Beverly Fishman makes powerful abstract sculptures, reliefs, paintings, and collages. Her wall works of shaped canvases have as their major theme the abuse of prescription drugs. She transforms the iconography of the pharmaceutical industry into hard-edge relief paintings.
Fishman received her B.F.A. in 1977 from the Philadelphia College of Art and her M.F.A. in 1980 from Yale University, studying under artists Judy Pfaff and Elizabeth Murray. An educator, she was an associate Professor at the Graduate Art School, College of New Rochelle in New York and an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Her sister Judy died of a drug overdose in December of 2018.
Fishman’s art deals with a dark subject matter that is hidden behind attractive appearances. She uses materials and shapes to resemble the simple icons that are used by drug companies in their brand identities. Her works – often candy-colored and beautifully seductive – give an ominous view of the pharmaceutical industry.
Since 2012, Fishman has been making ongoing series of shaped wooden canvases or works on paper that resemble pills or the logos of drug companies. She spray paints canvases with urethane, the same finish used for automobiles, to give her works a similarly glossy finish. “All the shapes of my wall reliefs with urethane paint are appropriated from actual pills that I have found images of online, and the cuts in their surfaces correspond to the score marks that allow these drugs to be divided into smaller doses.”
She uses strong, unshadowed colors, slick textures with bright contrasts, and smooth geometric forms to fool the eye of the viewer with works that give off a calm demeanor. She completes the edges of her works with fluorescent paint whose bright colors leave a glow on gallery walls.
Her paintings and collages are large, which give her work presence, unity, and complexity. She identifies her wood or paper collages with the name, “Untitled.” However, the subtitles under the “Untitled” reveal her subversive intent. Such subtitles – grim or darkly humorous – range from “Untitled (Opioid Addiction, ADHD, Depression, Depression)” to “Untitled (Anxiety).” Addiction and the opioid crisis forced Purdue Pharma to plead guilty to misleading the public about its pain relief drug, OxyContin, the drug that has fueled addiction and led to thousands of deaths.
Fishman has been the recipient of awards and residencies at the Toledo Museum of Art, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, NEA Fellowship Grant, and others. She has participated in dozens of group and solo exhibitions in the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, and Turkey. She has been a lecturer at universities and museums throughout the United States for more than twenty years.
Fishman’s work is in the public collections of Borusan Contemporary in Istanbul, Toledo Museum of Art, Perez Art Museum Miami, MacArthur Foundation Collection in Chicago, Detroit Institute of Arts, Columbus Museum of Art, and others.