Love At First Sight/ Artist Statement

September 5th, 2019

This is the artist statement for my current show, which is about some of the wild beings I have fallen in love with and have had a positive impact on my life…

Artist Statement by Rosemary Conroy

Love at First Sight

September 6 through October 2, 2019 / AVA Gallery, Lebanon NH

“Knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.”

— Sy Montgomery in How to Be A Good Creature

My life has been punctuated by a series of serendipitous encounters. Meeting my partner of 30 years — ridiculously serendipitous. Having the now famous author Sy Montgomery, (quoted above) as my journalism professor in grad school? What else could it have been? Getting to meet and look almost every one of the wild animals portrayed here in this show in the eye? Divinely so!

Each time my life has intersected with one of these beings*, it changed the course of where I thought I was headed. Each time, it enriched my life in ways still unfolding. And each time, I can happily say, yes it was “love at first sight.”

I’ve never put together what each of my encounters with these wild creatures have given me — some of it is just too hard to articulate. So instead, I painted this show. I did my best to capture their beauty and spirit as a way to express my love, respect, and wonder for them and to honor and thank them for being part of my experience, as well.

Each painting here has a paragraph recounting a bit of the story of how we met — which I hope you’ll find interesting. Each painting is literally embedded with my words of gratitude and prayers for each species — marks often obscured but definitely there. And each painting has a love song for a title— because that’s what each one is, really. I hope the show leaves you humming a happy tune and being grateful for all the wonderful encounters you’ve had with wild ones in yourlife.

I dedicate this show to Sy Montgomery for her continued inspiration, enthusiastic friendship, and bright, uplifting spirit. Without knowing her, I don’t know that I would have had the chutzpah to get eye-to-eye with wild polar bears or swim with humpback whale mommas and babies! Thank you Sy.

*(My encounters with the humans mentioned have been incredibly enriching and wonderful too — but for this show, I’m focusing on the wilder beings.)

Why Have an Open Studio?

October 10th, 2018

Sometimes I have to remind myself but in case you’re interested too…

1. To thank my collectors, in particular — I so appreciate people supporting me as an artist. If you don’t know it, I host this invite-only brunch for my VIP’s before the public part of my open studio every year. (Anyone who has bought a painting or print = VIP.) Since I am half-Sicilian, I learned from an early age that when you want to show appreciation for someone, you feed them until they can’t move! The VIP brunch is my version — we go out of our way to make a bonanza of home-cooked, locally sourced, and/or made as possible.

2. To see old friends and supporters — (see above) Having people make the trek to my studio always brings me great joy! I know it’s an adventure getting here.

3. To meet new friends and supporters — having complete strangers make the trek also expands my heart. Such brave souls!

4. To just be with people — I spend a lot of time alone here. After this, I will dive back into my busiest painting time: winter. Like the bears, I will re-emerge in the spring. Instead of new cubs though, I will have a new body of work to show — I hope!

5. To make money — might as well get it out there: this is a big event in my “business cycle.” I don’t know if I’ll ever get rich being an artist, but I do hope to make some profit every year. (I use up a lot of art supplies!)

6. To make money part 2 — If I make enough money, then I can go travel to see more cool animals and then paint them! (I really like understanding animals before I paint them and I hate going to zoos.)

7. To support a good cause like the Piscataquog Watershed Conservancy (PLC,) to whom I am giving 10% of this year’s sales. It assuages my guilt about not being “in the trenches” anymore / keeps me connected to the conservation community.

8. To connect with people about my subjects: it’s really gratifying to hear what people think of my paintings and to share the story behind them. Most people who come here love animals like I do and it’s energizing to share that. It gives me hope for the world…

9. To evangelize for wildlife — I really do want my audience to consider each animal as another being on this planet. It’s why I paint portraits. This is my dharma.

10. It’s fun! Despite all the whining I do sometimes, I really do enjoy it. I am so happy to live and work here and it’s nice to share this beautiful place with people. So I celebrate being an artist by throwing a big party every year.

I’d be so glad if you could join me…

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.

Gratitude Series

May 5th, 2016

Original painting 32 x 20: acrylic on yupo paper

The Wild Within/ The Wild Without

Artist Statement for Rosemary G. Conroy’s current exhibit

Currently on view at the Gallery at Wren, Bethlehem NH through May 30, 2016

So I started working on this show with the idea that it would be about lions, tigers, and bears. That’s right: “Oh My!” It seemed like a fun angle and I’ve always been a big fan of The Wizard of Oz.

But as I began to research lions, tigers and bears, I was dismayed to find out how poorly many of these species are doing in the wild. I had no idea things had gotten so dire. There are more tigers in captivity now than in the wild, for one sad example. Lion numbers are plummeting – less than 20,000. It was closer to 400,000 just 50 years ago. And polar bears – well you’ve probably heard about what’s going on in the Arctic already.

 So the light-hearted “Oh My!” quickly turned into a much more dismayed “oh, my.”

A very wise woman then told me that some people believe that every species on this planet has a purpose. Once they have fulfilled that purpose, they will leave – as in go extinct. Wow. What a concept! And while I am still pondering the full implications of that radical idea, it got me thinking: if lions, and tigers and polar bears are completing their journeys on the planet, than we should find a way to thank them from the very bottom of our hearts for being here.

So, here is my small attempt to honor them through my art. For me, it’s now more “OH MY: Aren’t we so lucky to have had these amazing creatures bless our planet with their wildness?”

I’ve inscribed my words of gratitude for each species into many of the portraits I’ve painted for this show. My intent is about showing my reverence and awe and of course, love.

Because no matter what their fate may be, (and there are many, many people working to ensure these beautiful creatures do not disappear anytime soon) I want to express my sincere appreciation for all these wild creatures have done to make our outer world a much more interesting and beautiful place.

Raven, Raven

February 1st, 2016

Force of Nature: Magic

Force of Nature: Magic

Another in a series of the stories about my paintings and the wild things that inspire them.

The raven is one of those wild creatures that inspire so many emotions! Over the eons, humans have attached so many meanings to ravens: magic, mystery, and foreboding. Is it just because they are so dark in color? Or because they are scavengers and in wilder places and more ferocious times would most likely be seen hanging around near predator kills or even more gruesomely, battlefields? In that light, it’s easy to understand their association with death, I suppose. But more modern study has uncovered a surprising depth of intelligence in all corvids, but particularly ravens.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Story Behind the Painting

December 30th, 2015

So my New Year’s resolution is to tell the story behind my paintings more often — since almost every one has one! The Winter Solstice seemed like an auspicious day to start, so here goes…

Embracing the Strange(r) by Rosemary G. Conroy, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36"

Embracing the Strange(r) by Rosemary G. Conroy Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36″ © 2016

This painting is inspired by a real live polar bear I met way up north in Manitoba in 2013. On a windswept tundra, I spent an afternoon observing this majestic, awe-inspiring wild animal.

I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to see him and be able to drink in his beauty, power, and mystery. I’m not ashamed to tell you I cried. It was that awesome.

AND the next day I got up early and there he was again — just on the other side of the fence that protected our lodge. I sat alone with him for almost twenty minutes — it was such a moving, powerful episode in my life. Eye to eye, face to face, heart to heart with an 800-lb wild creature — holy moley. He could have left at any moment, but he stayed. For whatever reason, he stayed. I felt blessed.
I’ve always longed to be able to communicate with animals in a meaningful way. But until that happens, I paint them over and over, trying to immortalize them in my art as one way of knowing them better.

I’ve come to realize that my paintings are like prayers: sincere offerings of thanks for the inspiration and joy these wild creatures give me; my humble invocation of their beauty and power; and perhaps, most of all, an ardent plea that they continue to exist in this world.

(If you look closely, you can see my prayers for the polar bear literally inscribed on the painting.)

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?

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