Nearly a month before SUNY Fredonia’s Class of 2022 commencement ceremony, senior student Madeline Keenan exhibited works from her series “You can only find it once it’s lost” and “I am,” both of which reflect his connection to the environment and how it contributed to his growth as an artist.
For the past four years, Keenan has been working towards her dual degree in Drawing and Painting and Ceramics, a time filled with projects, articles and guided assignments. Somewhere during this period, the artist claimed that “my brushstrokes were overly thought out and my colors uninviting or expected.”
A room where she once created her art soon became daunting. However, just as Keenan was ready to give up, she found solace in creating landscapes and realized that not everything she did would be something she loved. Recognizing this, she moved past what she saw as failures and came to create images of her surroundings and eventually merged her self-portraits with these so-called environments. Through her artwork included in this exhibition, this idea is made evident as there is clear progress implied and observed through her use of color and the scenes she chooses to depict.
While landscapes have always been a common theme in art, few have the same significance as Keenan. With visuals similar to those of modern surrealist artist Antonio Mora, she merges her self-portraits with images that signify a turning point in her adulthood within herself. “I am” series. During the last four years of her undergraduate studies, she deconstructed the idea of who she is and allowed her paintings to illustrate this with titles such as I am Anxious and I am Hopeful. Keenan focuses on the feelings her surroundings give her and how it continues to inspire and motivate her. The scenes she recreates have had a big impact on who she has become, both as an artist and as an individual, which she tries to imply with this series.
Remarkably, in her “You can only find it once it’s lost” series, which was the precursor to “I am,” the sense of what landscapes are for her begins to develop. In what began as a single painting of a landscape at the beach, she rediscovered what led her to make art. While she didn’t know where she was wrong, it ultimately came down to the unrecognizable works she created in which she saw a lack of herself.
During the discussion, Keenan said: “When I paint landscapes, it’s not necessarily about the environment. For me, it’s about the feeling that a place has given me. In the sense that I can be completely swallowed up by nature or the architecture around me. This is how I choose where to paint. It wasn’t until she began to fall in love with her surroundings that she was able to incorporate those feelings into her art, which she wanted others to see as well.
Overall, the art in this exhibit seems to tell the story of an artist finding herself in the midst of a period of internal struggle. Throughout the works produced, the changes are evident through the color palette applied and as she moves from landscapes only to merging her surroundings with her portraits. I would highly recommend viewing these paintings in person as it is the only way to fully grasp the significance of what Keenan is depicting and how it chronologically influences the outcome of his works which hang in one place. This exhibit will remain on display until Tuesday at the Darwin R. Barker Library between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.