Maria Molteni: 2022 Prilla Smith Brackett Award Winner

The Davis Museum is thrilled to present Maria Molteni (They/She, b. 1983, Nashville, Tennessee) with the 2022 biennial Prilla Smith Brackett Award, after choosing from a pool of over 120 submissions. Artist Prilla Smith Brackett ‘64, funds this award for a female-identifying, Boston-based artist who exhibits extraordinary skill in the visual arts, in order to bolster women’s presence in the art historical record.  

This online exhibition presents a selection of Molteni’s work in conjunction with excerpts from their artist’s statement.


“Molteni is a queer transdisciplinary artist, educator, and mystic. They are the grandchild of Tennessee square dancers, stunt motorcyclists, quilters, beekeepers, and opera singers of various European backgrounds. Their practice has grown from formal studies in Painting, Printmaking, and Dance to incorporate research, ritual, and play-based collaboration.”


(Maria Molteni, A Sea Bird, 2021, Industrial concrete/ground paint, colors mixed by hand, hand-painted with brushes by Molteni, 2,000 sq ft. Photo Credit: Alex Pickering)

“Molteni enjoys tactile and tactical problem solving, giving shape to the unseen. From fiber to found-object sculpture, textile to video, performance to publication, they choose media that combine conceptual rigor, formal satisfaction, and spiritual depth. Their intuitive practice spans movement-based and diagrammatic ritual alchemy, astrology, tarot, dreamwork, and color magic. Molteni pictures themself as a Phys Ed coach for visionary communities like Shakers, Bauhaus, or Black Mountain College.”


(Maria Molteni, still image from Shaker Work-Out! Episodes 1-8, video, 2022, 31 minutes. Photo Credit: Maria Molteni)


(Maria Molteni, still image from Sacred Sheets, 2021, video, movement, installation, performance, and hand crafted objects, 17:56 minutes. Photo Credit: Gabe Elder)

“Molteni’s painting practice has long darted back and forth between a traditional lineage and a more innovative practice of creating site-specific ground works. This practice has largely occupied (and pioneered) vibrant athletic spaces, a marriage of the artist’s personal history as an athlete/dancer combined with their desire to make painting more embodied and accessible to the public.”


(Maria Molteni, detail of Yarn Over, Double Dribble: Basketball Handling Score, After John Cage, 2021, hand drawn conceptual score, performance, video, 8 minutes.  Produced by Jordan Tynes.)

“The artist’s early education placed extreme emphasis on the male painters of the Abstract Expressionist movement. As a queer feminist, Molteni has sought to recontexualize the notion of ‘“action painting”,’ by which Jackson Pollock is famed for making the canvas ‘“an arena in which to act”.’ Molteni aims to transform the arena into a painting, the court into a surreal multi-use labyrinth for all kinds of bodies, the monument into a horizontal commons, the ground into an altar to the sky.”


“These massive works, courts and otherwise, have become anchored in conversation between the land/sea/body and sky/celestial beings. Astronomical and astrological occurrences are often incorporated into the process, developing imagery in and for real-time engagement with movements of the heavens. They often contain layered symbology and prompts for healing aspects of mind and body while in their presence.”


(Maria Molteni, video still and detail of Venusian Rosaceae (Five Seeded Star)/ Plaited Ouroboros, 2020, Industrial concrete/ground paint, colors mixed by hand, hand painted with brushes by Molteni, and video, painting: 50 ft diameter, video: 5 minutes. Photo Credit: The Momentary and Ironside Photography.) 


(Maria Molteni, Seven Sisters (Celestial Subduction), Photo Credit: Stephen Heraldo.) 


(Maria Molteni, STAR BALL, 2022. Promotional Photo Credit: Ash Capachione)

Most recently, Molteni has created the STAR BALL with a portion of the Prilla Smith Brackett Award funding. This limited edition art basketball incorporates designs featured in Molteni’s “Cosmic Court” painted at Talbot Middle School in Fall River. The ball is paired with the Senda/Sedna Zine, which is written by Abigail Smithson and Maria Molteni about Senda Berenson (the founder of women’s basketball) and Sedna 90377, Molteni’s favorite Trans-Neptunian Object.

To learn more about Maria’s work, visit their website: