Waltham artist Suzanne Hodes is probably best known for her political themes.
A lifelong activist, Hodes was a cofounder of Artists for Survival, a group that educated the public about the dangers of nuclear arms for 15 years. Her well-known pieces include depictions of the Kennedy and King assassinations in her “American Ritual” series, the threat of nuclear war — in her drawing “Hiroshima Mother” and her “Three Minutes to Midnight” lithographs — and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in “Shattered City With Arches.”
But in her current show she tells a story that is distinctly personal. In “Family Matters: Three Generations of Women,” Hodes displays paintings, drawings, and prints of her grandmother, who immigrated to New York from Lithuania in 1904; her mother, who lived most of her life in New York City and died about 20 years ago; and herself.
“Family Matters” opens Thursday at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, with an artist’s reception from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibition will run through Sept. 25 in the center’s Kniznick Gallery, in the Epstein Building on the Brandeis campus, 515 South St. in Waltham.
“I was drawing and painting my mother throughout the last 18 years of her life, starting in about 1977,” Hodes said. “Much earlier, I had done etchings and drawings of my grandmother. And throughout the course of my career, I’ve created self-portraits every eight years or so. At some point in the past year, I just began to think of the various portrayals of my mother, my grandmother, and myself as one common theme. I realized it could make a really interesting exhibition.”
The show’s title is more than just word play, Hodes emphasized. She is interested in family matters as a noun but also as a declarative statement.
“ ‘Matters’ as in ‘is important,’ ” she said. “This exhibit is personal in so many ways. The images I’ve depicted come from a combination of observations, studies, sketches, and even photos. And some of it is from memory, with a lot of love mixed in. I believe that the emotional information or feeling that a viewer takes from a portrait is a really important form of artistic expression. In showing my mother, my grandmother, and myself, I wanted to reflect what they looked like but also their spirit, their connection to the world around them. Some of these works of art show metamorphoses; others have just the suggestion of time passing. And some have shadowy figures in the background.”
One of Hodes’ favorite images in the exhibition shows her mother in her New York City apartment at dusk.
“I did this one over a long period of time,” Hodes said. “I started it in 1990 when my mother was still alive, and then came back to it after she had passed away. It is not only a portrait but also a city landscape in the background. You can even see other people in their apartments.”
Hodes was also a cofounder of the Waltham Mills Artists community, which occupies two reclaimed textile factories downtown where she has kept a studio for more than 30 years.
In conjunction with “Family Matters,” the Brandeis gallery has scheduled a slide talk titled “Art and Activism” for 1 p.m. Sept. 18, and a panel discussion on expressive portraiture at a date to be announced. It is also exhibiting artwork and archival materials from Hodes’ decades as a social activist.
For more information on the exhibition and related events, call 781-736-8102 or go to www.brandeis.edu/wsrc.
“FACES” REVEALED: Another exploration of portraiture takes place for the next two months in the Groton Public Library’s Owen Smith Shuman Gallery.
“Faces” is an exhibition of portraits that more than a dozen artists have kept tucked away in their studios. Their work will be on display through Aug. 30, with an artists’ reception on July 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
“The artists in ‘Faces’ use the human face as a starting point for expressions that are both personal and charged with meaning,” said curator Deborah Santoro. Media used by the various artists include photography, ceramics, painting, and junk metal sculpture, as well as video art by University of Massachusetts Lowell professor Ellen Wetmore.
The Groton Public Library is at 99 Main St. For hours or more information, call 978-448-1167 or go to www.gpl.org.
WEDDING MUSICAL: Concord Youth Theatre’s Young Adult Company, featuring high school and college-age performers, presents four performances of “The Wedding Singer” next week at the Middlesex School, 1400 Lowell Road in Concord.
The Broadway musical, based on the film of the same name and recommended for ages 8 and up, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. June 26-29. Tickets are $15; for tickets or more information, call 978-371-1482 or go to www.concordyouththeatre.org.
AMERICAN ORIGINAL: Chris Smither, with more than 40 years of experience as a performer drawing on American blues and folk music, takes the stage Friday at 8 p.m. at the Center for Arts in Natick, 14 Summer St.
He is celebrating the release of “Hundred Dollar Valentine,” his 12th studio record and his first to feature all self-penned, original songs. Admission is $30, or $25 for TCAN members. For more information, call 508-647-0097 or go to www.natickarts.org.
SERIES FINALE: “A World of Music,” Middlesex Community College’s spring concert series, concludes with “Chamber Music for Piano & Strings,” featuring faculty members Carmen Rodríguez-Peralta on piano and Mark Berger playing viola, along with violinist John Holland and cellist Renée Delgado, at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Building 6 concert hall on the college’s campus at 591 Springs Road in Bedford.
The concert will feature the Piano Quartet in E-flat major by Robert Schumann, as well as short duos and trios by Bach, Brahms and Martinu. Highlights include a duet by Delgado, an Arlington High graduate, and Rodríguez-Peralta, her mother and the chairwoman of the college’s music department.
Admission is free; donations for Strings for Cambodia will be accepted. For more information, call 781-280-3923 or go to www.middlesex.mass.edu.
LOCAL TALENT: The Concord Art Association presents “Looking Back Looking Forward: The Sculpture of Michio Ihara,” on display through Aug. 14, with an opening reception Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 37 Lexington Road in Concord.
The exhibition celebrates the career of the Concord resident, a self-described architectural sculptor whose work appears in New York, Japan, Boston, Dubai, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.
The show includes pieces by Ihara from the 1950s through the present, with several sculptures installed in the Concord Art Association’s gardens, as well as images of larger pieces and a map showing their location throughout the world.
For gallery hours and more information, go to www.concordart.org.
RIVERFEST RETURNS: Concord-based Musketaquid Arts and Environment and OARS, a regional nonprofit that focuses on protecting the Assabet, Concord, and Sudbury rivers, are hosting a weekend outdoor festival that begins with a celebration of the summer solstice from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Old Manse, 69 Monument Street in Concord.
The gathering, which will include an 8 p.m. candlelight processional by boat heading up the Concord River to the confluence of the Assabet and Sudbury at Egg Rock, marks the start of the annual Riverfest celebration in nearly a dozen area communities between Hopkinton and Lowell.
The festivities continue Saturday and Sunday, with events including a river sculpture-making activity Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Old Calf Pasture on Lowell Road in Concord, boat tours, music, and dozens of other activities. For more details, go to www.sudbury-assabet-concord.org/ riverfest.