As an artist member of the Artists2artists Social Network, I posted some of my work in their online gallery.
Their resident curator, Kristen T Woodward* saw my work and wrote about it. She has allowed me to share her review.
Here is her review of my work:
It was a joy to discover your series of large-scale flower paintings on view this morning. Subtle Exuberance- Tree Peony held my attention the longest, with it’s delicately curling petals, and contrasts of value. The lower chroma hues within the areas of shadow- variations of brown and muted violets, are a surprising color scheme in the giant bloom. The colors beautifully contrast with the complementary yellow center’s delicate stamens, which provides striking textural variation against the smooth petals. The abstraction of the flowers presented in large format grants them an otherworldly quality. I find the peony works, including Worth the Wait are particularly effective in their restraint of color. Thank you for sharing your work. I look forward to viewing more over time.
My name is Kristen T Woodward, and I am the official resident curator for Artists2artists. Please view my short bio below:
A Professor of Art at Albright College in Pennsylvania, I have exhibited my mixed media paintings in over 200 venues since 2000. I currently teach introductory through advanced levels of undergraduate printmaking & painting, including oil and water media, and encaustic. I have also team taught interdisciplinary courses on Latin American graphic art, and gender and the visual arts. Currently, I am collaborating with a biologist to explore tropical ecosystems in Central America.
The National Association of Women Artists is the oldest art organization in the country. NAWA. Supporting Women Artists Since 1889.
This article about NAWA, published by the Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, focuses on this prestigious women’s art organization of which I am a juried-in member. I’m so amazed and delighted to be one of the artists whose work is featured in this article. Wow!
For NAWA member Mary Ahern, flowers represent a microcosm of the universe in their cycles of living and loving, families and relationships as well as their quest for survival and eventual senescence and rebirth.
It’s easy for some to forget that not that long ago in history, women had few opportunities for making art, much less becoming professional artists. Even today there are challenges, which is why it’s important to highlight the oldest women’s fine art organization in the country, the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA).
“NAWA was founded by a group of women artists not content to be kept out of salons, exhibitions and galleries open to male artists in the 19th century,” Amy Hutto, a juried member of NAWA, says. “While great strides have been made, women artists continue to be underrepresented and our work undervalued monetarily compared to our male counterparts still today. Our goals, among many others, are to educate, inspire, promote and celebrate the art work and accomplishments of women artists, our members in particular.”
NAWA member Lisa Daria Kennedy. Since 2009, she has committed to an on-going daily painting project. As a young adult cancer survivor, she discovered living is not just surviving. Each painting seeks to give a voice to the fiber of the everyday.
Hutto, a colorist whose subject focus is on domestic and wild animals, is from Austin, Texas, and currently lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
I had the opportunity to ask Hutto a few questions about the importance and benefits of NAWA, including a question that makes women in particular cringe.
Cherie Dawn Haas: Can you tell me a little about yourself please, and why you chose to join NAWA?
Amy Hutto: I chose to join NAWA because of its prestigious reputation, historical significance and its long history of spotlighting the under-represented art of women in a predominately male oriented profession.
I also wanted to connect with other artists across the country, and now I converse regularly with professional women artists in Colorado, South Carolina, and all over. I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the art world in real-time.
CDH: What is your response when someone says, “They don’t have an association just for men?”
AH: I explain that the art world has traditionally been an association for men. Men have long dominated salons, galleries, and museums throughout history. Many women don’t even sign their full name on their work, just their initials, to remove any preconceived notions about art created by a woman. The National Association of Women Artists is working to change that narrative.
CDH: What are some of the ways in which men can support NAWA and women artists in general?
AH: NAWA does have many men who support us and we appreciate them a great deal! We have men on our Executive Board of Directors who support women artists. Men who are in the business of art whether as creators, gallery owners, curators, etc…acknowledgement; in-kind recognition and more inclusive practices that strive for more balanced representation; and additionally to support efforts for women created works of art to be monetarily valued as equal to that of men’s art.
Non-members of the art world can also show their support of NAWA through financial donations and endowments which allow us to grow our organization, hence increasing awareness of women artists and their contributions to the art industry.
NAWA member Joyce Byrnes is a pastel artist living in Rockland County, NY. In her paintings, she seeks to convey the light, color and textures she finds in nature.
CDH: What are some of the benefits of joining NAWA?
AH: There are so many benefits of joining NAWA; national exposure through NAWA’s website, the ability to participate in exhibitions that are exclusive to NAWA members both online and in exhibition spaces, the contacts one can establish with artists across the country, the support of other artists experiencing the same issues in our industry, access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise shared with other members on our social media sites, as well as having artwork listed in our catalogs and stored in the archives at Alexander Library at Rutgers University. I could go on and on.
I will add just one more thing. Being able to be a part of this historical organization whose sole purpose is to empower women artists, and to see my name alongside artist powerhouses such as Mary Cassatt, Faith Ringgold, and Judy Chicago is an enormous honor. Such a feeling of accomplishment is difficult to put in words.
CDH: Have there been any unexpected positive results for the artists in this association?
AH: Yes, having our organization featured here! Thank you very much for the opportunity to visit with you and share a little about NAWA and our artists. You never know where connections will lead, and you don’t make connections unless you reach out.
I reached out to join NAWA and once I was accepted, a whole world of opportunity opened for me. That’s what we want for our members; to show them that we value them as an artist by selecting them through a juried process to join our esteemed organization and by providing ongoing opportunities for education, inspiration and promotion of their work – connecting with them not only on a professional level, but personal level.
CDH: Does NAWA have any upcoming exhibitions?
AH: We currently have “The Resilience of Grief” and “Winter Small Works,” which are online exhibitions that will carry us into spring. They will be followed by “Special Women / HERstory” and an invitational exhibition, Art Angels which will lead into our first summer exhibition for our new members held in June.
Members and the public alike enjoy an exhibition of art from NAWA
CDH: Anything else you’d like to add?
AH: I’d like to mention that NAWA Headquarters recently moved into a new location. We are now privileged to call the National Arts Club building at Gramercy Park South in New York City our new home. This is a beautiful and historically significant building and when we are able to return to in person shows, we will have an incredible new space to host them in.
In the meantime, please visit our website www.thenawa.org and like our Facebook page @TheNAWA, to see what our incredible artists and the organization is doing. Lastly I want to thank you again for the opportunity to share a little about the National Association of Women Artists. Having a chance to highlight the issue of under-representation of women artists, is critical. Art is an ever-evolving form of expression that belongs to all of us. We each have the power to change the status quo for the betterment of not only ourselves, but the women artists who come after us.
Cherie Dawn Haas is the Editor of Realism Today, as well as the Online Content Manager for FineArtConnoisseur.com and OutdoorPainter.com (home of Plein Air Magazine). She is a “maker” who loves to write, dance, and explore various other forms of creative self-expression, including mixed media art.
I am honored to have my painting “Pay Attention Here – Orange Hibiscus” on the cover of the Fall 2020 Newsletter of NAWA, The National Association of Artists. I was juried as a full member into this prestigious historic organization in November of 2018.
NAWA was founded on January 31, 1889 to offer women a greater opportunity as professional artists in a male-dominated art world. From the onset, the annual exhibitions of the women’s Art Club were a great success, attracting the participation of women artists such as Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, Rosa Bonheur and Cecelia Beaux. As the organization grew, its membership included prominent artists like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Anna Hyatt Huntington.
Many members have taken their rightful place among the recognized artists of their time. Louise Nevelson, Nell Blaine, Alice Neel, Marisol, Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, Janet Fish, Audrey Flack and Faith Ringgold. It is a great honor for me to be afforded such an inspiring brush with history and talent.
This is the statement I wrote for the NAWA publication.
For years, I have created floral and garden paintings as the subject of my art. During the last number of years, I’ve focused ever more closely on the centers of flowers as they speak to me more deeply of the reason for their existence. And ours as well.
As a passionate gardener, I am inspired by the gardens I designed and tend surrounding my own studio in Northport. These flowers represent to me a microcosm of the universe. The outsize scale of these individual flower portraits demands attention. They ask questions beyond the canvas.
What is the purpose for such magnificence in nature? What is the reason for such color, such form, such diversity? What is their relationship to the communities in which they belong, their relationships with other plants and species that sustain them, invade them and nourish them? What of their lifecycle of birth, growth, senescence and rebirth? As humans, what can we learn from their seemingly simple existence?
Initially, we see with our eyes. We name the subject, identify it and classify it. But, we also have a duality of vision which allows us to contemplate with an inner vision. This art invites both the external and internal views.
The dual naming of each painting reflects the complex meaning of the work and is an enticement to think more deeply about the subject. This painting, Pay Attention Here – Orange Hibiscus, is at first a call for contemplation of purpose and secondarily, the common name of the flower which enables a more familiar entry into the conversation.
Mary Ahern speaking about her artwork at the Induction Ceremony of The National Association of Women Artists held at the Rubin Museum in New York City, November 2018.
On September 25, 2018 I received a letter congratulating me on having been accepted into the National Association of Women Artists, Inc. (NAWA). I had submitted my portfolio for review, my resume/CV, bio and Artist’s Statement. This is a juried acceptance to this prestigious organization and I am very proud to have my name on the same page as some of the amazing artists who have been affiliated with this organization over the years.
To create greater opportunity for professional women artists in a male-dominated art world, on January 31, 1889, five innovative women, Anita C. Ashley, Adele Frances Bedell, Elizabeth S. Cheever, Grace Fitz-Randolph and Edith Mitchill Prellwitz met to discuss the formation of a women’s art organization. In an era when women artists were associated primarily with crafts and decorative arts, the founders of NAWA envisioned an organization which would promote higher standards for women artists and provide them with the opportunity to exhibit their work.
The history of NAWA is a testament to the strength and resilience of a group of strong women who would not accept being shut out of the art salons, galleries and art exhibitions open to male artists during the 19th century. Their founding of the organization proves that, despite adversity and discrimination – which many feel extends to this day — women are an integral and valuable part of the arts community.
From the onset, the annual exhibitions of the women’s Art Club were a great success, attracting the participation of women artists such as Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, Rosa Bonheur and Cecelia Beaux. As the organization grew, its membership included prominent artists like Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Anna Hyatt Huntington.
Over the years the organization attracted many talented members who later achieved great recognition for their work. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney established the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City. Anna Hyatt Huntington created the sculpture museum Brookgreen Gardens/ in South Carolina.
Many members and supporters have exhibited in major museums and have taken their rightful place among the recognized artists of their time. Louise Nevelson, Malvina Hoffman, Cleo Hartwig, Minna Citron, Nell Blaine, Dorothy Dehner, Alice Neel, Marisol, Pat Adams, Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, Janet Fish and Audrey Flack, and other contemporary talented artists joined the organization making NAWA valid force in its time.
NAWA members represent all areas of the visual arts including painting, sculpture, encaustic photography, print-making,video art, installations and mixed media. The benefits of membership are many, including a substantial Awards program, the opportunity to display artwork throughout the U.S. in our Exhibitions program, and inclusion in NAWA’s Annual Catalog.
Through NAWA’s exhibitions, educational programs, events and archive, the Association fosters awareness of the monumental contribution of women to the history of American Culture and Art.
The organization is inclusive and serves professional women visual artists of all backgrounds and traditions that are at least 18 years of age and U .S. citizens or permanent residents.
THE NAWA PERMANENT COLLECTION
The NAWA permanent collection was established under the leadership of Liana Moonie in 1991. Housed at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the NAWA collection contains the work of artists dating from the organization’s earliest days to the present. Parts of the collection are continually on view at the museum and special exhibitions were created under the guidance of Jeffrey Wechsler.
Mary Ahern had (experimented) in art for many years, but had never been able to actually make a career of it. Until four years ago, that is, when she made the switch to full-time artist.
“I had always been a creative artist,” the Northport resident, explained. “Life, however, intervened, and as a single parent, I was never able to create my art on a full-time basis.”
Changing careers at midlife is no small feat, and switching to one with substantially less earning potential is more difficult still. According to Randy Miller, founder and president of ReadyMinds, an online career counseling service, downsizing a career can be a source of great anxiety.
Newsday photo of Mary Ahern painting in studio
Yet for some people, any fear or hesitation is mitigated by the yearning to follow a dream. Seeking more spiritually uplifting endeavors can be the ultimate challenge, and Miller said any attendant loss of income is often compensated with a renewed sense of purpose and newfound happiness.
“There are a lot of people who go through life and think, ‘What if?'” Miller said. “With a strategic plan, coupled with the new passion and ultimate objective of doing something different, one can more easily achieve their ultimate goals.”
For Ahern, a new husband provided the impetus and financial support to move forward. Income, the couple concluded, was less relevant to the quality of their lives than the legacy they wish to leave behind.
Newsday photo. Mary Ahern working in her digital studio.
“When we married, Dave urged me to follow my dream,” she recalled. “The hard part at first was trying to find inside myself what that dream actually was. You spend so much time marching forward and doing what you do, you lose the essence of yourself.”
Once their five children — all from previous marriages — were finished with college, Ahern felt it was OK to follow her calling.
“My income from my art doesn’t yet come close to the money I’m used to making in either my career in computer graphics equipment sales or my own graphics design firm,” she said.
One of her greatest sacrifices was a big dip in retirement savings, which now come exclusively from her husband’s salary.
“We have a comfortable nest egg,” she said, “but by coming out of a conventional career, I no longer have the extra cushion to add to my existing portfolio of tax-advantaged savings vehicles.”
Despite her diminished earnings, Ahern says she is happier. “I am living the life I am meant to live,” she said.
Moving beyond money
Though financial rewards are, undoubtedly, necessary for life on Long Island, there are many people, experts say, who yearn for a sense of personal satisfaction and deep-down fulfillment, something that money just can’t buy.
According to career counselor M J Feld, of Careers By Choice in Huntington, more and more individuals are making such changes in their lives. “In particular, because corporate America has become a source of alienation to lots of workers,” Feld said, “we have a lot of folks looking to build their own road. It is no longer about what looks like success; it is about what feels like success.”
For Lisa Hodes, 41, of Huntington, the desire to be closer to her kids and have a simpler life spurred a decision to buy a local business. Hodes had been a stay-at-home mom until her divorce in 2002 necessitated returning to work.
“After being home with my kids, I didn’t want them to feel a drastic change,” she said, so she settled, temporarily, on a management position at a Plainview firm specializing in discounted health plans.
Before marrying, Hodes had worked as a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies, traveling on business a few days each week, three out of every four weeks. “I loved work, but I didn’t have much of a personal life,” she recalled.
At her temporary post, Hodes said, she felt something was always being compromised. “My kids weren’t getting enough of me,” she said, “and I wasn’t getting any of me. Nobody was being satisfied — even though there was a greater earning potential over the long run.”
Searching around for other possibilities, Hodes spotted a “For Sale” sign at Sweetie’s Candy Cottage in Huntington, a sweets emporium minutes from her home, and decided to take the plunge.
“Now I work around their schedule,” she says, referring to sons Cole, 9, and Quinn, 7. “I’m home after school every day and there for anything school-related.”
Another factor in Hodes’ decision to escape the corporate world: her disdain for bureaucracy and having to go through endless channels to get simple decisions approved. “Now if I feel that something should be done, it is done,” she said. “No waiting — just do things for the right reason and get on to the next.”
And now, she adds: “I remember what is important to me: family and living life in a certain way.”
Accomplishing the switch, however, meant losing the security of a regular paycheck.
“It’s a very unpredictable, seasonal income,” she admitted. “With children, that’s very hard. It means I can’t plan for any particular college and retirement savings. The way it works in our house is we only buy things at the holiday season, because that’s when we have a little bit of extra money.”
“You have to admire the courage of someone who gives up their income and their social status for the values that they’re trying to uphold,” said Susan Peterson, president of A-1 Resumes Inc. of East Norwich, who is also an adjunct professor of philosophy at Nassau Community College. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”
Over the past 18 months, headhunter Lhea Scotto-Laub said, she has seen a trend toward baby boomers taking positions with significantly less financial potential than the ones they previously held.
Scotto-Laub, president of Quantum Career Services in Jericho, said these people have realized they “want more — intellectually, emotionally and socially — and that something’s missing. They want more gratification in the new position that they’re seeking.”
After a three-decade career teaching college-level biology, Roberta Koepfer definitely thought something was missing.
“Although I had always enjoyed teaching, when I examined my life, I realized I had grown as much as I could,” the Bayside resident said. “The lab and the lecture hall had become too confining. I felt a need to explore these other spiritual interests I had.”
Her search ended at her daughter Diana’s wedding in 2005, where the ceremony was performed by Kim Kirkley as a celebrant, someone who officiates at ceremonies or rites.
“After speaking with Kim, I instantly felt that I had found the new direction … I had been seeking,” she said.
Two years later, Koepfer, now 65, became a celebrant and has presided over a handful of ceremonies.
She and her husband have never had an extravagant lifestyle, she said, but they have still had to adapt to her lowered income. “I don’t need business clothes anymore,” she explained. “I eat out less. My biggest cut was in buying books.”
Still, the greatest and scariest challenge, she said, was giving up a secure position and knowing that there was no turning back.
“But I wasn’t happy anymore doing what I did,” she declared. “Since I retired [from teaching], a whole new world has opened up for me.”
Recently, Koepfer decided to add the title of chaplain to her resume, and as part of her studies, will be doing a 100-hour internship at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for women in Westchester.
The joy factor
Another “chaplain-in-training,” Karl Nelson, of Huntington Station, had considered going into semiretirement, with the benefit of savings, a small pension and Social Security payments.
“I was working for a nursing home in Queens,” he said. “While I was there I had to recruit a new chaplain. The three women who applied for the job had all taken this clinical pastoral education.”
While checking one of the candidate’s references, his conversation with the program director piqued his interest in the profession.
After talking it over with his wife, Nelson decided to pursue a new career and in 2006, at the age of 67, began a yearlong course for clinical pastoral education. He is now finishing up a certification program while working as a chaplain at Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson Station, where he plans to remain once he finishes the course.
Of his 40 years in health care administration, which included serving as chief executive of Booth Memorial Medical Center in Queens, Nelson said, “I had a lot of big jobs with big staff. That work was very rewarding, but it was all management work. It was not dealing directly with patients.”
Now, as chaplain, he ministers directly to patients, counseling them and their families.
“The direct contact with people,” he said, “is so rewarding.”
What he’s losing in income — at the peak of his former career he made over $100,000 a year more than he does now — he’s making up in personal joy.
“I’ve never had a richer, more fulfilling experience in my life,” he said. “As people approach death, they become very aware of the spiritual aspect of their lives. I can help them navigate this journey.”
For years, Nelson ritually set aside 10 percent of his salary toward retirement. Today, he’s living largely on those savings, which, he said, have grown over the years, and he no longer is saving from salary.
His daughter has finished graduate school, so Nelson no longer has to support her. And to further make up for the salary differential, he and his wife have cut back on restaurant meals, movies and theater outings in the city. Vacations are shorter and closer to home, and since he’s no longer commuting, he’s saving on gas, tolls and parking.
“There’s no magic to it — it’s very careful attention to detail and a little belt-tightening. The little things really add up to make a difference.”
Paul Jenssen, 51, of Searingtown, moved from a lucrative career in investment banking to teaching because he yearned to leave a different sort of legacy. The move was made possible by years of prudent living and careful financial planning.
As he and his wife made increasingly more money, he explained, they shifted the higher earnings directly into higher savings. “We didn’t really grow our lifestyles as our incomes grew,” he said.
After years of working and saving for the education of their two children, Jenssen, an investment banker and financial planner, and his wife, Debra Esernio-Jenssen, a pediatrician, realized they could get by with significantly less income if they watched what they spent.
“My goal was to minimize the luxuries so that we don’t have to dip into our savings,” he said.
Luxury cars, according to Jenssen, offer a perfect example of something people can easily do without when they’re downsizing. He traded in his Lexus sedan for a Mazda, and the two have cut back on vacations and dining out.
Jenssen, whose last post was chief financial officer of an investment bank, explained: “I had gotten into accounting by default, to support myself. I always had an idea that I’d like to do something different at some point.”
Over the years, he had pondered career possibilities. “I always liked history as a kid, and I’d thought about teaching for a while.”
A trip to Tanzania in 2007 with a group of high school students from Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville cemented his decision to teach. He was impressed by African students who, he said, sacrifice everything for their ticket out of poverty: education.
“I would like to teach social studies in a way that connects to the children,” he said, “in a way that I would have liked to have been taught.” Jenssen started taking classes last January and is now observing other teachers, and loving it all.
“To be in school with younger people is fun,” he said, “and I find it very energizing. The side benefit of it is I get to delve into a subject I love and look at it with a more mature perspective.”
Up next for Jenssen is student teaching and completion of his master’s program in education by the end of the summer. Come next fall, he’ll be out looking for a full-time teaching position.
“The idea of having a legacy, more than making money, and at the same time rediscovering history to teach it, is both a challenge and reward,” he said.
For those downsizing careers, living their dream is their reason for being.
Roberta Koepfer sums up the transitional journey with one of her favorite quotes from the ninth century Japanese poet Akiro No Narihara:
“I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know it would be today.”
Mary Ahern has green thumb for botanicals & business.
By Arlene Gross
June 13, 2007 | 02:39 PM
Northport resident Mary Ahern is a successful artist who practices a unique technique she describes as “digital” painting.
But Ahern, who will be among the exhibitors at Arts in the Park in Northport July 8, was not born an artist. “I didn’t come to paint until I was older,” she said. “I didn’t even know I had a facility for it.”
As a young girl, she focused on music: playing trumpet and saxophone for the high school band and conducting her Fort Hamilton High School graduation in Brooklyn with a rousing rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“I’ve been in the bleeding edge of those kinds of issues,” she said. “In those days, girls didn’t conduct.”
A life-changing moment came in her 20s, when a friend gave her a coffee table book of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings.
“I opened it up and turned the pages and wept,” she recalled. “It was completely transforming. I could only look at 10 pictures a day, it was so overwhelming.”
From that moment, Ahern knew she must study art and, then a resident of Queens, attended Queens College.
Although she was influenced by O’Keefe and painted similar subjects, such as close-up and sensual florals, Ahern said she did not mimic her idol’s technique. Whereas O’Keefe painted with direct and rapid strokes, Ahern’s traditional paintings were created in grisaille, or gray scale, and layered with washes of pigment on top, giving the subjects a glow through the optical blending of glazes of pigment.
After divorcing her first husband, Ahern took a job at Barnard College’s career counseling office, where she herself was able to get some career guidance. Through her Barnard position, she attended Columbia University for free by working there while raising sons, Chris and Michael, then ages 10 and 8.
“I knew if I couldn’t stay home and be a mom and paint, I had to make a decision: I’m going to make as much money as possible,” she said.
With profit in mind, Ahern went into technology sales, selling computer graphics and eventually becoming Northeast regional sales manager at Chyron Corporation in Melville. Then she started Online Design, a digital graphics company.
For Ahern, feminism was not a word to bandy about but, rather, her day-to-day reality — working as a single mother in a male-dominated industry.
“My single-minded focus on providing a good life for my sons enabled me to ignore the tremendous obstacles, prejudice, emotional assault and loneliness that comes from breaking through social barriers,” she said. “I, like my father, pulled myself up by my bootstraps. As a woman in a male industry however, I, like Ginger Rogers, did everything in high heels and backwards.”
In 1989, Ahern fulfilled her dream of buying a house with a spacious garden in Northport, which she said, “was like a step back in time to a slower and more gracious lifestyle.”
“The center of town with a Main Street embedded with trolley tracks leading to the harbor breezes and music in the gazebo captured my attention and insisted upon my attendance. I needed to move here.”
Eleven years later, she renovated her home, adding an airy, second floor art studio, and now natural light trickles throughout.
The garden, which Ahern designed, encircles the house, with its artfully designated focal points and meandering paths, everything flowing gracefully.
“I practice nonviolent gardening — no rose bushes to stab you — all soft inviting plants,” she said.
Seventeen years after her first marriage ended, Ahern married David Ruedeman, an engineer at Chyron. The couple worked together there but got to know one another only when he became a client of Online Design. This year will mark the couple’s 10th anniversary…
Early on in the second marriage, wishing to reinvent herself, Ahern got a degree in horticulture from SUNY Farmingdale in 2000, with the idea of becoming a landscape designer, which she did for a year.”It was too much for my… body,” she said, of the many hours spent working on bended knees.
From there, it was a two-year course studying botanical illustration at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
Her photographic painting, a culmination of expertise paralleling her life’s progressive journey, combines a passion for the fine arts, gardening, computer graphics and botanical painting.
“To be creative, you need to know your medium,” Ahern said of her computer graphics skills. Through her paintings, she seeks to make people look around them and become more aware of the nature surrounding us.
Dr. Roberta Koepfer, her friend since 1971, said, “She’s like a phoenix. I have seen her rise up from a fair number of devastating experiences. Every time she comes back, she comes back more dynamic, more focused on her art and with an increased zest for life and personal growth.”
When it came time to sell her art, Ahern’s business savvy came in handy; she started in Northport as an exhibitor at the annual Arts in the Park series and now participates in about 15 art shows in New York and Connecticut between May and September, with her husband lending a hand.
Ahern’s work has also been the focus of several gallery exhibitions, including a one-person show at Greenlawn’s Harborfields Library this past February.
Susan Hope, gallery coordinator for the library, noted that Ahern’s exhibit was well timed: her cheerful florals brightened the gloom of winter. “It has an eye catching appeal,” she said. “People really enjoyed it, whether they were art savvy or just seniors on their way to their meetings.”
Today, Ahern is either painting her botanicals, selling them or lecturing on the business of art at libraries or schools, although her business persona has changed radically over the years.”I did trade shows in high heels and silk suits,” she said, “now I’m doing business in Birkenstocks and shorts.”
To anyone seeking career guidance, Ahern advised, “Don’t throw away anything you’ve done because you want to transform yourself. Take the good portions, the positive elements and try to incorporate them into this new self you’re creating. That’s how I’m living my life.”