Events Wednesday, Apr 17, 2019 - Sunday, May 19, 2019

From the Lair of Ken Beck

University Hall, VanDernoot Gallery, 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

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2019-04-17T16:00:00Z 2019-05-19T21:00:00Z UTC Exhibit: FROM THE LAIR OF KEN BECK A retrospective exhibition and silent auction honoring the work of Art and Design instructor Ken Beck. All proceeds will benefit students in the fine arts department at Lesley University College of Art and Design. University Hall, VanDernoot Gallery, 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge,, MA 02140
sky view of campus

Gallery Talk

Saturday, May 4, 1-3 p.m.

Members of the Boston Arts community will discuss Ken Beck's paintings with art critic and painter Shawn Hill

Speakers include:

  • Painters and Lesley Art + Design professors: Anthony Apesos, Gene Dorgan and Amy Sudarsky
  • Shawn Hill, art critic and painter
  • Ann McQueen, principal McQueen Philanthropic and photographer
  • Patricia Stone, painter and professor at Wheaton College
  • Brett Jordan, graphic designer and nephew of Ken Beck

Closing Reception

Sunday, May 19, 12-5 p.m.

A Retrospective Exhibition and Silent Auction honoring the work of Art and Design instructor, Ken Beck.

All proceeds will benefit students in the fine arts department at Lesley University College of Art and Design

Ken Beck was born in Salem, MA., and has been painting for more than 60 years. As a highly distinguished artist, he has been a presence in the Boston art scene for decades. Beck gained the admiration and respect of curators, critics, collectors, artists and students. He taught at Lesley University College of Art and Design (formerly the Art Institute of Boston) for 25 years.

Aside from his achievements as an artist, Beck is known for his scholarly mind and lively personality. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Goddard College and a doctorate in anthropology from Union College. Beck went on to earn his Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and pursued advanced studies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Cape School of Art in Provincetown, MA.

oil painting of steel gray object in front of green and brown background
"Circe" | 1996-97 | Oil on canvas, 68 x 50”


Beck paints with oil on canvas. His numerous drawings and watercolors are equally accomplished. Unknown to many of his closest associates, Beck produced smaller bodies of work in lithography, photography, sculpture and collage.

Beck’s works remain rooted in the traditions of solid compositions, exquisite drawing and beautiful color. His subjects are mostly representational: still life, portraits and landscapes. However, with his perceptive concerns for texture, surface and format, they often approach abstraction. His signature works of simple objects, monumentalized and painted on a large scale, require a keen sensibility.

oil painting of round gray object in front of an orange background
"Cockeyed" | 1995 | Oil on canvas, 36 x 32”

Beck boldly energizes areas of an object that may otherwise be uninteresting, such as the surface of a shiny cylinder or corrosion on an old cake pan, to create moments of transformation, not just as paintings, but forever in the viewer’s eye and mind.

His work is in numerous public, private and corporate collections. The Boston Public Library has more than 90 of his drawings. Notable recognitions he has received are a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship and a Pollock Krasner Award. For more than 30 years, he has been affiliated with Gallery NAGA and lived at the Piano Factory.

Ken Beck began painting when he was a little boy and kept at it for six decades. One would be hard pressed to find a subject he hasn't painted, changing, as a result, the way we look at objects we come across in our daily lives.
Meg White, Gallery NAGA


Beck’s academic diplomas signify his interest in vast areas of study and indicate someone who has a scholar’s fascination for the world around him. His personal library covers topics ranging from Aztec hieroglyphics to American prison reform.

Known as the “culture vulture” at Lesley Art and Design, Beck always had advice on what book to read, which movie or play to see, and which recording of Miles Davis or Bach is best. His extensive travels took him as far as China and Egypt, and his years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines in the 1960s reveal a heart and compassion that are as notable as his knowledge and curiosity.

With his deep knowledge and wit, Ken Beck is able to transform a child’s plastic beach shovel into a deity. In Beck’s 'Circe', the daughter of Helios and Perse will forever be making magic on the shore.
Renee Covalucci, artist and colleague


Although Beck taught at other institutions and programs, he is most strongly affiliated with Lesley University and the Art Institute of Boston. Initially hired to teach painting and drawing, it did not take long for Beck to branch out into other subjects.

He designed the courses, Abstract Painting and Abstract Drawing, which he taught strictly in ink wash. His broader knowledge and mindfulness resulted in the development of two art history-based courses, Art and War and Art and Anthropology. Beloved for decades by young artists and admired by his colleagues, ultimately led to Beck receiving an Outstanding Teaching Award from Lesley Art and Design.

Ken Beck loved the unusual presence of things, and his portraits of objects have great thingness. They're not just images; they're right there in the room with you, being all thingy, irreducibly strange and alien.
Arthur Dion, Gallery NAGA
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