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20 years of abstract expressionism on display

Kennedy survey shows transition to acrylics from oil

Kennedy survey shows transition to acrylics from oil

January 17, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

BURKITTSVILLE, Md. ? A 20-year survey of abstract expressionist Margaret Ann Kennedy's paintings will evince growth, as Kennedy steps outside her comfort zone and embraces a new medium, acrylic paint.

The exhibit, "Loaded Brush: Works by Margaret Ann Kennedy, A Twenty Year Survey" opened at Washington County Arts Council's gallery Wednesday; an opening reception is set for Saturday, Jan. 19. The exhibit ends Tuesday, Feb. 12.

It is the first time a gallery in Washington County has featured a survey of her work, said Kennedy, 78, during a recent interview at her home studio in Burkittsville. The 20 paintings that will be featured in the arts council exhibit ? one painting for each year between 1988 and 2008 ? will showcase her transition from oil to acrylic.

"I was strictly an oil painter," Kennedy said.

Oil had been Kennedy's medium of choice for paintings up until the '90s, around the time she started taking a watercolor class. She experimented with combining watercolor and oils, but found the two didn't work well together.


Acrylic paint, alone, proved a good happy medium. She also found she was able to complete acrylic paintings faster.

"Once, I did five paintings in one day ... the acrylic gives me the chance to jump back into it more immediately," Kennedy said. "You can't do that with oils."

Though Kennedy is exploring a relatively new medium, her more recent paintings preserve elements from her past works.

Kennedy's compositions ? in oil, acrylic or collage ? tend to feature heavy layers and blocks of saturated colors. Generally, the effect offers a suggestion of a landscape with a sloping horizon line, albeit an abstract horizon line. The style is similar, though the technique is different.

"My acrylic approach tends to be thick," Kennedy said. "I've experimented with 'thin.' I have a couple of paintings that you could say have a stained approach ? layers of wash."

This is not the first time Kennedy has changed mediums.

In fact, it wasn't until the 1980s that Kennedy, a professional artist for more than 50 years, focused her energy on painting.

"I was influenced by the New York school of abstract expressionists," she said. Joan Mitchell, Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko were a few of her influences.

Born and raised in Rochester, N.Y., Kennedy got her early art training at Oberlin College in Ohio, where she obtained a master's degree in art history and studio ? her concentration was in printmaking and her master thesis was on contemporary line engraving. She also received a Master of Fine Art from the University of Wisconsin, where she studied drawing, lithography and wood cut, among other things.

She designed stained glass windows for churches throughout the Midwest in the '60s and '70s.

Kennedy moved to Burkittsville, Md., in 1987. Locally, she has shown at Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center and Frederick Community College, both in Frederick, Md., and at galleries in Cumberland, Md., and Washington D.C. She has shown at the Washington County Arts Council, as well.

"Margaret Kennedy is quite a treasure here," said Kevin Moriarty, executive director of the Washington County Arts Council. "It just seemed it was time to let everyone in on it."

If you go ...

A Twenty Year Survey," an exhibit featuring paintings by Margaret Ann Kennedy

WHEN: The opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. The exhibit will run through Feb. 12.

WHERE: Washington County Arts Council gallery, 14 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, Md.

COST: Free

MORE: Call the Washington County Arts Council, 301-791-3132

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