Mary Henderson

Studio & Gallery

Philadelphia, PA

Please contact artist or gallery for purchases, commissions, etc.


Artist's Statement

The work that I am doing could be categorized as realist genre painting, a category of art that has been somewhat marginalized in recent years, but which I feel has a renewed relevance at this moment. I work in discrete series, each focused on a particular ritual or subculture: public spectatorship, assembly and protest; the weekend pursuits of urban gentrifiers; the bourgeois summer waterfront retreat; the down-time activities of armed servicemen and women. I am especially interested in the ways individuals and groups attempt to construct or live up to idealized personae or experiences, and in how those efforts may fall short of expectations. Inspired by my own personal and family history – as well as by broader social phenomena – the paintings depict their subjects at unguarded moments of vulnerability, reflection or preoccupation.

My paintings are based in large part on digital photos. The democratization of digital photography has made producing an image easy and nearly costless, creating a culture of visual documentation in which individual moments are quickly lost or forgotten. (Psychological studies have found that taking photographs impedes our ability to remember the events that we are recording.) The very casualness of snapshots, with their awkward details and haphazard compositions, is part of what I find compelling about their visual language. Painting, meanwhile, is a completely different sort of medium – one that is based on memory and repetition, focus and intentionality. An image made by hand carries a special kind of weight at a time when digital picture-making is so abundant; by its very nature, it is slower and more deliberate, remaining an object for slow contemplation in a world saturated with images made for screens.

This tension – between the highly ephemeral nature of contemporary visual culture and the more permanent, archetypal aspirations of the figurative artistic tradition – has become a central concern in my work. While I am inspired by the visual urgency and freshness of many digital snapshots, as well as by the unique distancing qualities of the photographic lens, my paintings are not straight photorealist renderings. I incorporate many elements of snapshot vocabulary into my work, but I also try to create slowly-layered surfaces that are founded on anatomical study, memory and direct observation. My paintings are very much hybrids: I typically deconstruct, reconfigure and combine photographic sources, creating composite scenes and figures that frequently include elements of self-portraiture and renderings of family and friends. In marrying the vocabulary of digital snapshot photography with the painstaking techniques of traditional figure painting, I hope to avoid the clichés and pitfalls of both, making paintings of the everyday that engage with contemporary culture while still maintaining an informed connection to their art-historical precedents.

Selected Exhibitions

Solo and Two-person
Sunday Paintings, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

Bathers, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

Forces, Lyons Wier/Ortt, New York, NY

Right Clique, Lyons Wier /Ortt, New York, NY

Recollection: Mary Henderson and Susan Slattery, InLiquid at the Painted Bride Art Center, Philadelphia, PA

Thrills, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Amusements, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA

Album, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Summer Group Show, Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Downtown Art Fair (Lyons Wier Gallery), New York, New York

We Could Be Heroes: The Mythology of Monsters and Heroes in Contemporary Art, The Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Resourced, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

PULSE MIAMI (Lyons Wier Gallery), Miami, FL

24/7, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

Faculty Exhibition, University Gallery, Merion Hall, St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA

Here and Now, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY, 2011

PULSE MIAMI, (Lyons Wier Gallery), Miami FL, 2010

Mirror Mirror: Contemporary Portraits and the Fugitive Self, The Museum of Art, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT,

Consequential, Addams Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

Another Damn Good Painting Show, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

NEXT Chicago (Lyons Wier Gallery), Chicago, IL

PULSE New York (Lyons Wier Gallery), New York, NY

As Others See Us, Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, VT

PULSE New York (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), New York, NY

Year '07 (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), London, England

Preview Berlin (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), Berlin, Germany

SWAB (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), Barcelona, Spain

PULSE New York (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), New York, NY

-scope, London (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery),London, England

Art212 (Lyons Wier/Ortt Gallery), New York, NY

PULSE New York (Lyonswier Gallery), New York, NY

Art LA (Lyonswier Gallery), Los Angeles, CA

Reality Show, Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY

Aqua Art Miami (Gallery Joe), Miami, FL

Art Chicago, (Zg Gallery), Chicago, IL

Operation RAW, Ice Box Project Space, Philadelphia, PA

-scope Los Angeles (Lyons Wier Gallery) Los Angeles, CA

-scope New York (Lyons Wier Gallery) New York, NY

Summer Show ’04, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Young Painters Competition 2004, Miami University, Oxford, OH

Meat Market, Lyons Wier Gallery, New York, NY

As Small as Possible, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Compendium, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

really, gescheidle, Chicago, IL

Momenta Art Benefit 2003, Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY and White Columns, New York, NY

Less Than One, Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY

Affordable Art Fair (Kenise Barnes Fine Art), New York, NY

12”x12”, Zg Gallery, Chicago, IL

Night of 1000 Drawings, Artists Space, New York, NY

Talking Heads, Kenise Barnes Fine Art, Larchmont, NY

The Future is Now, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Wilmington, DE

New Talent, Gross-McCleaf Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Artist's Bibliography

Hyperallergic LABS , July 8, 2014

Mary Henderson – Philadelphia, PA (interview),” 365 Artists/365 Days, June 15, 2014

Gauss, Daniel “Nothing fails like success! Mary Henderson 'Sunday Paintings” Lyons Wier Gallery,”, March 11, 2014

Laluyan, Oscar “Picture This: Everyday is Sunday at Lyons Wier,” Arte Fuse , March 3, 2014

“Mary Henderson: istantanee da un weekend,” L'Espresso, February 24, 2014

“We Could Be Heroes: A Review,” Foster Art Program Blog, March 19, 2013

Galperina, Maria “Hyper-Real Oil Paintings of Found Vacation Photos,” Animal New York, May 11, 2011

Check Out: Mary Henderson's The Bathers at Lyons Wier Gallery from May 12-June 11, 2011,” ArteFuse, May 13, 2011

Interview with Mary Henderson,” Hypocrite Design

Fulton, Ben “Back at you: BYU Museum exhibition considers the identity questions,” The Salt Lake Tribune, December 31, 2009

Israelsen-Hartley, Sara “BYU art exhibit evokes questions about identity,” Deseret News, November 14, 2009

Palmer, Brian “Field Notes: Mary Henderson's Forces,” Design Arts Daily, November 3, 2008

Amy, Michaël "Mary Henderson at Lyons Wier • Ortt," Art in America, January 2007

Rosof, Libby “Raw Bits—More Ice Box Morsels,” Artblog, September 24, 2005

Hill, Lori “First Friday Focus,” Philadelphia City Paper, March 31-April 6, 2005

“Art Attack,” Philadelphia Style Magazine, March/April, 2005 (reproduction)

Camper, Fred “Now Showing,” Chicago Reader, December 24, 2004

Sandler, Carrie “Twirling Pink Teacups,” UR Chicago, November 18 - December 15 2004

Starita, Celeste "This Week in the Arts," The Weekly Press, Philadelphia, April 21, 2004

Stein, Lisa “What you see isn’t what you get: ‘Really’,” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2003

“Lipservice: Our Short List for Fall 2002,” Mouth to Mouth, Fall 2002

Fallon, Roberta "Sketches: Fresh Palette," Philadelphia Weekly, July 11, 2001

Awards and Honors

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts SOS Grant, Visual Arts – Painting, 2004

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship, Visual Arts – Painting, 2004

Jentel Artist Residency, Banner, WY

Louis Comfort Tiffany Award Nominee

Neil Welliver Award, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

1999 - 2001
Chairman’s Scholarship, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA


Harper’s Magazine, July, 2011 (image reproduction)

Harper’s Magazine, December, 2006 (image reproduction)

Cover image, XConnect: Writers of the Information Age, Vol. 6, Philadelphia: Cross Connect, Inc., 2004

New American Paintings: MFA 2001, Open Studios Press, Boston, MA

Selected Collections

Burger Collection, Switzerland
Nicholls Collection, CT
Rickert Collection, CA
Sender Collection, NY
West Collection, PA


University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
MFA, Painting

Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Post-Baccalaureate, Studio Art

Amherst College, Amherst, MA
AB cum laude, Fine Arts

Studio Art Centers International, Florence, Italy