Ethereal Drama

Sunset Valley, Craig Mooney, 2011, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”

Craig Mooney

Holly Ready

Violet Ceiling, Holly Ready, 2011, oil on canvas, 18” x 18”

Coastal Shadow, Kathleen Galligan, 2012, pastel on paper, 19” x 26”

Kathleen Galligan

THE CANVAS – July 2012

By Britta Konau

Kathleen Galligan | Craig Mooney | Holly Ready

Painters Kathleen Galligan, Craig Mooney, and Holly Ready follow in the footsteps of many highly accomplished landscape painters who have gazed skyward in search of inspiration. Most notably, the British artist John Constable (1776–1837) painted cloud studies from observation that have been interpreted as expressive studies of mood. While the three contemporary artists work from their informed imaginations, they too have imbued the skies soaring over their expansive landscapes with atmospheric emotional drama.

Kathleen Galligan

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Kathleen Galligan received a BA from Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and a BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). Her work is in the collection of the Farnsworth Art Museum, and Carl Little included it in his publication The Art of Maine in Winter. Galligan’s paintings were chosen for the Portland Museum of Art Biennial in 2001 and 2011. She is represented by Greenhut Galleries in Portland, Gleason Fine Art in Boothbay Harbor, and Littlefield Gallery in Winter Harbor.

When Kathleen Galligan first took up pastel painting, she created intimate landscapes that focused on descriptions of texture. In 1996, she was awarded a residency in the Acadia National Park Artist-in-Residence Program. The opportunity afforded her time to absorb the views from Cadillac Mountain, which brought about gradual changes in her work. Galligan now draws on her memory and imagination to paint spacious landscapes from an imagined elevated viewpoint—a creative approach that feels liberating to the artist. “It has become an exciting discovery to let go of the predictable, and learn to be comfortable exploring and seeking what is unpredictable,” she says. Providing very little detail, Galligan intimates landscapes rather than portraying them.

For the past 10 years, the artist has been working in both pastels and oils, switching between the mediums to keep her work fresh and herself challenged. She also intuitively chooses each medium to express different moods. The oils are brooding and more tonal, while her pastels are lighter, more airy, and full of atmospheric light. The artist half-jokingly says she suspects that these two forms of expression reflect two sides of her personality.

The subtle drama in Coastal Shadow derives in large part from the ambiguity and elusiveness of its subject. Clouds and air, land and sea, are smoothly transitioning into one another, and the viewer is not always sure of what exactly is being seen. This convergence of physical elements is wonderfully captured and mirrored by the painterly blending of the pastels. Galligan’s deep concern for the environment is also reflected in her artistic treatment. “I am thinking a lot about what we are doing to the earth,” says the artist, “so I sometimes imagine our world before we inhabited it, primordial, without civilization.”

Craig Mooney

Craig Mooney grew up in Manhattan and received his BA from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. He has been painting full-time for the past 10 years and has shown his work in national and international galleries. Mooney now lives in Stowe, Vermont, and is represented by Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture in Kennebunkport, DFN Gallery in New York, Enid Lawson Gallery in London, and other galleries throughout the United States.

While Mooney enjoyed growing up in the city, he was also drawn to the openness of the countryside, and his earliest art works were inspired by magazine photographs of such spaces. Today, he paints his figures, city scenes, and landscapes entirely from imagination.

When viewing one of his paintings—whether it depicts a woman reading, a man carrying an umbrella on a rainy day in the city, or a long urban vista—one thing is immediately apparent: Mooney is an unabashed romantic. Sunset Valley exemplifies the artist’s outsized passion for nature and is characteristic of his expansive landscapes that are dominated by radiant skies. The light-filled clouds seem to be in motion above the land, separated only by an indistinct horizon line. An undefined body of water shimmers with a glint of sunlight. From a featureless green foreground, the image recedes into open space, conjuring the sensation of visual depth.

No part of this view is described in detail, and the paint itself becomes part of the subject. The starting points and liftoffs of individual brushstrokes accentuate the fields of color and translate into visible energy.

Mooney is a prolific painter, working on up to 15 canvases at a time in his studio, a large former warehouse without windows. As the artist describes it, he initially “creates a big mess of color” on each canvas, and then moves from chaos to order before returning to the looseness of pictorial description that is emblematic of his finished works. This process leaves its traces in a rich layering of paint.

Mooney’s panoramic views are indistinct and mysterious enough for viewers to interpret them as familiar scenes. “People have the feeling they have been there,” Mooney says. “There is also a connection to the spiritual imbued in the skies, but not overtly.”

Holly Ready

Holly Ready grew up in Massachusetts, but her family has been a long-standing presence in Cape Elizabeth, where she has spent every summer of her life and which has been her year-round home since 1976. Ready received a BFA from the Maine College of Art, and she operates the Holly Ready Gallery on Congress Street in Portland. Her work is included in a show titled Sky at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture in Kennebunkport, which runs from July 7 to August 2.

Holly Ready’s highly chromatic gouaches and oil paintings are directly influenced by her experience of living on the coast of Maine. Color and light are her vehicles for conveying feeling. “My work reflects the emotions felt while painting each piece,” she says.

Most of Ready’s vibrant paintings capture a moment of transition, such as a setting sun. Yet her transitions never unfolded in precisely the way they have been rendered. In Violet Ceiling, sunlight breaks forth from behind clouds, coloring their edges in a prismatic display of purples, oranges, and blues, while also reflecting—in a more unified and calmer way—off the water surface beneath. Paint itself takes on the liquid or airy qualities of the subject matter. Capturing the brilliancy of constantly changing light, Ready’s big skies are alive with warm energy. Unmistakably, the luminous landscapes of J. W. M. Turner (1775–1851) have been an inspiration to her.

Ready also delights in painting another constantly changing natural element: crashing surf. For these works, she uses a cooler palette of blues and greens, and one can almost feel a change in temperature when standing in front of them. Few of her scenes are identified by location, but Ready does work from photographs. The images, however, only serve as compositional guides, and the artist will occasionally repurpose source photographs for more than one painting. When reusing an image, her compositions become more simplified, even abstracted. Eventually, the forces of color and paint dominate. Working from a warm orange layer of underpaint, Ready builds up her pieces by consciously choosing certain colors for their specific visual interactions. She does not aim to represent a scene so much as a feeling of hope and being welcome. In Ready’s pictorial vocabulary, clouds breaking open and waterways stretching into the distance symbolize the passage of time. “The sky paintings are a metaphor for life itself,” she says.