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.

Dark Money

Over the last few years, I have explored the concept of money through my artwork. Although I have touched on many subjects, I have so far missed the most important- dark money. Dark money is what drives our government and society. It’s what creates and kills laws, alters what’s portrayed in the media, and what elects our politicians. Most elections and ballot referendums can be predicted by which campaign has more money behind it.

With the passing of Supreme Court decisions, starting with Buckley v. Valeo to the most recent Citizens United, buying results is essentially the standard method of governing. This stacked deck is more than enough to make us feel that the system is rigged. One person, one vote no longer stands. People can take to the streets, start hashtag campaigns, and vote but nothing will come of it. The military industrial complex will shut down any protest. Social media crusades are only effective on diseases and creeps. Votes are useless when money controls our politicians, not to mention the fact that many votes literally don’t count with gerrymandering and the Electoral College.

As a millennial, the system that once had promise is now beyond troubling. The fact that the majority of people want gun control and our politicians have done absolutely nothing about it is proof of the effectiveness of dark money. The CDC isn’t, at a minimum, provided funds to study gun deaths or guns as a pubic health issue. Despite the hard evidence of other countries and their forward thinking regulations and proven results, American elected officials do nothing but send thoughts and prayers, which have been scientifically proven ineffective and are just nice sound bytes. The reasoning behind this is painfully clear, which is there’s no money to be spent or gained in regulation.

There’s an inconceivably long list of such examples, most notably climate change and healthcare. All of these subjects have obvious solutions, but they are thwarted by dark money. America has turned away from following science and common sense. Greed and special interests are the only things that drive policy. This has led to the systematic dumbing down of the proletariat, who routinely vote against their own interests.

I have little hope for this country on the current path we are on. We are failing in almost every aspect. There is no light to be seen at the end of this tunnel of tragedy that we find ourselves in. The concept of this series is to illuminate what has been darkened so that others can see what is truly there.


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.