Featured Artist Catherine Kehoe

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Can you tell us about your artistic practice?

I paint, mostly in oil, and draw in graphite and ink. Recently I did some paintings in acrylic gouache.

The search for an essential form is a thread that runs through all of my work. I look for a schema that is revealed by, but exists beyond, shifting conditions of light and space. I seek to determine how little information is enough, even as I experience an opposing desire to include every nuance I see.  It is the tension between those conflicting impulses that drives my efforts in the studio.

The web of sensations and relationships in my visual field is a mystery I can never fully grasp. The intersection of drawing and painting with this sensory experience yields surprises. Drawing and painting become mediums for what is within me as much as what is external — all is unknown at the start, however clear my intention might seem.

Two genres have been central in my work: still-life paintings and self-portraits. The process of painting isolates and reveals the unstable nature of perception.
Still-life painting makes it possible to compose a world that remains constant. Invention enters the process in the arrangement of objects and the selection of what goes into the rectangle. Sometimes a certain color shape is inserted to serve a compositional need. My self-portrait heads focus on a subject that is always there. I quickly forget I am looking at myself; when I see the resulting paintings, it is as if someone has captured my image without my knowledge.

The more I look, the more I realize that nothing is as solid as my mind imagines. It takes a long time for the scales to fall from my eyes so I can discern the relationships between things. Fragments of images cohere in my brain and find their way to the hand that holds the brush. This experience comes together in the abstract language of shape, color and paint.

 

What is your intention as a painter?

To keep applying paint in response to the visible world, or to a small part of it. To enjoy the ride on the way to a result that is most often a complete surprise, however clear my initial painting idea might be.

 

Where are you from and how does this affect your work?

I grew up in Connecticut, USA, and lived there for the first 18 years of my life. I’m sure I was affected by the climate (four seasons — cold, snowy winters, hot humid summers), but I have never lived in any other climate, so it is hard to say how it affects my work.

I grew up in a home in which art, culture and higher education were unknown. I got a late start; I started art school when I was 28 and took my first painting course at 30. Now I realize how much better I appreciated the luxury of study and art for its own sake, at a later stage in my life. I am not sure I would have valued it as much had I gone to art school at age 18.

 

Where do you live and how does this affect your work?

I lived for many years in Boston, Massachusetts, and three years ago I moved my home and studio to 40 acres of woods, meadow and wetlands. The light is different here, and it has taken me a few years to understand it. The natural world and seasons are closer to me. The harshness of urban life is distant, now. Wild creatures, especially the birds, are part of my daily life. I am not sure how rural life affects my work, however.

 

What art education have you received?

I earned a bachelor of fine arts from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and a master of fine arts from Boston University. Both of my degrees were about developing and expanding my own art, not about the obtaining the credentials for teaching. The last thing I wanted to do was teach. About 15 years after I earned my MFA, I was offered a teaching job. I didn’t want to do it, but was nudged by friends. I took to it.

 

Where do you see your work sitting in relation to figurative and abstract work?

My work straddles the line between the two. The paintings that excite me most these days are geometric abstractions. Some of this is finding its way into my work. See image of Otto Freundlich.

 

What and whom are your influences? 

Ruth Miller, Susan Lichtman, Gwen John, Lois Dodd, Lotte Laserstein, Jennifer Pochinski, Amy Mahnick, Cezanne. In graduate school my work was criticized for its fuzzy, all-purpose paint application. Graham Nickson, a visiting artist, introduced me to the work of Euan Uglow. The clarity of his painting was a revelation. The world of British painting opened up for me with that introduction.

 

Can you tell us about your show at Howard Yezerski?

Shape Shift, my show at Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston, runs May 25-July 14, 2018. The work in this show is the result of following my interests and ideas around for the past two years. https://www.howardyezerski.com/upcoming/2018/5/25/catherine-kehoe

 

How do you juggle life and painting?

I say no to almost everything that is not painting. No brunches. No events that happen in daylight (my painting time).

 

Can you tell us about Blank Pond Studio and its intentions?

My partner, Nancy McCarthy, and I have lots of experience running and teaching workshops. We looked for a place where we could have our own studio space, classroom space and a home. We found it at Black Pond in southeastern Massachusetts. Less than a year after we moved here, we held our first workshop. We have been fortunate to host some of our most admired painters to teach workshops here. It is not a full-time operation. We fit workshops in among our own studio time and other teaching jobs. It has been a wonderful experience meeting the artists who come here to teach and to learn.

 

Do you have a place you are trying to move towards in your work?

My goal is to remain true to myself, and to follow my interests into the surprising territory where they lead me.

 

What is a usual day for you?

I am slow out of the gate in the morning. After lunch I spend the afternoon, and sometimes into the evening, in the studio. Getting exercise is an important part of each day. In the evening I fill out questionnaires (!) and keep up with emails and workshop planning, and the chores of daily life.