Alumni Kathleen Kennedy and the NC Museum of Art

Kathleen Claire Kennedy, a 2010 Guilford College alumni, is one of the lucky artist picked to have their work displayed in A Life, Still, a new exhibition in the North Carolina Museum of Art. Kathleen left Guilford College with a BFA in painting and a minor in Art History.  To add to her art experience Kathleen has also studied at the Akthof School of Drawing in Germany, Scoula Lorenzo De Medici in Italy and Salerno Secondary School in Ireland. A Life, Still to coincide with Still-Life Masterpieces: A Visual Feast from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and features many works of still life and food.

Through her studies all over the world Kathleen has found food to be a source if inspiration for her art. In an artist statement, Kathleen connects her art with food by saying that her “urge to paint is as strong as my instinct to eat” and describes her paints of food as “covert reconstructions of past experiences, acted out and painted on canvas, like plays.” So when the North Carolina Museum of Art asked college students to submit their works for a juried exhibition that focuses on still-life works, Kathleen’s work seemed an excellent fit. And, seeing as her work was one of the few that were chosen for the exhibition, the jurors seem to agree.

Boston University
Oil on canvas
50” x 50”

Kathleen was kind enough to answer a few questions about her art and the exhibition.

Q: How did you find out about the exhibition A Life, Still at the North Carolina Museum of art?

A: Terry Hammond emailed me in the spring about the show.

Q: What would you say made your work stand out from the rest of the submissions to the North Carolina Museum of Art?

A: That’s a hard question. I really can’t begin to know why the curators chose my work over others. I have had two experiences in grad school where I was able to sit in on the jurying process. It’s impossible to gauge who will be selected out of a group of artists. I did see that there were a small number of paintings accepted into the show, so I am certainly honored to be in that group. I am really excited that we will be shown in conjunction with the Feast collection from the MFA, but there certainly is a part of me that is terrified to see my painting so close to my heroes.

Q: You mention in your artist statement that you enjoy food. I would agree with you that food is a wonderful and of course delicious thing. What type of food if any has greatly inspired your artwork?

A: The first painting I ever did of food was a very tired avocado. I painted it in the spring of my Junior year, just after seeing a Spanish painting exhibit highlighting Velasquez at the Nasher. I had made a series of terrible paintings, one right after another, all semester long. I was at a real low point. Seeing Velasquez that first time really opened my eyes.   I ended up titling that painting Self Portrait as an Avocado. I actually sketched out the composition from a Melendez still life at that exhibit and used that as the architecture for the painting. I can’t eat an avocado without dreaming of painting it. The same goes for figs.

Q: You have attended colleges all over Europe. How did experiencing art in other countries change how you look at and/or create your own art? Also did, and if so, how did this differing perspective change how you yourself view art?

A: I’m haunted by the old masters. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it’s not. Nothing can compare to seeing a painting in person. Pictures of paintings are ghosts. They cannot describe the presence of a piece. It’s really important for artists to travel and experience as much as they can, see as much art as they can. Not just stuff in museums, though. Get some pottery, hand-painted tiles, and buy little swatches of fabric that catch your eye. It will all inform your work later.

Q: What did you take away from Guilford College that helped or inspired your art or your creation process for your art?

A: Guilford gave me a great work ethic. However, I must admit that I now sometimes laugh at my former self, when I think about how hard I thought that I used to work compared to the amount of time that I now work in grad school. Now, I paint the amount of work that I did in my thesis show about every two months. If I did not have Guilford’s foundation, there is no way I could survive. Guilford also taught me to be honest with my work. I never felt like I was making Art with a capital “A”. I was painting.

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