdisciplinary installation that navigates between worlds. In doing so, she draws attention to the emptiness we encounter when we are disconnected from our respective cultures and other species, and to the acts of appreciation and mourning that help keep collective memory alive.

Dress included in the installation In the Presence of Absence

On view through Saturday, November 11, 13FOREST Gallery will feature In the Presence of Absence as part of Capitol Square's Day of the Dead celebration on Sunday, October 29, 4-6:30 pm. In addition, the gallery will host a reception and talk by Rodriguez on Wednesday, November 8, 6-8 pm, titled In the Presence of Absence: an Exploration of Ecological and Cultural Loss.

About the Artist
Allison Maria Rodriguez is a Boston-based interdisciplinary artist working predominately in new media, film/video and installation. With themes ranging from human migration to species extinction, her work converges on a desire to understand the space within which language fails and lived experience remains un-articulated. Rodriguez’s work has been exhibited in traditional and non-traditional art spaces internationally, throughout the United States and across New England. Rodriguez's award-winning 16mm experimental film “In Between” premiered in New York City at the NewFilmmakers Spring Festival, and went on to screen in various venues across the country. Her most recent projects include several large-scale public art video installations commissioned by Boston Cyberarts and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

Artist Allison Maria Rodriguez

Rodriguez received her MFA from Tufts University/The School of the Museum of Fine Arts and holds a BA in Language, Literature and Culture from Antioch College in Ohio, obtained also through study at Oxford University in England and Kyoto Seika University in Japan. In addition to being an artist, she is an independent curator of local group exhibitions and screenings, and a participant in artist collectives such as the Boston LGBTQIA Artists Alliance. Rodriguez has also been an artist-in-residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA and, in New York, at Arts Letters & Numbers and The Wassaic Project.  This coming January and March respectively, Rodriguez will be the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Dorchester Art Project and a resident at The Ragdale Foundation.





In the Presence of Absence is funded in part by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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Elsewhere - 13 Paintings by Wilhelm Neusser at the Goethe Institut Boston

On Friday, September 8 at precisely 6 pm the Goethe Institut Boston opened its doors for the public to walk through an installation of 13 large-scale paintings by Wilhelm Neusser. People who knew the artist had been aware of the preparatory work he had undertaken while in residency at MASS MoCA at the beginning of the summer, and then in the solitude of his Somerville studio through the remaining months. But no one had anticipated how the final paintings they were about to see had transformed the Goethe’s interior of ornate ceilings and rococo whiteness into a bright meditation on the spirit of Berlin’s suburban landscape.

ELSEWHERE - provincial perspectives, which will run through September 30, is based on Neusser’s understanding of Berlin as a sexy environment of big politics and avant-garde culture in contrast to its suburbs – the Province – in which buses run irregularly and “the local library is managed by volunteers in their mid-seventies who have trouble with the online catalog.” People are born there, come of age and then move to the city to make their mark on the world, often never to return. With an empathic brush, Neusser defines the Province's melancholia of abandoned swimming pools, vacant hayfields and empty roads without irony or harsh comment. His paintings construct a portrait that is severe, lush and psychologically complex.

During the weeks leading up to his opening at the Goethe Institut, I had visited Neusser in his studio and seen 13 variously sized paper surfaces evolve from an initial state of yellow underpainting to finished works of art. When he said he had been working at the feverish pace of one painting a day I thought he was joking. But he was serious. He also said that when doubt crept in he could sometimes dismiss it by referring back to a cardboard model of the Goethe’s interior that he had built during his residency at MASS MoCA. It was replete with photographic wallpaper of the building’s interior and the dimensions of existing plaster wall frames into which each of his paintings would eventually have to fit. I would leave his studio impressed but nervous over his looming deadline.

After attending the September opening, painter Nicole Duennebier praised her colleague’s preparation and execution as follows: “Wilhelm's perfectly composed paintings fitted within the filigree panels of the Goethe Institut's walls prove the undeniable beauty of difference. Although his paintings are modern in execution and content they look as though they have always lived there.” It is an apt description for the environment Neusser has so painstakingly planned and created.

In terms of stylistic evolution there is something else to be found as well. With this body of large-scale work Neusser has moved the center of what he has previously described as a necessary balance between “the notion of what a landscape really is and reference points to it as a painterly, materialistic appearance on a flat surface.” At the Goethe Neusser's act of painting is recorded onto paper in strokes and thick swipes of paint that had been more typically found in his smaller-scale work. In contrast to the melancholia of the artist's new German landscapes, there is joy in their surfaces, a push/pull between what Neusser depicts and how he has depicted it.

Anyone interested in Neusser, contemporary landscape painting or the Goethe Institut should visit ELSEWHERE - provincial perspectives before it closes on September 30 and before the institute itself closes for renovations through the fall. Neusser has transformed an environment of ornamentation into one of meditation and meaning.

- Jim Kiely


All photos used with permission of the artist.

Call for Proposals

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September 15, 2017

October 27 – November 4, 2017

13FOREST Gallery, 167A Massachusetts Ave, Arlington MA




13FOREST Gallery seeks a Boston-area Latinx artist to create a temporary window installation at 13FOREST, timed to coincide with National Hispanic Heritage Month and Capitol Square’s annual celebration of Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Mexico and beyond with lively and colorful traditions that honor departed loved ones. This project endeavors to celebrate the cultural significance of Latinx artists and their histories, which are underrepresented in Boston-area institutions. In conjunction with the artist, 13FOREST will design and implement programming around the installation to advance public education and engagement.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. The artist will be awarded a cash stipend of $450. 

Michelle Garcia, Dia de los Muertos Installation 2015

Michelle Garcia, Dia de los Muertos Installation 2015

– Artwork may be from a variety of disciplines, but must include a physical component to be installed in the window of the gallery.
– Performance art will be considered as a component of the installation. There may be some limitations based on gallery hours, physical space, or other factors.
– Artwork must fit in the window display space, the footprint of which is approximately 41" by 41".
– Artists are responsible for transporting work to and from the gallery.

– Please write an installation proposal no longer than two pages, preferably including example images or sketches.
– Include examples of previous work, submitted as JPEGs (maximum of 5 images).
– Each JPEG should be named as “NAME_#.jpg” where # is the submission number and NAME is your last name.
– Include an image list in your submission email, indicating submission number, title, size, process, and year.
– Please include a short biography, website links, resume/CV, and contact email address.
– Send submissions to Caitee Hoglund, Gallery Director, at

• Deadline for entries: September 15, 2017
• Notification: September 29, 2017
• Artwork installation: October 25 and 26, 2017
• Exhibition dates: October 27 - November 4, 2017
• Opening Reception: Sunday October 29, 2017, 4-6 pm
• Artist Talk and other events: To be scheduled

Dimel Rivas, Dia de los Muertos Installation 2016

Dimel Rivas, Dia de los Muertos Installation 2016


13FOREST Gallery searches New England for outstanding artists - established and emerging - to offer the very best in original art and contemporary craft. We are a dynamic gallery space that features rotating exhibitions every 6 to 8 weeks, as well as a number of public programs designed to inform and inspire creative minds.

Reflecting on Transition of Power: 2017

Although the transition of power to the new administration is officially complete, there are many questions and frustrations still lingering since the inauguration in January. 

In the face of this uncertainty, our recent exhibition, Transition of Power: 2017, has served as a catalyst for some important conversations about the nature of activism and the future of democracy in America. Over the course of the exhibition, which ran from January 21 to March 11, many members of our community came to the gallery to voice their opinions and fears about our current political situation. We greatly appreciated the stories and perspectives that these exchanges contributed to this exhibition. Although Transition of Power: 2017 closed last week, we hope that visitors to the gallery will continue to add to the community we have developed here.

Jessie Rossman and Carl D'Apolito-Dworkin speaking at 13FOREST Gallery on February 25.

Jessie Rossman and Carl D'Apolito-Dworkin speaking at 13FOREST Gallery on February 25.

Community was one of the central themes of a talk on Saturday, February 25 given by Jessie Rossman, staff attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, and architect Carl D’Apolito-Dworkin, as part of our programming for Transition of Power: 2017. Rossman and D’Apolito-Dworkin engaged everyone in the overflow crowd with their insight and passion; their spirited talk was certainly one of the highlights of the exhibition.

Rossman began by providing some helpful perspective. Although we now see oppression in every part of our lives, from airport detentions to bathroom bills and the restrictions on media access, Rossman reminded us that resistance can become a part of our daily lives as well; we can find ways to protest with our everyday actions. Rossman spoke about the many stages of involvement that we can have in federal, state, and local governments. Each level of government offers unique opportunities to speak out, protest, and organize.

Ted Ollier, Pernicious Nostalgia, letterpress on paper

Ted OllierPernicious Nostalgia, letterpress on paper

At the state level, Rossman emphasized the importance and pride of Massachusetts becoming a leader for the rest of the country. One example she provided was the legislative fight over ICE detainers, which are written requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that require law enforcement agencies to hold people without providing due process so that ICE can begin the deportation process. The ACLU in Massachusetts is arguing that these ICE detainers violate the state constitution because they prevent the ACLU from being able to give their clients the best legal representation they can provide due to the threat of deportation. Hopefully Massachusetts will be able to continue to be a leader in civil rights for the rest of the nation by fighting these harmful immigration holds, regardless of the federal precedent.

Beyond specific cases, Rossman emphasized the importance of getting involved in local government and local communities. One way that local government can stand up to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration is to become a sanctuary city. Currently Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Newton are sanctuary cities, and Arlington is considering the measure as well. According to Rossman, becoming a sanctuary city sends an important message that we as a community value the safety and contributions of immigrants and refugees.    

Above all, Rossman reminded us that the most important thing to do is simply to show up and be present. The sheer number of people who protested the first travel ban issued on January 27 demonstrated how strongly that ban violated our core principles as Americans, and gave force to the court decisions that halted the executive order. We must continue to stand together as a community and voice our passionate dissent when we feel an oppressive government attempts to restrict our civil rights.

D’Apolito-Dworkin continued the talk by speaking about the increasing importance of politics and community in the realm of art and architecture. Although traditionally architecture has been primarily concerned with design elements such as light, form, and space, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the impact that architecture has on politics and protest. Many architects are shifting away from older modes of thinking that insist on a separation between art and political engagement. D’Apolito-Dworkin asserted that architecture is art that plays out in the political realm: it provides the civic space that we use for protest.   

D’Apolito-Dworkin offered numerous examples of architects who are finding new ways to bring communities together through architectural design. He cited architect Teddy Cruz, who believes that citizenship is not simply belonging to a particular nation-state, but rather the creative act of investing in the community. The Breathing Lights project is one example of a creative community endeavor that sought to reinvigorate cities through artistic collaboration. The project involved lighting the windows of abandoned structures in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, New York, literally bringing light and warmth to forgotten places in those communities.

Asia Kepka, In Memory of Goshka #1, archival inkjet print of digital photograph on metal

Asia KepkaIn Memory of Goshka #1, archival inkjet print of digital photograph on metal

Architect Alejandro Aravena made another powerful political statement through his installation at the 2016 Venice Biennale. He constructed the entrance rooms to the annual art fair entirely out of waste materials from previous biennales. Aravena’s entrance rooms drew attention to the amount of waste that the biennales generate, and successfully used architecture to make a political statement about how to thoughtfully use building materials in order to generate less waste. Through these examples and many others, D’Apolito-Dworkin demonstrated that architecture is becoming more politically-minded and community-focused.

Rossman and D’Apolito-Dworkin showed us the many ways that we can invest in and contribute to our communities through art and political engagement. We hope that Transition of Power: 2017 helped to expand and strengthen the important dialogues that we must have as a society so that we can continue to defend our rights and the rights of those less privileged than us. Transition of Power: 2017 highlighted a range of political perspectives, demonstrating the myriad ways that Trump’s administration affects us and our communities:

Transition of Power: 2017 at 13FOREST Gallery

Transition of Power: 2017 at 13FOREST Gallery

Asia Kepka’s work exposed the grief and suffering brought by insufficient health care, while Dimel Rivas offered a pointed critique of President Trump’s assertion that he would “drain the swamp.” Ted Ollier focused on the hard facts of the election, visualizing the exact difference between votes for Trump and Clinton in the popular vote. While eBay’s darkly humorous take on Trump’s relationship with Putin is difficult to misconstrue, John Campbell offered a more allegorical take on politics through his representation of Sisyphus and the Ship of Fools. Transition of Power: 2017 was our small act of resistance in response to the shock of the 2016 election. We hope that you will also find ways to resist yourself and with your community.   

Speaking Freely - An evening with the ACLU

Above: Sarah Rushford, Alluvion (Drawing 2), graphite on paper with scratched text from the U.S. Constitution

Above: Sarah RushfordAlluvion (Drawing 2), graphite on paper with scratched text from the U.S. Constitution

Join us Saturday, February 25, from 4 to 6 pm as we welcome Jessie Rossman and Carl D’Apolito-Dworkin for a reception and discussion on civil liberties, design, and resistance in this time of political upheaval. The conversation will address the ACLU’s current and upcoming work, the ways in which social impact design can positively affect our communities, and how all of us can participate in productive political action.

This program is part of our current exhibition, Transition of Power: 2017. 13FOREST Gallery is pleased to donate a portion of the proceeds from this exhibition to the ACLU of Massachusetts.





Jessie Rossman joined the ACLU of Massachusetts as a staff attorney in June 2013. She has both trial level and appellate advocacy experience, and litigates on a broad range of civil rights and civil liberties issues, including privacy and technology, free speech, reproductive rights, and gender discrimination.  She was recognized as a 2015 National Law Journal Boston Rising Star. Jessie has a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. Before joining the ACLU of Massachusetts, Rossman served as a law clerk to Judge Raymond C. Fisher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also worked as a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan and as a litigation fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Carl D'Apolito-Dworkin is the Chief Designer for the architecture firm, Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.  He is the project leader for the new wing of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, the new Performing Arts Center in Bogota, Colombia and the new Museum of Science in Heifei, China. His work was recently featured in the American Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Biennale.  Carl received his B.A. from Yale University where he received the Louis Sudler Prize for the Arts and his M. Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he was awarded the AIA Henry Adams Medal for overall academic achievement.  Carl specializes in the generation of architectural geometry through modeling and computation.

Romancing the Square: Cocktail Hour at 13FOREST

Above: Mike Ryczek, Peony Landscape, oil on canvas

Above: Mike Ryczek, Peony Landscape, oil on canvas

Looking for a creative Valentine's Day date? Join us at 13FOREST Gallery on Saturday, February 11 for our Romancing the Square cocktail party from 4-6pm. Try a Bloodhound (gin cocktail with vermouth and crushed strawberries) while enjoying good company and our excellent selection of fine art and craft.

Romancing the Square is hosted by Capitol Square businesses, and features art happenings, music, and refreshments to celebrate the inclusive spirit of Valentine's Day.