ChromaLuxe is the leader in aluminum for a variety of industries. The thick gauge of aluminum and the brilliance of their color matching makes for a perfect vehicle for my flower and garden prints.
I tested many brands from various vendors and ChromaLuxe proved to offer the superior product for my work. Prints of my original paintings have been hanging in my garden for over 5 years now. They have withstood winter snow and summer heat. I wouldn’t sell something I didn’t trust.
As an appreciation for my testing and our collaboration ChromaLuxe created and distributed a full-color brochure of my Artwork on their exterior grade aluminum.
As a person involved in creating art for the past many years, the opportunities and revelations keep coming.
Mary Ahern – Outdoor Art Show with the Floral Park Art League 1975
The art world has changed but so have I. I’m more self-assured about my work than I was at the beginning. Through a lifetime of hard work, bumps, skids, rashes, pain, zigs and zags I’ve developed the thick skin needed to have confidence in my skills as an artist and as a person running a small business selling and showing my art.
We all know the tremendous changes that the internet and social media have introduced into the careers of artists. We are now independent enough to take our careers into our own hands rather than rely on galleries as the only outlet to selling or placing our work. I’m sure that for some artists, galleries are the central force in placing their work in prestigious collections and museums. For most of us though, galleries are not the only answer any longer.
Gallery representation isn’t for everyone
One of the obstacles for me is that I have 3 distinct bodies of work in which I like to create & promote. One is digital, one is in traditional mediums and the third is a combination of both. Even though they all focus on the same subject matter, flower and gardens, they all have very distinctive looks. I love the freedom that being independent affords me so I can create in whichever medium I choose.
As a lifetime entrepreneur the thought of having a gallery owner tell me what they want and when they want it is abhorrent to me. There is a benefit to being a working artist for many, many decades. I have the emotional and financial security to remain an independent artist. Having spent my former career in sales and marketing and also having had my own graphic design business for decades, I have the skills that many artists don’t possess.
I’m committed to creating my own art styles, exploring new mediums, enjoying the process of experimentation. But I’m just as committed to running my art business. Because of the tools now available through technology, the internet and social media I can do that myself at an affordable price. It’s a game-changer.
Recently I was asked what advice would I would give to my 21-year-old self on how to get started and keep motivated?
I can’t speak to my 21-year-old self since I was married and the mother of a baby boy by then. I didn’t put myself through college until my youngest went to nursery school. By the time I graduated from art school I was a 32-year-old single parent. A career was foremost on my mind in order to support my sons but I knew that I needed to focus on the arts in some way to follow my calling. By creative thinking & sheer guts, I got myself into the nascent computer graphics industry in the early 1980’s as a salesperson who had to use and demonstrate graphic devices and electronic paint systems. This gave me a toe-hold into the conversation of creative arts.
Critical as well was that I always maintained a working studio in my home, even sitting in it & studying art history books when I was too stressed to pick up a brush. Because I kept my focus on the artist part of me more than the technologist part of me I was able to transition into creating my own art more often as my sons grew up and life became easier. Maintaining this tangential association with the creative arts was the reason I’ve been able to now focus 100% of my effort into my artwork.
Keeping motivated isn’t difficult when you’ve burned with the desire to create your whole life. What does help however is having artist friends and mentors who understand the struggles to carve out the time to express yourself in an ever-busy world. Accountability partners help me to keep the balance needed to make room for the creation of art and the running of an art business. Either one of those activities is all-consuming but without one you don’t need the other.
Mary Ahern giving an Artist Talk at The Firefly Artists Gallery in December 2019.
Recently I had the honor to present my art and the meaning behind my thought process at Slide Slam. This event was sponsored by the Patchogue Arts Council and hosted by the Haven Gallery in Northport NY.
The presentation by the 20 selected Long Island artists was to display a slideshow of 15 images and speak for exactly 5 minutes each about the work. Such a daunting task proved to be an interesting challenge. How do you get to the essence of your work succinctly in such a short span of time?
Important for me was to convey how critical the garden is to my work. It is in fact the beginning of my creative workflow. In the garden I feel the power of the interconnectedness of all that surrounds me; the necessary ecological balance of the earth, climate, water and nutrients, that sustain the cycle of life.
The communities of birds, bees, insects and yes, humans to pollinate flowers with the assistance of the wind of course. This cooperation is the main critical component of maintaining not just my garden but our entire life here on earth as we know it. Without fertilization the cycle of life would die for all living things, not just for the loss of our beautiful garden flowers but for all our food sources as well.
To me, the garden is just a microcosm of the universe.
The vast beauty of color, fragrance and the architecture of each plant is created to seduce assistance in procreation. Each flower has evolved its own method for attracting exactly the pollinator they desire. Long tubes for hummingbirds, open centers for nice fat bumble bees. Certain colors are more visible to different insects than others. Fragrance signals an invitation to specific species that the time is right for fertilization. The Brugmansia is most fragrant in the late afternoon since it would rather have an energetic pollinator just arriving on their evening shift than a tired one at the end of it’s working day.
Working in and studying my own garden for the last 30 years has given me the unique opportunity to watch dynamic change occur. When my oak trees fell in Hurricane Sandy suddenly the types of plants that enjoyed their shade began to suffer from too much sun. I dug them up and moved them and their scorched leaves to where they would be more comfortable and replaced them with flowers that thrive in the drenching sun. Over time this would have happened naturally but I was able to speed up the process.
Each day in my garden I’m inspired by the energy of life. I carry this with me right into my studio where I allow that energy to inform my art.
In this video, I begin by showing you the photo of a flowering hibiscus from my own garden which was the inspiration for this artwork.
Here I write my thought process behind the stages visualized in the video.
In my initial stage I work out the composition of the final art work and deciding whether it will be a square or a rectangle.
To work out the details of lights and darks that will be in the final painting I like to start with a tonal drawing. Using an HB weight graphite pencil I use my customary swirling strokes to give form to the drawing. Not being partial to outlines I don’t emphasize them but soften the edges by merging them slightly with strokes.
In order to transfer the drawing to the canvas I used a mapped grid system. In this case, I put a transparent sheet of paper over the tonal drawing on which I’ve drawn a grid. After measuring the same grid on the canvas I was able to upsize the drawing onto the canvas. Using pastels I created an underdrawing of a neutral ochre color using the tonal drawing as my model, followed by a layer of neutral ochre oil paint which seals the surface of the gessoed canvas.
In the next stage, I applied thin coats of oil paints in layers recreating the original composition in the base colors allowing the underpainting to peak through. Many, many layers of thin glazes are applied to give dimension and form to the final painting.
Details are added during the later stages, I think of it as putting jewelry on after you get dressed to go to a party. You save the best for last.
Each day after if finish working on a painting in my studio I photograph it for reference and view the images on my computer to see the progress and decide if I want to make any changes along the way.
I prefer to work on thick gallery wrapped canvas and finish the work off with neutral floating frames. I aim for simplicity in form with exuberance and abundance in surface color. This painting has no visible brushstrokes which is also my preferred style of painting.
315 West 39th St. Suite 508
New York, NY 10018
November 8 – December 4, 2018
On November 15, 2018 I was proud to be inducted into the National Association of Woment Artists, NAWA. I had submitted my portfolio, resume/CV, bio & artist’s statement for jurying into this historical organization that was founded in 1889 with a mission to create a greater opportunity for professional women artists in a male-dominated art world. Sadly, this situation still exists to this day. We are still in need of a gathering of strong and resiliant women to promote and support each other and ourselves.
The induction ceremony was held at the Rubin Museum on 17th St. in Manhattan New York City. Attending artists spoke about their work with passion.
Mary Ahern speaking about her art at the Rubin Museum Induction Ceremony of the National Associaton of Women Artists, NAWA.
Later that same day the Opening Reception of the New Members Show was held at the gallery of the NAWA on 39th St in NYC. The rooms were crowded with artists and guests. The artists had the opportunity to explain the ideas and inspiration behind their work on display.
Mary Ahern speaking at the opening reception for the New Members Show at the NAWA gallery in NYC. Mary Ahern is speaking about her work on display behind her, “Candy Wind Hibiscus”, a 20×20″ GW, Oil on canvas. $1,950.
Selecting art to buy online can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In my Art Shop I’ve added a few features to help you take the guesswork out of what art and what size will work in your space and what will not. It’s called Live Preview AR (for Augmented Reality.)
Using your own mobile device you can select a print from any of my collections of landscapes, floral portraits, still lifes and designer prints and view it through your on-board camera projected onto your wall space. You can resize the image of the print until you find that perfect sweet spot that will work for you in your own particular setting.
You can easily select different prints to view. Will a landscape style work or perhaps a square print? Choose prints to view either by clicking directly on their image in the category library or just press the left or right arrow to view the next in line. All the available sizes for each print are quickly and easily seen by you in the pull down menu right at your fingertips.
To exit Augmented Reality is easy and brings you right to the ordering page. You have an array of options in which to choose. What surface do you want for your print? Canvas, fine art paper, aluminum or acrylic? Once you decide the size and treatment you might consider a frame or matting depending on your choice of materials.
Now that your selection is made just click to see your shopping cart and the rest is a breeze. The hardest part will be anticipating the arrival of your very own piece of Art, custom chosen by you for your own special place. Enjoy!
All of my paintings start with the garden, mine or other gardens. On a trip one spring day in May as I wandered around the peony displays at the New York Botanical Garden, with my phone I took snapshots of many of the unbelievable peonies in their collection in full bloom.
Later that year on a cold winter day in December, sifting through my stash of photos, a particular pink peony image jumped out at me and demanded my attention. I knew we could develop a relationship together. It often takes months to complete a painting so I really have to love my subjects in order to spend that much time with them. We need to love each other.
Once deciding on the size of the canvas I want to use I sketch, using vine charcoal, to give the general outline of the final layout onto canvas prepped with multiple layers of gesso. Then I block in the areas of color, working on my lights and darks. Then I paint using many layers of thin glazing in order to get the vibrancy of color I crave.
Oil paints need a few days of drying times between layers and some of my paintings have 15 to 30 layers of glazing. In order to continue painting every day, I usually work on multiple paintings at a time. Each one a different day. A different palette of colors. A different stage of completion. I like the continuous challenge of picking up where I left off. I keep extensive notes at the end of each day for each painting. A sort of diary of each work.
I paint quite slowly and quite neatly. I don’t like to feel sticky so I’m cleaning brushes and washing my hands constantly. Gloves don’t work for me since I don’t like the barrier they put between my brush and my hand. Rolls of paper towels help with the tidiness of my style of workflow. In fact & have two different brands for two different uses.
I listen to music while I paint. During the duration of this particular painting, I was listening to many CDs of van Morrison music. I don’t know why. I just was. Sometimes I’m in a classic rock groove for weeks on end and other times might be jazz, classical or even new wave relaxation. I don’t plan it. It just happens.
I usually paint with just brushes, fan brushes in fact, but the center of this painting demanded a palette knife. It’s not something I usually turn to but since the painting had a mind of its own I complied. Glad I did since the center of this painting is rich with texture while the petals are completely without texture but rich in nuance.
I named this painting Centering – Pink Peony. The reason is that it represents two different views for me. I can see with my eyes that it’s an interpretation of a pink peony but in my soul I found it centered me. Made me contemplate the meaning of this painting, this flower, this world it had lived in and now lives in again but in a different way. One ephemeral, one eternal.
A July summer event, featuring music, dance, poetry and over 30 artists displaying and selling their original work. Art show begins at 10am and festivities begin at 12pm. Free admission and a fun day for the entire family. Hours are 10am to 5pm.
Join us for another exciting event in the picturesque Village of Northport, NY. This multi-disciplinary annual event is held in the Village Park at the foot of main street surrounded by the lush tableau of water, boats, trees, playgrounds and the old time Village feel of another, calmer and genteel era.
For decades I have been creating art in circles surrounded by squared edges. When I first made this type of work it was in the mid-1970’s. The circle was most often represented by an apple inside a square or cube. At that time it represented to me the yin and yang, female and male complements to our lives and our characters. The apple was an Eve figure, soft, female, curious, playful and seductive. The boxes were the rules, the male, the limitations, the protection and the containment of her attributes.
Apples in Boxes – A pointillist drawing in ink on paper. c1970’s
I have recently returned to this theme but using flowers from my garden as the subjects rather than apples. It feels so calming to me when I create these voluptuous rounded floral paintings. This peony was the first in a series of exploring again the circle in a square imagery so I named it “Centering” because that is how I feel towards these works. I find my centering in two places, in my studio and in my garden. They completely complement each other, one provided by nature and one in interpreting that vision.
There is a difference between the imagery of then and now. These flowers, though they are encompassed in a square format canvas, they are not contained. They are bursting through the limitations of frame, of edges, of inhibition. They are positive and empowered by their form and by their explosive color. They are neither shy nor retiring. They declare themselves as having established their own space. They are declaring themselves as individuals.
The flowers I create in my studio with brush and canvas speak to me beyond their intricacy of form, color, ruffles and swirls. LIke everyone else they initially attract me with the way the color changes as the light graces their outer curves and when it delicately enters their inner recesses, their intimacy. The edges of petals dance like ballerina skirts bouncing in the breeze. Their edges are fluted, scalloped, curved and splayed defining their differences and embracing their similarities of purpose.
I love the architecture of flowers, not just how they grow on their stems, their height, their leaves and their unique outward appearance. I concentrate on the inner architecture of their center parts, the configurations of their pistils and stamens, their anthers laden with pollen. Quite frankly, these flowers are built to seduce their pollinators. The birds and the bees but also the billions of bugs who help by rolling in their pollen to feast and to share and to help create the next generation to grace the earth.
Flowers speak to me of our universe. Our purpose. Our endurance. Each flower is an individual with its own color, shape and form. It’s own choices of community, culture and companionship. It’s own needs for climate, food and water for sustenance. But we all share our need to survive, another season, another year, another generation.
Whether I am among the flowers in my garden or the flowers in my studio, I embrace our diversity and our commonalities. All these flowers in soil or on canvas speak beyond themselves, they’re ideas and thoughts beyond just the visual. They speak to the interior of our purpose and our minds. They are us.
Not until I studied botany and viewed flower structures under magnifying glasses and microscopes did I really appreciate their magnificence. As a life-long gardener I looked at and created landscapes, matching groups of plants to be seen from a distance, blending distant views of overall colors and shapes. Matching seasons and cultivation needs, heights and spreads contributing to the designs I created in gardens and on canvas in my landscape paintings.
A rainbow of colors in a friend’s May garden. Photo by Mary Ahern.
But that aha moment of peering dramatically close to the parts of a flower opened a whole new world of vision and contemplation for me.
By painting my flowers overly large and entirely out of scale from the real world, I try to bring that same sense of awe to my viewers. Show them something of what I see. I try to create for them their own aha moment of joy and wonder to take on their journey.
My studio was overflowing as I created new work for my show at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum
Mary Ahern brought her award-winning style of floral and garden inspired art to the Bayard Cutting Arboretum from May 17 through June 17, 2018. Three galleries of her floral portraits were on display at the historic Manor House at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River NY.
Mary Ahern, known for her brilliant floral and garden paintings was showing her latest large-scale flower portraits. As a passionate gardener who is inspired by the gardens she designed and tends surrounding her own studio, these flowers represent to her a microcosm of the universe. The large scale of these individual portraits asks questions beyond the canvas.
What is the purpose for such magnificence in nature? What is the reason for such color, such form, such diversity? What is their relationship to the communities in which they belong, their relationships with other plants and species that sustain them, invade them and nourish them. What of their lifecycle of birth, growth, senescence and rebirth? As humans, what can we learn from their seemingly simple existence?
Initially we see with our eyes. We name it, identify it and classify it. But we also have a duality of vision which allows us to contemplate with an inner vision. This art invites both the external and internal views.
Pincus-Witten, the art critic, curator, historian, author and individual who in 1971 coined the term, “Postminimalism” has died. It reminded me of a brush with greatness that never happened for me. Let me explain.
During my college years in the 1970’s in the Queens College art department program in New York, I was expressing myself with the same underlying emotional & intellectual content in a variety of mediums. It was a time of the emergence of feminism for me and the search for self. An awakening of the world I lived in, was raised in and thought I understood.
I entered this program as an older student at the age of 27, married with two young children. Needless to say, I didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the much younger student body. Most of my creative work, rather than using the studios on campus, was done at home in my own studio/dining room after I put my sons to bed in the evening. This actually freed me to create more independently than I might otherwise have done.
I followed my own muse. I created sculptures and assemblages using acrylic boxes, clear fishing line, minimalism inspired grids, feminine but painful masses of pink fiberglass insulation. I used distorting mirrors, bindings, weavings of ropes/cords/threads in numerical sequencing. I painted windows where the panes of glass protected or imprisoned using the gridded mullions in defined mathematical ratios. I used graphite, pastel, cut paper & photography to explore my own body landscape and journey of discovery.
All my work at that time explored the balance of male/female, pain/protection, enclosure/exclusion, geometry/biomorphism, math/chaos. One side of me embraced the rigidity, consistency and comfort I found in minimalism but the other part of me was rebelling against those very same norms.
At my senior thesis show, all my work was on display, my sculpture, my drawings, paintings, assemblage, photography and my written papers. Years of independent thought, exploration and interpretation.
Louis Finkelstein was my advisor, a professor I had never met before nor taken a class with but a very prominent and influential person in the NYC art community of which I longed to be a part. He spent a great deal of time viewing my work, reading my papers and asking me questions of motivations & process.
He was impressed by my work. He told me that he said he was going to introduce me to Pincus-Witten and propose me for an independent studio fellowship offered by the Whitney Museum of Art. I was itching all over with the prickles of joy.
And then the ax fell. I mentioned to Prof. Finkelstein that I was in the process of a divorce and just straightening out the details because I had two small children.
Without one further question put to me, without one opportunity for me to elaborate, Finkelstein stood up from his stool (and here is where my memory is a little bit muddy) said either, “A divorced woman can’t be an artist” or “A divorced mother can’t be an artist”. And he walked out of my life taking with him my dreams of ever meeting Robert Pincus-Witten.
Choosing bulb replacements for perfect lighting in my studio.
Since I have fluorescent fixtures already installed in my painting studio and didn’t want to replace them it narrowed down the search for the type of bulbs i would be looking for. Learning about LED or halogen lighting options, which I might consider if I was designing an entirely new studio, was off my research list. The installed fixtures are 4’ and had a mixture of cool and warm T8 bulbs bought at the local big box store.
The existing lighting fixtures in my painting studio hold a series of florescent 48″ T8 bulbs.
As soon as I began researching online for the best bulbs for studio lighting I knew the options were very broad and would need more studying. I would need to know what the important specifications would be in selecting the right ambient lighting for working on my paintings and also for proofing digital prints?
I learned about the ratings of Kelvin, CRI and Lumens:
K or Kelvin. The color temperature index of cool light at 5500K and a bit warmer light at 4100K seemed to be my goal. I didn’t want to go too cool while creating the Art since most of my work is hung in either residential or corporate lighting environments. Residential incandescent bulbs are in the 2,500K to 3000K range
CRI or color rendering index. I sounded professional when I went to my specialty lighting store and pronounced it correctly, Cree rather than C.R.I. CRI is a measurement of how the lighting reveals colors across the full spectrum when measured against natural daylight. The highest measure is 100 and a good CRI for a painting studio is 85 and up.
Lumens are the measurement of how much light is coming from a bulb. The more lumens the the brighter the light. This differs from wattage which is a measurement of how much energy is used to create the light.
Over the years, as bulbs have burned out in my painting studio fixtures I went to the big box store & bought a warm and a cool fluorescent for each fixture fully well knowing that a more appropriate solution should be available. Recognizing that over the years my lighting had become inconsistent, I decided to bite the bullet & finally do it right.
I was spurred on to optimize my own painting studio by the announcement that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which I visit regularly to study their paintings, is completely renovating their gallery lighting over the next few years. You can follow the Met’s lighting project here.
I studied the elements of lighting & then went the specialty lighting store that most of the contractors in my area frequent. Initially the gentleman at the counter said that all I needed was an ordinary fluorescent bulb which I could buy at any box store. Once I began to speak about the technical aspects of the bulbs I was considering, he became interested & spoke with me at length about the options for my studio. We discussed the temperature of the current lighting and the problems I would have if I went to a higher K or color temperature.
So what did I choose?
I chose a bulb with a Kelvin of 4100K rather than 5500K which is often called a daylight bulb. As mentioned earlier, I was considering the rooms in which my paintings are usually displayed after they are purchased. I should also mention that I have a large 10’ north facing window in my painting studio which offers a good deal of natural light.
I also selected a higher than usual CRI number of 85 to give me a more robust range of colors which displays the full complexity of my subtle pigments. Lower CRI’s don’t always show the full spectrum of yellows.
For the lumens my choice was to select 3250 which was brighter than many of the bulbs they were replacing although the wattage remained the same at 32W.
One consideration that I was nervous about was the thickness of the actual bulb. The existing T8 bulbs were thicker than the ones I took home from the lighting store. My consultant assured me that they would be fine in my fixtures and he was right. Less glass didn’t mean less light.
The price for each bulb was a modest $2.40. Well worth the investement!
The lighting is perfect! Great color balance, brightness, range. It was worth the time I took to do the research. As an Artist, I research my subjects, paints, pigments, mediums, brushes, canvas, etc., etc., etc… So now I can add studio lighting to the list of professional choices I’ve made towards producing excellent Art.
This is the choice of replacement T8 florescent lighting bulbs for the correct balanced lighting in my studio. I didn’t pick by brand name but by specifications.
My muse, is my garden. Other gardens as well, but my garden in particular. I move in it, feel it, and hear the breezes whisper through it. I watch the lighting during the day as it slides over and around the textured surfaces.
These Fire Flame Peonies bloom in my garden each year in May at the same time as the color matching azalea.
Lighting so different on days with sun and with clouds. Lighting in the spring with the bright yellow greens of optimistic new growth and lighting by the fall with ambers & tans of a lived life. Morning light offers tender ambiance while afternoon colors not only light the scene from a different direction, the colors are deeper and warmer.
My garden brings consciousness and meaning to me. It keeps me grounded. The ephemeral beauty of an unfertilized blossom studied up close with magnifiers and macro lenses is a representation of a miracle. The world of possibility. The beginning of a story I represent in my Art. I walk through my garden gathering ideas. Stories I want to tell. Suggested ideas I want to convey.
In my garden I spend time designing the landscape or I spend time closely and intimately with a singular specimen at a particular stage of growth. In my studio I may paint a vignette or a full landscape view of a part of the garden I’ve designed, or I may choose to paint a small portion of one flower that has moved me. The minute miracle. This is my work. Outdoors and indoors. These are the stories I tell. This is my Art.