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Artist Bios
Art in Embassies
May 3, 2023

Eric Aho

Known for his vibrant paintings of the natural world, Eric Aho is guided by his impressions, perceptions, and memories of landscape.[i] Aho considers his pieces to be physical works through which he “reconnects to the landscape as it reforms on the canvas.”[ii] They feature a constant interaction of figuration and abstraction and a paradoxical “mix of what is seen and understood… joined with what is not easily comprehended.”[iii] Rider was created in response to French romantic artist Eugene Delacroix’s nineteenth-century battle series, The Lion Hunt. Turbulent images of horsemen geared with weapons and skirmishing wild lions convey Delacroix’s “Romantic era obsession [with] and fear of unknown, faraway places.”[iv] Like Delacroix’s work, Rider contains hints of realism with imaginary scenes.[v]

Aho earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. Along with studies at Central Saint Martins, London, he completed graduate work at the Lahti Institute of Design, Finland. His paintings are housed in various permanent collections, namely the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire; and the Oulu Museum of Art, Finland.

[i] “Eric Aho,” DC Moore Gallery, accessed July 14, 2022, https://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/eric-aho.

[ii] “Eric Aho.”

[iii] DC Moore Gallery, email to the author, July 12, 2022.

[iv] DC Moore Gallery.

[v] DC Moore Gallery.

Peter C. Aldrich

Peter C. Aldrich

Former real-estate developer and entrepreneur Peter C. Aldrich creates expansive scenes that include urban structures and bridges, coastal landscapes, and still life. Part of his Baseball series, Opening Day portrays a sweeping panorama of Fenway Park in Boston, where he sometimes sketches or photographs images he wishes to paint.[i]Rather than insert a symbolic message, Aldrich paints what he sees purely for enjoyment. “Looking at the world through my new eyes is refreshing, and to me, surprising. Color, for instance, now presents to me a richer array of nuance and meaning. Shapes, planes, shadows, all have Euclidean vibrancy to which I had previously been blind,” he said.[ii]

Before turning to art, Aldrich graduated from the Harvard Business School in Boston, served in the Peace Corps, and co-founded Aldrich, Eastman & Waltch, the firm that financed the purchase of the Sears Tower in Chicago, at the time the tallest building in the world.[iii] Aldrich lives and works in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

[i] Megan Woolhouse, “Pursuing passions,” the Boston Globe, February 27, 2011, http://archive.boston.com/business/articles/2011/02/27/pursuit_of_fulfilling_activities_never_gets_old/.

[ii] Peter Aldrich, email to the author, March 30, 2022.

[iii] Megan Woolhouse. “Pursuing passions,” the Boston Globe, February 27, 2011,  http://archive.boston.com/business/articles/2011/02/27/pursuit_of_fulfilling_activities_never_gets_old/.

Heidi Baxter

Heidi Baxter’s paintings depict shorelines and farmland in Rhode Island and the southern coast of Brittany, France. Both places serve as starting points for color, edge, and structure—“a balanced tension and a distillation of the abstract and eternal from the concrete and specific.” Her works express an array of emotions, from exhilaration to calm. “My mind was on color and structure [while painting Farm By Sea],” Baxter said. “When I finished, I saw ideas of stability and growth floating around with the smell of salt air.”[i]

Baxter has resided in New England for over twenty-five years and travels to her studio and farmhouse in France for artistic inspiration. A member of the Providence Art Club, she regularly shows her work at her gallery and studio in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Other local exhibitions include the Maxwell Mays Gallery, Providence, and Gallery at Four, Tiverton, both in Rhode Island.

[i] Heidi Baxter, email to author, March 28, 2022.

William Kendall

Abstract painter William Kendall finds beauty and inspiration in his surroundings.[i] He combines materials and techniques, including layering pigment with impasto, scumbles, and glazes—rich textures that dominate the composition. “I think in terms of abstraction; the subject of my paintings is the paint itself. I am totally involved in what can be done on the canvas through the manipulation of the paint…The edges are my vocabulary; much like Jazz, Improvisation is my language. I try to keep pushing the paint—to make things happen in spontaneous ways. I use combinations I’ve never used before. Each time I begin a painting, I am curious myself, to see what will happen—and it is always a surprise,” Kendall says.[ii]

Kendall earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, along with Master of Science and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a professor emeritus at Bridgewater State University, Massachusetts, where he taught painting for over thirty years. The artist lives and works in Westport, Massachusetts.

[i] “About,” William Kendall, accessed July 12, 2022, https://www.williamkendallpaintings.com/about.

[ii] William Kendall, email to the author, June 17, 2022.

Mary Kocol

Aspects of travel, the ocean, and floral gardens inform Mary Kocol’s photography practice. To depict her radiant images as permanent art objects, she first collects flowers from family and loved ones, freezes them in ice, and photographs them in sunlight, shimmering and fixed in time.[i] According to Kocol, “While the water freezes, the plants inside drift and float before stopping in place. I do not know what the final result will look like until the sculpture is held up to sunlight. Then unexpected details are revealed, often accompanied by the scent of the flowers, roses especially, permeating through the ice block.”[ii]

A native of New England, Kocol graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography from the University of Connecticut, Mansfield, and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. She received a Guggenheim photography fellowship and has been featured in Aperture, the New York Times, and DoubleTake magazine. Her work is housed in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

[i] Mary Kocol, email to the author, June 17, 2022.

[ii] Mary Kocol.


Painted by a celebrated Cantonese artist known to foreigners as Lamqua, this pair of paintings shows two views of the waterfront in Guangzhou, China. The first, painted from the upper end of the foreign factory site, is centered on the flag in front of the American hong, or factory. The British and Dutch factories are in the foreground of the latter painting, looking upriver to the American factory in the distance.

A tour of Lamqua’s studio on New China Street, around the corner from the foreign factories, was a popular pastime for foreign merchants living in Guangzhou. In 1844, American merchant Osmond Tiffany, Jr. visited, noting that “the prince of Canton limners … is celebrated throughout China, and is indeed an excellent painter.”[i] Likely descended from a lineage of Chinese painters, Lamqua was unquestionably the leading artist in the port city, but he was far from alone; by some accounts, up to thirty studios – each with a cadre of staff – were practicing in the environs of the foreign factories in Guangzhou during the mid-nineteenth century.

Text credit: Karina H. Corrigan, Associate Director — Collections, and H.A. Crosby Forbes, Curator of Asian Export Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

[i] Osmond Tiffany, Jr., The Canton Chinese of the American’s Sojourn in the Celestial Empire (Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe and Company, 1849), page 85.

Unknown Artist

In 1784, American merchants participated for the first time in the highly regulated system of trade that had been established in China at the port city of Guangzhou nearly thirty years prior. Like the European traders who had preceded them, Americans saw little of China beyond the narrow stretch of land along the Pearl River where they lived and worked.

Beginning in the eighteenth century, artists in Guangzhou adopted Western painting styles and mediums to appeal to visiting merchants. Their paintings, part of a robust and long-standing artistic tradition, are aesthetic and cultural hybrids that reflect Guangzhou’s role as a global center for trade. Initially working in opaque watercolor and reverse painting on glass, these trade painters added oil on canvas—a distinctly European medium—to their repertoire in the 1780s.

Not surprisingly, the subject most frequently tackled by these painters was Canton (Guangzhou) itself; a view of this familiar sight was precisely what many foreign merchants sought as souvenirs of their time in China. This view of Guangzhou was likely executed between 1815 and 1820 based on changes to the Western-style facades of the foreign factories, or hongs, and the arrangement of the flags for Denmark, the Spanish Philippines, the United States, Sweden, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. A variety of Chinese vessels lie anchored in the Pearl River in front of the hongs, including a pair of brightly painted junks in the foreground.

Text credit:  Karina H. Corrigan, Associate Director — Collections, and H.A. Crosby Forbes, Curator of Asian Export Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

(For reference: https://www.pem.org/about-pem/curators/karina-h-corrigan-the-h-a-crosby-forbes-curator-of-asian-export-art#:~:text=She%20serves%20as%20PEM’s%20Associate,for%20export%20to%20other%20cultures.)

Courtney Mattison

Sculptor and activist Courtney Mattison’s site-specific installations and large-scale ceramic works highlight the beauty of marine life and nature amidst climate change and increased human activity. Mattison makes a concerted effort to “reduce waste and water consumption, purchase bulk and local materials, and only fire full kilns.”[i] Encrusted in stoneware and porcelain to imitate bleached white corals and anemones, the freestanding pillar Specter is made from a beetle-kill pine log from the Rocky Mountains, stained and faded like a dock piling.[ii] By exploring environmental impacts on the land and sea, Mattison urges policymakers and corporations to eliminate human-made threats to nature: “as climate change warms the seas and terrestrial ecosystems of our planet, some species adapt while many others face extinction. Corals and anemones stricken by high water temperatures bleach white. Pine forests wither from drought and onslaughts of bark beetles.”[iii]

Mattison received her Bachelor of Arts degree in marine ecology and ceramic sculpture from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Arts degree in environmental studies from Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. She collaborates with nonprofit organization Mission Blue to raise awareness and protect marine life around the world.[iv] Her works have been exhibited at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the United States Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

[i] “About,” Courtney Mattison, accessed June 2, 2022, https://courtneymattison.com/about.

[ii] Courtney Mattison, email to the author, June 22, 2022.

[iii] Courtney Mattison, email to the author, June 27, 2022.

[iv] “About,” Courtney Mattison, accessed June 2, 2022, https://courtneymattison.com/about.

Debra Lee Valeri

(For reference: https://art.state.gov/personnel/debra_valeri/)

Debra Lee Valeri’s impressionistic and atmospheric paintings feature coastal and rural landscapes near southeast Massachusetts. As part of her artistic process, Valeri revisits the places she paints during certain lighting conditions. Her intimate, meditative compositions lack human presence, encouraging the viewer to experience and appreciate the spaces as his or her own. A quintessential New England autumn scene along the Westport River, November Reflections portrays a “quiet stillness of the river just before sundown through a softer, more muted palette than is typically associated with autumn.” Seafoam depicts a late-day seaside view, conjuring “nostalgic memories of peaceful, summer evening walks along the shore.”[i]

Raised in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Valeri currently lives and works in Westport. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Valeri is a member of the Guild of Boston Artists and the Westport Art Group, and her work has been exhibited at the Attleboro Arts Museum, Massachusetts; the National Arts Club, New York; and the Cape Cod Art Association, Barnstable, Massachusetts.


Washington, D.C.

Claire D’Alba, Curator

Morgan Fox, Curatorial Assistant

Danielle Giampietro, Registrar

Tabitha Brackens, Managing Editor

Megan Pannone, Editor

Tori See, Editor

Amanda Brooks, Imaging Manager and Photographer

[i] Debra Lee Valeri, email to the author, March 28, 2022.

Emily Mason 

Nature, light, and color are the driving forces behind abstract expressionist Emily Mason’s vibrant paintings. Although her earlier works were smaller in scale with gestural abstractions in pure color, Mason’s style evolved into “delicate veils and washes of color that [depend] on complex effects of transparency and opacity, of layering, dripping, and bleeding thinned oil paints, to produce dynamic contrasts of color and texture.”[i] Large-scale paintings like Upon a Jib and Semaphore are ambitious and intense, with an attitude of “just let the paint do it” — to allow the paint to drip along the canvas using gravitational force.[ii] “It’s a process of letting a painting talk to you. I want a painting to take me to a place I’ve never been,” Mason said.[iii]

Mason was the wife of German American color field painter Wolf Kahn and the daughter of Alice Trumbull Mason, one of the first American artists to embrace non-objective abstraction and founding member of the American Abstract Artists Group.[iv] She graduated from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York, then enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice, Italy, on a Fulbright grant. Her work is housed in the permanent collections of the University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque; the Bennington Museum of Art, Vermont; and the National Academy of Design, New York.

[i] Robert Wolterstorff, Gesture Into Color: Early Works on Paper by Emily Mason, page 64.

[ii] Andrea Gyorody, “Landscapes, Seascapes, Fire Escapes,” Emily Mason: Chelsea Paintings: 1978-1997,  Miles McEnery Gallery, page 6.

[iii] Emily Mason Foundation | Alice Trumbull Mason Foundation, email to the author, July 25, 2022.

[iv] Robert Wolterstorff, Gesture Into Color: Early Works on Paper by Emily Mason, page 63.

Dora Atwater Millikin

Influenced by early American modernism, Dora Atwater Millikin paints the world precisely as she sees it, specifically New England’s coastal scenes, historic towns, and fishing industry. Using flat patterns and juxtaposing solid color planes, Millikin creates movement on and across her works, interlocking “image with paint so that paint becomes the image and vice versa…I enjoy rendering potentially unpicturesque motifs and everyday objects and scenes in my life. I wish to present my world as it looks today without the nostalgia and sentimentality attached to past times…I am always searching for ways to deliver the unexpected to my viewer,” she says.[i]

Millikin graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting, drawing, and art history from Newcomb College, now Newcomb-Tulane College of Tulane University, New Orleans, as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, Old Lyme, Connecticut. She is a member and instructor at the Providence Art Club, and her paintings have been shown at the Salmagundi Club, New York, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Massachusetts.

[i] Dora Atwater Millikin, email to the author, June 17, 2022.