August 2021 (Fathers & Sons) 2021, 17” h x14” w, acrylic, graphite on Dura-Lar archival film

August 2021 (Fathers & Sons)
2021, 17” h x14” w, acrylic, graphite on Dura-Lar archival film

By Tricia Haggerty-Wenz

The 2022-23 season of the ArtWalk at Hartford Public Library kicks off with an exhibition by Wethersfield artist Brigid Kennedy entitled “Visual Narratives” that explores the impact of COVID-19 and rising global social/political turmoil.

“I felt compelled to develop a new, innovative body of work for my artistic practice and for my viewers: healing and narrative paintings that chronicle the social issues of our time,” she says.

“Visual Narratives” will open with a reception on Friday, Sept. 16, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on the ArtWalk at the Downtown Library. The following interview with Brigid Kennedy has been edited for length and clarity.

Brigid Kennedy.

Brigid Kennedy.

Share with me your thoughts about how this exhibit came together.

“This is a body of work that I’ve been developing since 2020 and deeply influenced by COVID and the current social/political landscape. Before 2020 I had been focusing primarily on creating sculpture but the challenges of the current moment took me on a new path with my art.

“It began with a small series of handwashing paintings, showing we can try to avoid spreading the virus. During the pandemic handwashing became almost iconic as it came into the forefront of our shared consciousness as a simple way to represent the COVID experience. The work grew to include five themes: work and class, COVID and family, consequences of war, voting rights and landscapes.”

How did landscapes become a part of the series where the other pieces feel so interwoven with the moment?

Working with social/political issues can be a very heavy subject matter. War, racism, refugees, it all can become pretty dark. Working on my landscapes was a way of finding some relief. In the most recent paintings, I’ve enjoyed the process of combining the view inside and outside to create something more surreal. I’m focusing on my immediate surroundings in these paintings, taking something ordinary and making it more abstract and engaging. The viewer has to work a little harder to see what is truly going on in the painting.

Tell me about the path that has led you to this moment in your life.

“I got a BA in philosophy from the University of Toronto and then went on to get a bachelor’s of fine arts from SUNY Buffalo. After that I did my graduate work at Yale School of Art where I received my MFA. The next step was New York City where I worked mainly on large-scale, outdoor installations. I came up to Connecticut to teach and have been here ever since.”

So your art practice has taken my different paths.

“Sculpture and drawing, watercolor, large and small works … and currently I am enjoying the pace of what I am working on now in the form of small paintings. I enjoy pushing the limits and developing my craft.”

December 2020 2020, 13” h x 17”w,  acrylic, pen on Dura-Lar archival film

December 2020
2020, 13” h x 17”w, acrylic, pen on Dura-Lar archival film

This body of work is really eye catching.

“The color and composition in this work is really important. After many years of working in monochromatic neutrals and earth tones in sculptural pieces, I now really enjoy the attention I give to color in this series as it lends the work an expressive quality. I also like that the work is small. This invites the viewer to have a more intimate experience with each painting.”

You recently retired from working as a high school art school teacher. What are you plans for this time in your life?

“I hope to continue to work in my studio full time, to have more time for my art, to create more and to show more. I’ve enjoyed volunteering in my community. I hope to travel more because travel changes one’s perspective; it’s a great resource and inspiration for artists. ”

We are so happy you sharing your work with our audience and patrons through your Artwalk exhibit.

“It is a beautiful open space, with lots of natural light. While I was installing the show it was so cool to look out the big windows and see Bushnell Park and the City of Hartford! This new vantage point on the city made everything look beautiful and fresh. This has been a wonderful and unexpected part of my journey.”

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