Mary Ahern Biography

(Just the short version)


Through the twisting paths and obstacles in life the two constants for me have been my Art and my Garden. These are my anchors. They keep me balanced, complete, secure. The arrival of spring flings me from my studio where I’ve been creating my Art all winter, into the emerging garden surrounding my studio. The colors shout optimism to me. The joyous season has begun again. This is where I grow my subjects and gather the imagery for my work.

I’ve been an Artist for eons, exploring as all true Artists do, a myriad of subjects and with enough mediums that fill drawers and cabinets throughout my studio. I’ve been zigging and zagging throughout my journey with all the bumps and joyous bursts I could grab. Some of my work through the years has had autobiographical underpinnings, some of it was icy flat. I’ve worked big and I’ve worked small. But when it comes down to it, I love color!

An oil painting in progress by the artist. Mary Ahern
An oil painting in progress


I love studying Art History. I’ve been doing it steadily now for decades. My personal library still contains the first book in which I saw the work of Georgia O’Keeffe in the 1970’s. I wept each time I opened it. I had to limit myself to 10 pages a day since I was exhausted from looking, from feeling, from studying. I remember stroking the large pages hoping to absorb something, something unknowable to me at the time. Her work somehow spoke to my soul.

Though I’ve absorbed some of Georgia’s iconography, when I’m painting in traditional oils I reach backwards to techniques of the Old Masters. I enjoy the process of grisaille painting with the painstaking layers of glazes but I do it with a modern flair. Speaking of modern, I may reach backwards to compositions inspired by Raphael’s Madonna del Prato but I may do the painting using digital mediums with Siberian irises as subjects.

My classical Art education in New York City was probably the last gasp of formal training before the onset of conceptual and performance art took hold. My professors were all active and renowned in their fields, Wolf Kahn, Herb Aach, Robert Birmelin and Louis Finklestein. The foundation in color and design they taught is still the basis of all my work. I am indeed fortunate to have studied with professors who opened their SOHO studios and used the NYC art scene as an integral part of their classroom.

The proximity I still have with my studio one hour’s train ride from the array of museums and galleries in NYC is rejuvenating, inspiring and jump starting. My education never ends.


Once I recognized that I was an Artist, I’ve always maintained a working studio even when at times circumstances prevented great productivity. Then I would sit in there and study my books of the masters, absorbing not only their techniques but also an understanding of the enormous obstacles most of them had to traverse in order to continue forward with their work. They kept me going.

I make lemonade out of lemons. To remain in the world of creativity and support my sons as a single parent, I navigated into the nascent world of computer graphics during the 1980’s. Here I sold graphics and electronic paint systems to the Television & Production industry for use in on-air graphics and advertising. My Art training was put to good use as I demonstrated the systems to my target market of creative professionals who were just converting from traditional mediums to digital.

After receiving a concussion on the glass ceiling, I began my own graphic design business. Designing print media for my clients turned into repurposing their material once they recognized the value of the Internet. I built my first website in 1995, the year after the Internet became publically available. Having a low threshold for boredom has helped me shape my ongoing career in the Arts by pushing me to continually try new ideas, concepts and mediums.


Mary Ahern working in her perennial garden.

Exactly 20 years after I graduated with my Fine Arts degree I graduated with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture with a focus on Landscape Design. I am combining my Art and my love for gardening that was instilled in me as a child by my favorite Uncle Teddy. I am absolutely driven with these two passions. In fact, in 2000 I rebuilt my home and added two studios overlooking the gardens I’ve designed over the decades. These gardens that surround me in the quaint town of Northport on Long Island and beyond are the main inspiration for my Art.

I demand excellence in my work and continuously strive to be a subject-matter-expert in my fields of study. My expertise, not only in the mediums I choose but also in the subjects of horticulture and landscape design that I represent in my close-up florals and landscape paintings of gardens is critical to me.

I have a passion for life and learning. It is at the core of my being and who I am as a person and as an Artist.


Click here for my Artist’s resume or here for my Artist Statement.