Never Can Say Goodbye (Artist Statement)

August 5th, 2017

My tribute, homage and valediction to the wild ones

nevercansaygoodbye3

On exhibit from August 18 through September 17, 2017 at the NHIA’s Sharon Arts Gallery in Peterborough, NH.

I keep thinking that all our problems

Soon are gonna work out

But there’s that same unhappy feeling

There’s that anguish, there’s that doubt

It’s the same old dizzy hangup

Can’t do with you or without

Tell me why is it so?

Don’t wanna let you go!

From “Never Can Say Goodbye” written by Clifton Davis

Growing up in a Sicilian-American household, I learned that respect is one of the most important things in life. (It sounds like a bad “Sopranos” cliché, but it’s true.) Whether it’s self-respect or the respect you get from others — without this essential ingredient, your life will be diminished.

Being also raised Catholic and having attended 12 years of parochial school, I developed a deep capacity for reverence, as well. I was taught to revere things that I later came to question and doubt.

But the reflex of reverence runs deep in my psyche. When I discovered the wonder and beauty of the natural world, I immediately recognized that this, this magnificence was truly worthy of reverence.

And therefore, worthy of the utmost respect, too.

It confounds, of course, me that not everyone feels the same way.

From what I can observe, our culture overall seems to have little regard (and consequently little respect) for the natural world.

And now we cannot deny that our world is changing. And I’m pretty sure there’s a connection there. No respect = no consideration.

I often struggle in keeping my despair at bay when I learn about what is happening to the elephants and tigers and polar bears etc. I am constantly seeking a way to “just be” with these facts.

“Change is the only constant” I once learned in my Intro to Ecology class. And resistance to change is ultimately futile, I’ve learned from living a life. Everything changes. You can’t prevent it.

So when I read that the artist Frida Kahlo once wrote, “I paint flowers so they will not die,” it struck a chord deep within me. Is that what I am doing? Painting animals so they will not die?

Is this perhaps one way to deal with the seeming inevitability of extinction? Can one transcend it – even a tiny bit – via art?

So with that possibility in mind, I offer you these portraits of some of the creatures that I respect and revere most deeply.

I painted them so they will live forever.

Putting Myself Out There

October 8th, 2015
I love doing my open studio -- it takes a lot of energy, of course!

I love doing my open studio — it takes a lot of energy, of course! But it brings me so much too.

It’s amazing that it’s already time for my NINTH annual open studio! How crazy is that?

It’s so much fun to invite people in and show them everything I’ve been doing. I love seeing folks that I don’t get to see that often and meet new ones too.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. But I think it’s totally worth it. And kind of necessary. Yes, I believe in what I’m doing — but I also need people’s feedback. Do they get it? Do they understand what I am trying to say? Being an artist means spending a lot of time alone with your work and yourself. My open studio is often a big reality-check.

Luckily — and this is probably because those who show up wouldn’t if they weren’t already predisposed to like my art — so far it’s always turned out great! I’ve realized over the years how much I feed on the energy of all the folks who come out. It is so so gratifying to hear that people do get what I am doing, that they often LOVE it, and many times — that they want to take it home! (After all, this is my business — I need to pay for all that paint…)

And since I consider every painting a part of me, of my soul, when someone says they love the work, I feel the love too. It’s a lovely thing to feel. Who doesn’t love being loved? We are after all still children at heart I think. I know I am!

I want to use my work to speak for the animals, to celebrate nature, and ultimately to bring more beauty into the world. I think these things are really, really necessary. This is my calling. So yeah, the positive reinforcement goes a long, long ways on those days when I forget, or get lost, or wonder if it’s worth doing.

So thank you so much for all the kindness and love. Just so you know — it makes a difference.

Spirit Animals

July 7th, 2015

spiritanimalspromo-smSo I have been working feverishly on my latest show which is now hanging in the Kimball Jenkins Estate in Concord for the summer. The opening is Thursday, July 16th from 5 to 7 pm — if you are nearby, please come. I think this show has some of the best work I have ever done in it! Here’s my artist statement for the show.

Rosemary G. Conroy / Artist Statement for “Spirit Animals” Exhibit

The title of this show, “Spirit Animals” is a play on the concept of inspiration and dedication. It dawned on me recently that my artwork is a form of a prayer for the creatures that I paint: a sincere offering of thanks for the inspiration and joy they give me; a humble invocation of their beauty and wildness; and perhaps, most of all, an ardent plea that they continue to exist in this world.

This sounds vaguely religious, yet I don’t really adhere to any particular faith. This probably disappointed my parents, especially after they sent me to twelve years of Catholic school! But I am a deeply spiritual person. It’s just that my most sacred moments happen in the fields and forests and the birds, insects and mammals I find there are the most divine thing in my life.

Coincidentally (or is it?), I also spent twelve years working in the environmental field before becoming a full-time artist. It was another kind of religious upbringing: There was a strong community — I loved being part of a group of devoted people. We had dogma: ours was dedicated to making the world a better place. It felt righteous — how could it not — we were working to save the planet! And it required a kind of faith to believe that we could. But there were also dark nights of the soul. Often it seemed we were losing more ground than we were gaining (still does, I must admit.) These realizations lead to despair. The antidote? To go out and be in the natural world and get lost in it’s beauty and immersed in its wonder. (Of course.)

Now I am a monk it seems, having retreated to my studio where I devote myself to nature — but in a new way. I’m twelve years into being a professional artist and this is what my work is: A fervent prayer to anyone who might listen to consider, in every sense of the word, the wild ones.

Many of the pieces in this show are literally embedded with my incantations, my prayers, my wishes (which may sometimes look like scrawls but really are words), for these blessed creatures to survive — and thrive — alongside us.

Best Two Weeks of the Year

May 4th, 2015
One of the sweetest sounds of spring are the toads trilling at night.

One of the sweetest sounds of spring are the toads trilling at night.

I admit it, I have been distracted.

I consider myself not only an artist, but a naturalist as well. And for people like me, who pay attention to birds and plants and bugs and seasons, this has to be the best two weeks of the year. Here in New Hampshire where I live, it’s that sweet spot when songbirds are arriving and the trees are flowering but not totally leafed out and there are wildflowers and frogs and new things popping up every minute! AND the black flies aren’t quite biting yet.

This morning, just sitting in my house I could hear three new spring warblers announcing that they were back — which fills me with intense joy. They are like old friends who you haven’t seen in a long time and didn’t realize how much you missed until they are right in front of you.

Nature is my touchstone when life brings you bad news or things aren’t going well in the studio or you have just those everyday moments of doubt. There’s such comfort in the reliability of each season coming and going. A tom turkey gobbling in the lower field reminds me that life goes on and this too shall pass. And that green of new leaves and fresh grass — so new, so full of life and promise — refreshes my soul once again.

My cup runneth over with spring.

My brain is in a deep freeze

February 16th, 2015
We have at least three feet of snow on the ground and haven't seen a daytime temperature over 15 degrees F in weeks. Two more storms predicted for this week...

We have at least three feet of snow on the ground and haven’t seen a daytime temperature over 15 degrees F in weeks. Two more storms predicted for this week. We got another foot after this photo was taken…

It just keeps snowing and when it isn’t snowing, it’s wicked cold. And the sun only shows up for a day at a time and then it’s gray again. Sigh. I am trying to stay focused on painting (polar bears seem appropriate) and while I promised I would blog every week, I got nothing.

OK here’s a poem by Mary Oliver that I really like that sums up really well why I paint.

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every Day
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

A good reminder at this time of year…

January 27th, 2015
10x10screechowlofjoy

The Kingdom of Joy sounds like the place for me…

 

If you are seeking, seek us with joy

For we live in the kingdom of joy.

Do not give your heart to anything else

But to the love of those who are clear joy,

Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair.

For there are hopes: they are real, they exist –

Do not go in the direction of darkness –

I tell you: suns exist.

— Rumi

And the Dreams You Dare to Dream Really Do Come True…

January 13th, 2015

Birds have led me onto strange and wonderful new directions in my life...

Birds have led me onto strange and wonderful new directions in my life…

Twenty-five years ago, a bird cast a powerful spell upon me.

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and until the day of my complete and utter enchantment, I didn’t think there was much in the world beyond house sparrows, pigeons, and sea gulls. Not a bad metaphor for my life at the time — which was also often drab, noisy and monotonous. But through some amazing serendipity, I stumbled upon a group of bird-watchers in Prospect Park. Before that fateful day, I had never been there before — and I’m still not sure why I went. But the trip leader saw me looking at their odd little group (I had never seen bird-watchers before either) and asked me if I wanted “to see something really special.”

Now, most New Yorkers (especially young female ones) quickly learn that when a stranger poses such a question, the results are rarely pleasant. But I took a chance. And this “really special thing” turned out to be a rose-breasted grosbeak — a magenta-splashed songbird that simply stunned me with its colorful, delicate presence in such a gritty place. It was like Dorothy arriving in Oz when everything turns from black and white to technicolor. A spell was cast. I would never see the world the same way again.

Read the rest of this entry »

My White Album Artist Statement

November 18th, 2014

The Sun is Up, the Sky is Blue By Rosemary G. Conroy

I called this show my “White Album” because it features all-white animals that I have encountered on my travels over recent years to places like the Camargue Region in the south of France; Cape May, New Jersey; and most recently, the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill Manitoba. And a few closer to home too!

It was sort of an experiment to see if I could push all-white subjects to be colorful and still read as white. When I was contemplating the challenge, the name “White Album” came to mind. The Beatles were probably the first artists I had ever known. My older brothers and cousins handed down their records to me that I absorbed through endless listening sessions. I remember my first encounter with their iconic double album that came to be known as the “White Album.” It was so different, so sleek, so strange. And the music was a real departure as well!

If you remember that album, it had four glossy 8 x 10″ photographs inside of John, Paul, George & Ringo. As a gift to my oldest cousin Michael, (whom I idolized and who was the coolest person I knew,) I copied each one of those photos in pencil. He ended up framing them. My first collector! That was one of my earliest steps along this long and winding path to me becoming an artist.

So here I am, all these years later — still doing portraits, but as this exhibit will show, instead of rock stars I now paint the coolest animals I know!

So in homage to cousin Michael and John, Paul, George & Ringo, all of the titles of my paintings in this show will be from titles and lyrics of that iconic Beatles album. I hope they bring you joy and perhaps, a song in your heart!

About my style:

Artists often use the classic “portrait” style to show what a particular person looks like and perhaps, to offer a glimpse of their subject’s personality. Using my own twist on this idea, I present these depictions of the wild creatures that inhabit our world. Often interpreted in popular culture as aggressive or “extreme,” my paintings offer a different perspective on wildlife. After studying birds, mammals, and other wild things for many years and spending countless hours observing them, I have come to see most animals as simply beings that are trying to make their way in the world much like we are. So these aren’t just portraits of “a” bear or “a” bobcat, but are in fact “this” bear and “this” bobcat. Indeed, I have met almost every one of the individual animals exhibited here today. And I find my wild subjects quite worthy of consideration, contemplation, and of course, appreciation.

In fact, my passion for these wild animals sometimes takes my paintings close to edge of abstraction. I love playing with the juxtaposition of the real and unreal and testing how far I can take something before it is no longer recognizable. However, I always try to anchor this whirling dance of color and texture with an easily understood and accessible feature — the eye.

Looking — using our eyes — is the beginning of how we connect with the world and each other. By focusing on this feature in my paintings, I hope to offer the viewer some insight (metaphorically speaking) to all that we share with our wild neighbors. I believe that forming these connection deeply is an essential part of what makes us human, and ultimately, humane.

 

Conversations with myself

May 30th, 2014

What was I thinking? Three back to back shows in 2014??? Am I crazy?

I know, right?! And you wanted to paint all new paintings on top of that! Plus for the biggest show, you decided to “challenge” yourself by painting all white animals… No wonder you’re starting to lose it!

You can do it! One show down, two to go. The first one was a big hit, the other two will be as well. Believe it can be done!

OK — nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Deadlines are motivating, right? No pain, no gain, right?!?!?!

 

I Hope You Love Birds Too

March 21st, 2014

A recent painting by Rosemary G. Conroy

“I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.” — Emily Dickinson

I found the above quote while I was looking for inspiration for titles for a set of new paintings I had just completed. It was perfect! Thank you, Emily Dickinson, because I do love birds too.

I started this new painting series with the idea of birds as my local deities, as my personal heroes — because, well, they are. These fragile little beings find their way, live their lives against the backdrop of this complicated world we humans have created — and it blows my mind. How come they are never discouraged by the destruction of habitat, by the endless pollution, by the crazy ways the global climate is changing? Yes, they don’t have the same brains or perceptions that we do perhaps — but still. They must notice, they must feel, and yet they persist. They sing anyway and make nests out of trash and keep trying to live their lives no matter what obstacles are placed in their path.

Yep. Birds give me hope. They give me joy with their songs and their beauty and just their being. I try to give back a little by painting their portraits. By honoring them with my artwork and exhibiting it in the world so others might understand how so very precious these creatures (all creatures really) are. I keep thinking of moving onto other subjects but I can’t. My work is not done yet apparently.

Birds have become like a religion for me. In fact, I don’t think I could live in a world without birds anymore. Anytime I go someplace new or strange, I scan for birds — even just a gull or a pigeon. If they can make it here, then I know I’ll be OK too. When I am someplace with lots of birds, I feel completely relaxed and comfortable. When my mother died, I asked her — in that time when a loved one’s energy is still close by even though they are physically gone — to send me red-tailed hawks so I know she is still with me somehow. I feel great comfort when I spy one as I’m traveling or one shows up unexpectedly in my backyard.

So you’re right Emily, it does save going to heaven. In so many ways…

 

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