Molly Briggs

Statement & Resume

Recent Paintings

Works on Paper



"Clearing 13," Flashe, acrylic and ink on canvas, 36" x 76"

Artist Statement:

These recent works contain overlaid images related to 3 areas of interest to me—the interconnected histories and meanings of modernism, Darwinism and feminism. There is an aesthetic quality to the experience of investigating these realms in relation to one another.  The paintings represent this, the abstract, multi-layered experience of thinking.

Patterns and motifs in the paintings come from a broad array of sources within this umbrella of thought.  Examples include my own interpretations of non-visible physical phenomena such as protein folding; Steven Wolfram’s gridded schematics depicting his theory of cellular automata; designs from lampshades, throw pillows and wallpaper in my own and my friends’ homes; Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s descriptions of interrupted pattern in her 1892 story The Yellow Wallpaper; Agnes Martin’s grid-based paintings; and on a material level, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcut prints of “The Floating World”.

Most of the titles are quotes from Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a story understood in its own time to be simply a perceptive account of mental illness. The story was revisited in the 1970s by feminist scholars, who interpreted it as a feminist polemic, in keeping with the author’s intentions.  In 2003 the story can be taken still as a feminist tome, but a flawed one, redolent with the political and social failings of feminism, as well as its successes in transforming culture.

I am interested in science in general and particularly the theory of evolution as an analogy for thinking about how art is made. The theory has undergone conceptual transformation since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, influencing spheres of thought unrelated to the physical sciences.  To roughly characterize the shift: the theory was once taken as evidence of life’s innate drive toward higher orders of consciousness or even to society and morality.  Currently, biological complexity is more likely to be understood as a consequence of expanding biological diversity – and diversity can also contract, and then expand again in a different way, which disposes of the concept of a linear progression of betterment.

These interpretations can be compared to opposing paradigms of how art and meaning are made -- by a clearly purposeful process, versus by an organic, multidirectional process.  These ideas parallel some of the differences between modernist and postmodern perspectives on society and art.  As modernism, influenced by the concept of Darwinian evolution, argued for the concept of human progress, representable by artistic form, feminism also developed as a model of social progress.  Events surrounding World War II served to disprove certain ideals of progress, including classist and racist threads of feminism.

In Japanese woodcuts, the floating world of Ukiyo-e represents artistic and decorative refinement and subtlety, as well as an illusory reprieve from the pressures of everyday life.  The illusion of such a haven – the pictorial illusion, and the social and cultural illusions created by geisha culture and Noh Theater – masks social and economic inequity, particularly for women.  The refined materiality of those prints is analogous to the refined materiality of the trappings of geisha culture.  And so rarefied, perfectly controlled and refined material qualities in those prints can be understood to implicitly bear the meaning of what is masked (social and economic inequity – that is, human pain).  In my paintings, thin applications of flat and sparkling paint are applied to paper, collaged over the linen surface, approximating the delicacy and refinement of the Ukiyo-e prints.  In this material way the works circle back to The Yellow Wallpaper, in which the wallpaper is understood to be beautiful, yet mask the hideous.

Ultimately I present a surface layered with illusions of space: physical space, historical space and the space between distinct yet entwined areas of human inquiry.

2018 Ph.D. Depts of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
1998 M.F.A. Dept. of Art Theory and Practice, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1991 B.F.A.  Dept. of Painting, School of Art and Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
Awards, Grants & Fellowships:
2015 Pauline Tilton Kennedy Prize, Department of Landscape Architecture, UIUC
Conference Travel Award, Graduate College, UIUC
Partial List of Instructors Ranked as Excellent by UIUC Students,” UIUC

Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, College of Fine and Applied Arts, Univ. of IL at Urbana-Champaign
Block Grant, Department of Landscape Architecture, UIUC
Partial List of Instructors Ranked as Excellent by UIUC Students,” UIUC


Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Partial List of Instructors Ranked as Excellent by UIUC Students,” UIUC
Public Collection, Business Instructional Facility, UIUC
Douglas Dockery Thomas Fellowship in Garden History and Design, Administered by The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) and funded by The Garden Club of America, GCA’s 100th Anniversary
Fiel Traveling Fellowship, Administered by the Department of Landscape Architecture, UIUC


Fellowship, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
Partial List of Instructors Ranked as Excellent by UIUC Students,” UIUC

2006 Silver Circle Excellence Award for Teaching, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
2004 Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) Grant, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago
2001 Public Collection, The Graduate School, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Public Collection, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI
1999 – 2000 Teaching Assistant Fellow, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1998 – 1999 Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (CIRA) Grant, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1996 – 1998 Full Scholarship w/teaching assistantship, Art Theory & Practice, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Solo Exhibitions:
2014 Humboldt Park, Union League Club of Chicago, IL
2013 Walking, Looking, Making, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
2010 Recent Works, Alice Campbell Alumni Center, University of IL, Urbana-Champaign. IL
2009 "Clearing" New paintings by Molly Briggs," Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
2007 "Projections" New paintings by Molly Briggs," Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL  Art in America review
2006 "Fabula" New paintings by Molly Briggs," ISpace, Chicago, IL Reviews
2004 "See Through, New paintings by Molly Briggs," Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL Reviews
2002 Fassbender Stevens Gallery, Chicago, IL
2001 Fassbender Gallery, Chicago, IL
2000 Standard Gallery, Chicago, IL
1999 Fassbender Gallery, Chicago, IL
Habitat, Fassbender Gallery Annex, Chicago, IL
1998 M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition, Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1994 Champaign Public Library, Champaign, IL
1991 B.F.A. Thesis Exhibition, Arts Coalition Gallery, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
Group Exhibitions:
2015 New American Paintings: Midwest Edition. Curated by Staci Boris, Elmhurst Art Museum, IL
2014 Rolled, Stoned and Inked: 25 Years of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. Expo 72. Sponsored
by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & DCASE, curator: Greg Lunceford & Nathan Mason, IL
Suite Prints: 25 Years of Chicago Printmakers Collaborative
. Christopher Art Gallery, Prairie State College, Chicago Heights. Curated by Beth Shadur.
2013 Vortex of Color, ArtWorks Chicago, Metropolitan Capital Bank, Chicago, IL
Chroma Exploda: Molly Briggs, Chris Kahler, Martina Nehrling, Renee Robbins and Jackie Tileston,
Curator: Justin Henry Miller, River Campus Gallery, Southeast MO State University, Cape Girardeau, MO

on Ecology
: Molly Briggs, Glen Davies & Vicki Ford,  
Murphy Gallery, University YMCA, Champaign, IL
2009 Clusterf*#k, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

School of Art + Design Faculty Art Exhibition, Krannert Art Museum, Univ. of IL at Urbana-Champaign, IL
Summer Show '08,
Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
New Views: Nature Captured, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Art, Wilmington, DE
C. W. Briggs, Vicki Briggs and Molly Briggs, Cinema Gallery, Champaign, IL
Group Think,
 Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

2007 Group,  Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Summer Show '07,
Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
2006 Bridge Art Fair, Zg Gallery,  Miami, FL
Art Chicago, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Summer Show '06,
Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
2005 Invisible Worlds, Evanston Art Center, Curated by Shona Macdonald, Evanston, IL
Art Chicago in the Park, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Summer Show '05, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Flora, South Bend Regional Museum of Art, South Bend, IN
2004 Summer Show '04, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Pieces: Compositions of Accumulation, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
Paper Cut, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL
2002 Recent Work, Riverside Arts Center, Riverside, IL
Art Chicago, Fassbender Stevens Gallery, Chicago, IL
2001 Small Treasures, Fassbender Gallery, Chicago, IL
Look! Paint, SPACES, Cleveland, OH
Serendipity, Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago, IL
Artists and Alumni, The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston, IL (exhibition catalogue)
2000 The Art of Wega: Escape, various locations in Chicago, IL and New York, NY
The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative: A Decade of Printmaking, Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, Chicago, IL
Foto Flo, Standard Gallery, Chicago, IL
1999 30 times 15” x 15”, Fassbender Gallery, Chicago, IL
The Art of Collecting, Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI
Small Print Show, Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Chicago, IL
Unlimited Editions: Prints from Anchor Press & The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Riverside Art Center, IL
1998 Small Print Show, Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Chicago, IL
100 Proof: Experimental Printmaking, The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, Chicago, IL
Off Guard, The Colfax Studios, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Unsettled, Nonsettled, Resettled–Graduate Exhibition, Northwestern Univ. Settlement House, Chicago, IL
Eighth Annual Art Against AIDS Benefit, The Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL
1997 Summer Exhibition, Main Gallery, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT
Seventh Annual Art Against AIDS Benefit, The Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL
Promise Benefit, Vedanta Gallery, Chicago, IL
Graduate Exhibition, Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris Center, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
Art in CAS, College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
1993 Alumni Exhibition, The Illini Union, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL
1991 B.F.A. Exhibition, Department of Painting, Krannert Art Museum, Univ. of IL, Urbana-Champaign, IL
2014 New American Paintings, Midwest Edition, Featured Artist. Curated by Staci Boris.
2013 New City, “Recommended: Molly Briggs”, by Alan Pocaro, April 2, 2013
Chicago Tribune, “Pick of the Week”,  January 16, 2013
Apartment Therapy, “The Weekend Guide,” January 11, 2013
The News-Gazette, “Studio Visit: Molly Briggs” Melissa Merli, January 20, 2013
Moco Art
, January 7, 2013
2012 Hyperallergic, “Three Painting Shows in Chicago” by Philip Hartigan,  August 21, 2012


New American Paintings, Featured Artist, Midwest Edition, juried by Raphaela Platow


Art in America, “Molly Briggs,” Victor Cassidy, September 2007


Chicago Public Radio, “Eight-Forty-Eight – Three to See” Radio Program, 12/4/06
Chicago Tribune "Trees Along North Avenue..." by Alan Artner,  Nov. 24, 2006


Chicago Sun-Times, "Spoonful of Poppins..." by Margaret Hawkins, 11/5/04, Weekend Section, p. 6
New City, "Mother Mary" Eye Exam  by Michael Workman, Oct. 14, 2004, p.15


The Life, Arts and Entertainment, “Geography of Memory, Scenes of Science,” by  Rohit Mahajan
2001 Cleveland Plain Dealer, Abstract Painters Make the Medium Their Own, Dan Tranberg,  Arts & Life, 11/26/01
New Art Examiner  “Reviews: Serendipity,” by Michelle, November/December 2001
New Art Examiner, "Recommend: Serendipity,”  July/August 2001, p. 22.
Northwestern Magazine, “Portrait of the Artists,” by Nancy Maes, Summer 2001, pp. 12 - 19.
Cross Currents, ”Rising Stars of the Art World: Shaping MFAs at Weinberg,” Lisa Stein,
Spring 2001, pp. 9 – 12., “Double-ness”Cassidy, Victor M. Cassidy, March 19, 2001.
New Art Examiner, “Eric Dimas & Molly Briggs at Standard," Leah Finch, v. 28,n.4,
2000 UIC News (Univ. of IL at Chicago), “Profile: Molly Briggs,” by Lisa Stodder, v. 19, n. 11, Nov. 1, 2000, p. 3.
Chicago Sun-Times, “Thirteen Rising Stars: Portraits of the Chicago Artists as Up-and-Coming Visual Forces,”  by Janet Rausa Fuller, October 8, 2000, Section E, pp. 1, 14-15.
New City, “5 Shows to See Now” and “Tip of the Week: Eric Dimas and Molly Briggs, Playing Jedi Mind Tricks on You,”  by Michael Bulka, September 28, 2000, pp. 22 – 23.
New City, by Michael Weinstein,  February 10, 2000, p. 44
1999 Dialog: Voicing the Arts, “Habitat,” by Vittorio Carli, November/December 1999.

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