Email: p.bender-shore @


About The Artist

Priscilla Bender-Shore
1926 Born in The Bronx, New York, USA

1943-46 Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York; graduate
1949-51 Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut; scholarship
1951-55 St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland; BA, 4 year scholarship
1966-69 University of California, Santa Barbara; MFA

Since 1968, Priscilla Bender-Shore's work has reintroduced the human image into the visual vocabulary.   Educated at Cooper Union, Yale, St. John's, and UCSB, her MFA work and thesis, The Human Silhouette, broadened the dialog on the figure as motif.   She was an instructor of drawing and painting at Santa Barbara City College from 1971 to 1996.   She has a long resume of both jurying and curating local, regional, and national exhibitions in painting, drawing, and photography.   In 1988 she won a national painting competition award, a coveted six-month residency at Monet's home in Giverny, France.   Her work has been widely exhibited in the United States and Europe.

Artist Statement

        Since the MFA days in 1968, my consuming interest as an artist has been in the human figure, the female nude in particular.   The challenge was to " images of ourselves sufficiently powerful to deny our nothingness..." (Andre Malraux) and, at the same time, to reintroduce the figure into contemporary visual language.   I am fascinated by body attitudes, the subtle gestures of response to water, heat, cold, night, isolation, gravity, also by single-figure invention: alone, as a whole, in part, fragmented, floating, immersed, emerging.

        I think of the figure as a vehicle, not a destination.   My interest is in process-- ambiguity, randomness, accident, the unexpected, finish vs. unfinish, transition itself, being always at the edge and always in the balance--much like the human condition.

Process Statement

        My work is process-oriented, emphasizing structure over finish.   It has the continuity of Monet's water-lily painting, with their endless unfolding of unrelated random visual events where a fragment of nature is selected and transposed onto a 2D plane.   The other formal resource is the Chinese scroll with its non-sequential narrative figure/landscape--spatially provocative (often apparently empty) long, narrow format.   Time then becomes a condition for seeing and reading the work.

        I draw from my own photographs, combining, editing, and recombining the chosen images as well as those discovered within the border of the candid shot.   Invented forms are subsequently added.   There are no planning sketches.   Solutions occur on the support to allow the work to develop its own energy of unexpected events.   This results in having respect for all stages of development, the skeletal structure side by side with the more evolved relationships and forms.

        I believe that in this way my paintings tend to find themselves, like characters in a novel: through accidents, random marks, erasures, repeated gestures, and unexpected relationships.   This, together with a loosely-held theme and a given context, creates the opportunity for an unpredictable non-sequential clash of opposites, resulting in energy, tension, challenge, and ambiguity.   For me no single painting is the last word.

Exhibition History

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2005 Saint John's College, Annapolis, Maryland; THE MUSE SERIES: DANCING AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
2000 Jewish Federation Art Gallery, Santa Barbara; ARTISTS AND COLLECTIONS
2000 Studio Channel Islands Art center, California State University Northridge, Channel Islands Campus, Camarillo, California; DANCING AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD: The Muse Series
2000 Women's Center Art Gallery, University of California at Santa Barbara
1993 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Ridley Tree Center; OPENINGS
1991 Sherry Frumkin Gallery, Santa Monica; WATERWORKS, WATER FRIEZE
1990 Arpel Gallery, Santa Barbara; MONOLITHS
1989 Westmont Art Center, Reynolds Gallery, Santa Barbara; STONE FRIEZE: FORMS OF TIME
1986 Institute of Contemporary Art, PS1, Long Island City, New York; WATER FRIEZE: A QUADRIPTYCH
1986 Soho 20 Gallery, New York; FLOATING BODIES
1985 St. John's College Art Gallery, Annapolis
1984 Cunningham Gallery, Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA
1978 Houston Museum School of Fine Art
1978 Watson Gallery, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
1976 Charles Atkinson Gallery, Santa Barbara City College; SAUNAS, SHOWERS, HOT TUBS
1975 New Media Gallery, Ventura College, Ventura CA; CELEBRATION

In addition, 57 group exhibitions.


    Please contact Priscilla at p.bender-shore @ for availability and pricing of images.


October 1983

        As director of the University Art Museum, I know most of the artists in our community and a great many in the region and elsewhere.   In her seriousness, commitment to her art, and awareness of critical issues, Mrs. Shore is in the top echelon of artists in this group -- and would be anywhere, in my opinion.

        I have seen the Water Frieze project in its initial phases and now as it has begun to mature.   It is extraordinarily ambitious, with solid stylistic and thematic roots in art history.   I thought of the great figural murals of Puvis de Chavannes in the 19th century and his own predecessor, Nicolas Poussin, and certainly the symbolic and moving works of Ferdinand Hodler, which are only now fully appreciated.   Yet, I don't think there is anything quaintly archaizing or artificial about the gigantic frieze Mrs. Shore is preparing.   Both ideas and execution have a freshness and spontaneity that belies their careful preparation.   Whatever historical sources are present are seamlessly woven and assimilated into an extremely interesting scheme.   It is witty, earthy, thoughtful, and enigmatic; it is not trendy.   I believe this is an important work, not only because of its scale and thought, but because it emphasizes the nature of painting as a human endeavor, concerned with our world.   Mrs. Shore has been a painter of the human figure for some years -- when it was not fashionable -- and now that the figure has returned as a valid subject matter...

- David Farmer, Director, University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara

October 1983

        Her drawing, which has always been her forte, is increasingly assured and in her most recent work is fused with a coloristically and texturally rich painting manner.   Her current project, a series of long horizontal panels, featuring nude bathers, is particularly interesting to me as an art historian.   She has taken up in a bold and innovative way the problem of the nude in contemporary art, a problem which was first addressed by Courbet, Manet, Degas, and Cezanne in the last century.

- Penny Knowles, Director of Education, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

September 1978

        "...She has recently completed a remarkable series of drawings and paintings of women in mid-life--very penetrating, very personal, very different explorations not only descriptions of the physical envelope but autobiographical revelations of the person within...   The remarkable vitality of this current series and its special relevance to an age which has become more serious in its true regard for women would seem to me to hold out a very real promise that the accomplishment of this work is a major contribution."

- Paul Mills, Director, Santa Barbara Museum of Art

April 14, 1978

The Essential Role of the Body
A Study of Women in Saunas, Hot Pools and Showers

"An Open Letter"
        "We had arrived on time to look at your drawings before the room began to fill with visitors.   We were impressed, so much that we have discussed your work at length.   It has dominated our thinking; those drawings that I recall most vividly have opened new insights into life, something that an art exhibit rarely achieves.   The drawings made me conscious for the first time of the physical and psychological characteristics that distinguish the phase of life to which we refer as middle age, the age from about 35 to 55 or so.   I had always, so I discovered in looking at your drawings, regarded people in this time of life as parents, citizens, carefully clothed and behaved, responsible, part of the social setting, lacking in individuality, too matter-of-fact to be capable of enthusiasm, no longer very original.   Your drawings reveal them, male and female, as having made these adjustments to experience but as being all the more interesting for having done so.

        The figures you draw are far removed from the young nudes that appeal to us for their freshness and vitality and their anticipation of a beautiful, loving life.   These middle-age nudes are study, bulky, each one distinctive for his or her bulges and other uneven contours, each one a physical structure that presents evidence for a biography.   Devoid of sensuous appeal these figures are solid, like monuments, sculpturesque, almost architectural; they make the viewer acutely aware of the physical basis of life, the essential role of the body.   They lead one to consider how important the body is in conditioning the working of the mind and in shaping personality.   I learned from the unclothed figure as you presented it to appreciate the particular role which middle age assumes in the life-long interplay of body and mind, the physical and the spiritual, from birth to death.

        I first began to comprehend the significance of this everchanging relationship when I entered old age.   Now your drawings reveal to me the qualities of body and mind during the fullest period of activity and creativeness in one's life.   They show these qualities with directness, honesty, and sincerity.   Your technical excellence transforms the means of art into compositions that leave a unified impression, arouse a feeling of empathy and understanding, make the viewer look within himself and identify with these figures.   They stir our imagination for the way in which every aspect, drawing, modeling, color, light, nature of setting, -- all the means of art are related, share similar psychological qualities, and create the effect of what it is like to be middle aged.

        The figures may seem unattractive at first; they are far from physically beautiful, but they grow in appeal to one's total perception, to one's spiritual understanding of the unique nature of the middle period of life when one is no longer young and one is not yet old.   It is a very moving thought-provoking exhibit, something with which to live, to have as a reminder of what one is or will be or has been.   It has eternal meaning; it occurs with every generation.   It endures as a universal experience."

- Dr. Eugene Anderson, Professor Emeritus History UCLA

        Dr. Anderson has written extensively on art since the 60's.   He wrote many analyses and critical reviews for the Felix Landau gallery in L.A. (on figurative artists, John Paul Jones, Paul Wonner, etc.).   Most recently, in addition to his review of the work of Priscilla Bender-Shore he has completed the commentary in the catalogue of the work of sculptor Robert Cremean.   Dr. Anderson is also a noted collector of drawings, particularly of the German Expressionist School and of 20th Century sculptures.