Tess Barbato 

Tess Barbato 


My work is about social change and social commentary. It has been the cornerstone of my work for many years and my only goal is to create a space for people to consider, from a different angle, the attitudes they hold.

I believe that there is a physical, objective reality and a socially constructed reality. My art is about that middle space. It is in that place that our beliefs, attitudes, and myths live and it is from that place that our culture arises. While socially constructed reality has its place, I believe when we move away from facts and evidence, our country falters. Distraction and misdirection are all too common in the current social and political climate. Minimal compositions, stark contrasts, and solid forms offer an uninterrupted reflection of the subject.

My paintings ask viewers to look closely at a subject, free from all other distractions. In that regard, my work engages an internal meditation on the topics that consume the pubic discourse. I hope, that in the process of looking at these subjects, viewers will stop and consider the underlying experiences, beliefs and values that make the issue real and important to them.

The idea of E pluribus unum forms a common theme and inspiration for me. I express this in my compositions through the use of multiples, all seemingly the same, yet individually different. My brush technique also serves as a metaphor for this idea: it takes many thousands of tiny, individual dabs of color before the whole picture can be seen. The medium of oils allows me to create dimensionality and add suppleness that depicts an almost palpable rendering of the subject. This medium allows me to depict ordinary, often overlooked objects in a distinctly tactile way.

A Corruption of Democracy

This new series is a commentary on the trend towards corruption our country has taken over the last couple of decades, culminating in the election of Donald Trump. I use composition and subject matter to reflect the slow perversion of long standing American ideals. From Citizens United and gerrymandering, which have large and wide reaching effects, to smaller modes of corruption such as voter repression and misinformation campaigns, it’s no wonder why the Americans have so little confidence in the government.

Subject matter is the fastest way to convey messages through my work. In this series, one of the main subjects is corroded pennies.  I use the gradual corrosion of the copper pennies as an analogy of how an unprotected democracy is subject to degradation. Our democracy will not die with a bang but with small acts of destabilization.  Lincoln being on the penny also makes the viewer think of the deeds and characteristic of one of our most iconic presidents. His honesty and moral fortitude is a sad reminder of the awesome potential of our leaders and what they could achieve.

Rolls of cash are quintessential symbols of corruption, utilized by gangsters and drug dealers which some might say are descriptors that can be attributed to many of our government officials.  They are used not only in black-market dealings but also in depictions of bribes. We’ve all seen the movie where a corrupt official is handed a duffle bag filled with rolls and rolls of cash. Another nefarious use of money rolls is to deceive the recipient and inflate the perceived amount of money. With inflated egos, exaggerated self-importance, and grandiose promises, most politicians are a bunch of dollar bills wrapped in a hundred: flashy on the outside but empty within.

The compositions of the works are all circular. This set up is to make the viewer consider the loop of corruption that this country in currently stuck in.  From a very distorted understanding and misplaced trust, slightly half of people in the country voted for a “disrupter”. Some voted for Trump because of racism, sexism, and bigotry, but others did so in an attempt to break that cycle. Another example of the publics yearning for change was the popularity of Bernie Sanders, although the Democratic Party was too one sided to allow for an outsider to lead the party. Corruption isn’t a feature that is exclusive to Democrats or Republicans.

While money has always been a basis for corruption, the use of dark money and its power to sway elections has never been more corrosive as now. The driving motivation behind this work is to spark an open and informed discussion on these most pressing matters.


Tess Barbato is a young, 21st century American realist oil painter whose work is conceptually driven. She possesses a larger than life vision that results in incredibly detailed portrayals of the most mundane of objects.  Tess inherited her artistic sensibility from a long line of family artists. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in Fine Arts from Plymouth State University. Her lifelong struggle with dyslexia compelled her to use art as her preferred means of communication. And for Tess, communication has always been paramount. She is an artist with something to say, a master of delivery in the form of wry paradox. Tess' paintings have been accepted for numerous juried exhibitions and have accumulated several awards and honors. Some of her recent showings have been in the Art of the Figure, juried by Philip Pearlstein in Setauket, New York; Less Is More: Small Works in a Great Space, juried by Jack Rasmuissen and Joann Moser in Annapolis; The New England Collective IV juried by Kaveh Mojtabai and Brian Goslow, the Publisher and the Editor-in-Cheif of ArtScope Magazine at Galatea Fine Art in Boston. She was also a Finalist in the Artist Magazine 30th Annual Art Competition and she received an Honorable Mention for the 2013 International Art Festival at 25CPW Gallery, NYC.She is currently working out of her studio in Framingham, Massachusetts.



The Resistance, 2017

Pills and Bills, 2016