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Steady Work – Curator’s Statement



It’s no secret that over the last 30 years, computers have replaced many handmade techniques. They’ve cut down production time and subsequent costs so it’s clear why this change has been adopted so readily. But when it comes to one of the most tried and true handmade traditions—sign painting—digitally produced signs will never capture the artist’s hand, the laborious technique, and the simple beauty of a hand painted line. Contemporary sign painting is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, but the artists who approach this as a profession still must compete with the low cost, fast-paced methods available to customers. It’s the deep appreciation for the tradition, the craft and the skill involved in this practice that I seek to highlight in this fall’s group exhibition, Steady Work.

In Will Sears’ murals and salvaged and assembled wood “signs” that take the shape of an antique barrel ring, we see the artist as a humble observer. His appreciation for the communication of the past is apparent throughout the work he creates for his business, Better Letter Hand Painted Signs, and also in his studio practice.

Josh Luke and Kenji Nakayama of Best Dressed Signs in Boston, have mastered the large-scale mural, as well as the tradition of gilding and many other respected techniques. Out of their studio, we see unique approaches to signage; Josh’s experience working at New Bohemia Signs in San Francisco has clearly influenced his style, with clean, bold lines and colors that pop. Kenji creates beautiful lettering on antique saws and works on a project called Signs for the Homeless, replacing homeless individuals’ cardboard signs with colorful, hand-painted upgrades.


Jimmy “Spike” Birmingham taught painting at Butera School of Art, a sign painting school in Boston, for 16 years. He is a master of the pinstripe technique and has created several pinstriped glass pieces for this exhibit.

Pat Corrigan’s approach to sign painting comes first from his studio practice. His paintings can be seen all over Portland, in restaurants, museums and business signage.


Better Letter Hand Painted Signs

Best Dressed Signs 

More info on Steady Work: New England Art Show Mania! 


—Jenny Dougherty


Funding for this exhibition is made possible from support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. 

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