Helena Wurzel is an award-winning painter who lives and works in Cambridge, MA. She is also an educator, wife, and mother.
In 2011 she started working with the online startup 20x200.com, which sells high quality archival prints of her work. It was through this venue that a design director at Kate Spade saw her painting “My Butt” and asked Helena to paint an ad campaign for the promotion of their new Saturday line. Helena worked with the company from their launch in 2012 until they closed in 2015. Jonathan Adler saw Wurzel’s work in a Saturday store and displayed her paintings in his retail stores in Los Angeles, Miami, and online from 2015-2018. She was also awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in 2010 and 2016.
While her “butt portraits” are featured here, the larger theme of her work is women “in singular moments of self-reflection and celebration.” Of her work she says, “I make paintings of women. Whether capturing a glance, the way we look at ourselves, or an irreverent bootie shot, my work is tied to the reality and imagination inherent in the feminine realm.”
Wurzel now teaches high school drawing and painting at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols Upper School in Cambridge. She loves walking to work, painting in her studio all summer, and hanging out with her husband Dan, son Max, and daughter Maya.
“I view these butts as a form of portraiture. The thread throughout my entire body of work has been a portrayal of gender, female sexuality, and appearance. The way we look at ourselves, the way we look at each other, and what we wear have all played a role in my subject matter. The butts bring an element of humor into the pieces. Also, butts never go out of style.”
“I pay attention to the weather and the changing light throughout the day; this impacts my color choices and the fleeting moment or psychological narrative that I am trying to capture.”
“My style tends to be bold and graphic.”
“Formal elements such as color, light, and tightly cropped spaces help create specific moods.”
“I often paint summery beach scenes as a way of adding reflections, texture, or pattern.”
“Fashion photography has always been an influence and I love to include sunglasses, jewelry, and bathing suits.”
“I hope to unlock something extraordinary in everyday scenes--an idealized version of real life.”
“I think the body, particularly the female body is an inherently beautiful thing and beauty is something I want in my work.”