Parliament of Owls Artist Statement

November 25th, 2014

The Night is Like a Lovely Tune Acrylic on panel 32 x 20″ By Rosemary G. Conroy © 2014

Back in grad school, I took an internship solely because I would get to work with a great-horned owl every day. His name was Beckett, and he had been the star of the small nature center for many years. He was blind in one eye, and very imposing, but he captured my heart and mind. Beckett was the first wild animal I had ever locked eye(s) with, and it affected me profoundly. After the internship over, I decided environmental education wasn’t really my thing, but owls? Owls would always be my thing.

Since becoming an artist, I’ve painted many portraits of these nocturnal predators, most of them with Beckett and his successor, Powell the (Barred) Owl, in mind. There’s something so moving about knowing a wild creature — about being allowed to enter, even briefly, into their world. Anyone who has bonded with a cat or dog knows what I mean — animals just operate on a different, perhaps more authentic, plane than humans. And wild birds and mammals — well, that’s a further galaxy altogether. Yet I feel so comfortable and at home around these creatures in way that I don’t always with my own species.

Most of the owls I base my paintings on are from my local wildlife rehabilitation center. These barred, barn, snowy, screech, and great-horned owls end up in there because they have been injured — typically by encounters with cars and other human structures. And while some are rescued, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild, many are not. Their injuries mean they wouldn’t survive and so they become caged ambassadors for their kind. While its regrettable, they also get to educate hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors about the owls that live around them.

So this show is part of my on-going tribute to these owls. I set some of them in flight because they seem truer that way. And others are portraits so my viewers may get a tiny glimpse of what’s it’s like to lock eyes with these fierce, feathered, and fabulous beings.

As I was working on the show, I discovered that a gathering of owls is called a “parliament.” The titles for the smaller paintings come from my imagining what kind of governing body owls might set up for themselves!

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.


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