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 the ideas suggested by my garden and above all I love color.

RIAn oil painting in progress by the artist. Mary AhernFFING ON CLASSICAL ART

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 1970s and saw for the first time a woman’s lightened color palette and the sensuality she evoked in her paintings of mountains, flowers, and bones. I wept each time I opened the book so 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 as no other images ever had.

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 only one hour’s train ride from the array of museums and galleries in NYC, is rejuvenating and inspiring. My education never ends.


Once I recognized that I was an Artist, I’ve always maintained a working studio, even when circumstances prevented great productivity at times. Then, I would sit there and study my books on 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 with their work. They kept me going. And that was just the male artists before the formal arts industry began to recognize that women were also creative artists.

I make lemonade out of lemons. In the 1980s, to remain in the world of creativity and support my sons as a single parent, I navigated into the nascent world of computer graphics. Here, I sold graphics and electronic paint systems to the Television and 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 publicly available. Having a low threshold for boredom has helped me shape my career in the Arts by pushing me to continually try new ideas, concepts, and mediums.

Mary Ahern working in her perennial garden.AND THEN FOR A REAL CHANGE OF PACE

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 combined my Art and my love for gardening that was instilled in me as a child by my favorite Uncle Teddy. I am absolutely driven by these two passions. In fact, in 2000, I rebuilt my home and added two studios overlooking the gardens I’ve been designing over the decades. These gardens that surround me in the quaint town of Northport on Long Island have been the main inspiration for my Art over the decades.

Drawing inspiration from the vibrant community of life in my garden, my flowers invite universal questions of existence and purpose in their quest for survival, eventual senescence, and rebirth. Now, with the stunning imagery of the cosmos posted on the NAWA website, I have come to realize that those same notions of harmony and balance required for our existence are represented in a macro view of the universe. Combining these micro and macro views of our survival is the work I’m currently focusing on in my art through the use of layers of abstraction, realism and transparency.

Questioning meaning and relevance is and has been at the root of all my creative output. It reflects my artistic vision and also my philosophy.


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