The Hippo


Oct 23, 2019








“The Sun is Up, the Sky is Blue (Northern Gannet)” acrylic on canvas, by Rosemary G. Conroy

See “White Album”

Where: Sharon Arts Center Members Gallery, 30 Grove St., Peterborough
When: On view Aug. 1 through Aug. 30, reception Friday, Aug. 1, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Environmental art
Painting polar bears, living a dream

By Kelly Sennott

 Weare artist Rosemary Conroy promotes environmental change subtly: by painting bright portraits of beautiful animals.

“I want people to see creatures as individuals, individuals who are trying to make a living in the world, just like we are in a way,” Conroy said inside her Weare studio. “It’s a roundabout way of saying, ‘Wow, look at how beautiful these things are. Let’s make sure we still have them in the future.’ Because who wants to live in a world without polar bears? Not me.”
Her animal portrait collection for this show is called “The White Album,” and it will decorate the Sharon Arts Center Members Gallery Aug. 1 through Aug. 30. 
She’s no stranger to animal paintings, but most all 21 of these were made in the last six months, inspired by a trip with her husband to see the polar bears last year, on the frozen tundra, accompanied by an armed guard.
“I think he [her husband] wanted to make sure I didn’t go up and hug him or something,” Conroy said, laughing. “It was definitely the experience of a lifetime. I looked a wild polar bear in the eye. I’m sure he was thinking ‘Yummy!’ but I was thinking, ‘Oh my God!’ … We went out with a group of 12 people. I took like 3,000 pictures.”
She wanted to paint immediately afterward but was faced with a challenge. Conroy loves bright colors, and polar bears, well — they’re white.
“I’m known for my use of color,” Conroy said. “I wondered, could I make white animals seem colorful? So that was a challenge to myself.”
“The White Album” show (so called because each painting is named after a song in The Beatles’ White Album) includes paintings of the bears, a few birds, owls, French white horses and a few of her own animals, including her sheep Phoebe and chicken Mr. Moe. 
Visually, the animals are white but not quite white. Her polar bear’s fur, for instance, is trimmed with strands of blue, purple, pink and yellow, and its eyes are sunset orange. A handful of other paintings contain vibrant orange or yellow backgrounds to contrast.
Creating the show’s works meant constant painting for six months, and Conroy said she’ll likely take a few weeks off now that it’s all done. But it’s a dream job.
“I keep waiting for the knock on the door,” Conroy said, “When somebody’s going to say, ‘You’re having too much fun, you have to get serious!’” 
Her journey into the art world was nontraditional. She studied management information systems and for much of her 20s worked on the 73rd floor in the World Trade Center. 
“I never went to art school,” Conroy said. “My parents couldn’t quite get their minds around that. … Right out of college, I did the whole corporate thing. I really did not like it.”
She grew up in Brooklyn (a place much more hip now than when she was young, which she finds extremely unfair). She met her husband in New York, and in 1990 they moved to New Hampshire. Conroy leaned on her environmental passion and earned her master’s at Antioch New England in Keene. 
She worked as the communications director for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests for years. Art, at that point, was still a “someday” option, a “someday” plan. Eleven years went by.
She remembers Sept. 11 clearly. She wasn’t near the city, but she was watching. Her family was in New York, and so were her former office mates.
It was an eye-opener. She knew something needed to change. 
“I remembered getting up and going to work every day, thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to be an artist.’ And you know, these people never got their somedays,” Conroy said. “I just thought — I have to do this. I can’t not do this. I can’t wait my whole life, and then all of a sudden, something horrible happens and you don’t get to live your dream.” 
As seen in the July 31, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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