Paint­ings by Kathryn O’Grady on view at Ad­kins Ar­bore­tum

Record Observer - - Arts & Entertainment -

RIDGELY — Artist Kathryn O’Grady will make you think dif­fer­ently about the flocks of black­birds that are such a fa­mil­iar sight in the Ch­e­sa­peake re­gion. In “Four and Twenty,” a series of black­bird “por­traits” on view in Ad­kins Ar­bore­tum’s Vis­i­tors Cen­ter through Sept. 29, ev­ery bird is an in­di­vid­ual with its own quirky per­son­al­ity.

In “Close to the Big Pond,” her show of oil paint­ings and wa­ter­col­ors aug­mented with crayon and metal­lic pig­ment, O’Grady ze­ros in on na­ture’s di­ver­sity and en­ergy.

There will be a re­cep­tion from 3 to 5 p.m. Satur­day, Aug. 12, to meet the artist and learn how she be­came so en­tranced with Mary­land’s birds and ru­ral land­scapes.

O’Grady al­ways has been in love with color.

“It’s a deep-seated ob­ses­sion,” she said. “I re­mem­ber when I found out that Cray­olas came in more than eight colors when I was 2 or 3, I felt like my mother had been hold­ing out on me.”

Ex­hibit­ing at the ar­bore­tum cour­tesy of Bal­ti­more’s Steven Scott Gallery, O’Grady earned her Bach­e­lor of Fine Arts from Michi­gan State Univer­sity and a Mas­ter of Fine Arts from the Univer­sity of Texas. She has shown her work widely in the United States. In 1997, she moved from Texas to the ru­ral town of Tra­cys Land­ing, south of An­napo­lis, where she has been paint­ing the land­scapes and birds near her house ever since.

“When we first moved here from Texas, my first over­whelm­ing im­pres­sion was I’ve got to find more colors of green paint,” she said.

She quickly be­gan to dis­cover the many colors that un­der­lie the green of plants and make it so lively. Like an Im­pres­sion­ist artist, when she painted an old to­bacco barn sag­ging un­der the weight of a com­pli­cated tan­gle of vines, she did it with thou­sands of tiny strokes of scar­let, ma­roon, yel­low, lime, pine green and shad­owy blue. A riot of color and ac­tiv­ity, it bril­liantly cap­tures how plants re­claim any build­ing or field left va­cant.

“I like see­ing the plants take over,” O’Grady said. “In Texas, it’s so hot and dry, it takes a lot longer for the plant life to re­claim the struc­tures. Here, it hap­pens as soon as you turn your back.”

O’Grady al­ready had been keep­ing chick­ens and pea­cocks when her daugh­ter res­cued a lost mal­lard duck­ling eight years ago and brought it home. Less than a day old, the bird fell asleep in O’Grady’s hand. Rather than put it in the aviary with her other birds, she raised it in the house un­til it was old enough to move to a nearby pond. Not long af­ter­ward, the duck re­turned, bring­ing along a new mate that she pre­sented to O’Grady. The pair soon nested and be­gan an ex­tended fam­ily that still lives near the artist’s home.

“It changed the way I look at all birds,” O’Grady said. “I learned from my ducks that birds are in­di­vid­u­als.”

In sev­eral por­traits she has painted of her ducks, there’s no doubt of this. Each bird has its own dis­tinct per­son­al­ity. Some of the por­traits are ac­com­pa­nied by the ducks’ own sto­ries told by writer Peter Guttmacher.

Through­out her paint­ings, O’Grady has a knack for cap­tur­ing the en­ergy of birds and plants, con­vey­ing her awe of the in­domitable spirit and com­plex­ity of the nat­u­ral world.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.ad­kin­sar­bore­tum.org, email info@ad­kin­sar­bore­tum. org or call 410-634-2847.

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