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Christine Daly

Christine Daly

Christine Daly is a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

 

 

Christine Daly describes herself as a "traditional representational painter" who works in watercolor and oil paint. [1] Her paintings of everyday objects display a high level of technical skill and mastery of the mediums she works in.

Daly's paternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden to the Western New York countryside. Her family on her mother's side has lived in the region since the War of 1812, when her ancestor came to America as a Scottish soldier to fight in the war, and settled in Akron after it ended.

Daly herself was born and raised in the same rural area. She received degrees in studio art and art history from the State University of New York at Oswego in 1974, then pursued work as a mural painter. “However,” writer Mark Strong notes in a biographical statement, “that ideal quickly surrendered to the security of a predictable income. Working long hours as a commercial artist and raising a family shelved any notion of painting for several years.”[2] In 1987 she and her husband, fellow painter Thomas Aquinas Daly, moved onto a large farm in East Arcade, N.Y. It was there that she resumed her artistic career: "Living on a farm and tending an organic garden for more than thirty years, I am at a loss for words to describe my fascination with things that grow. Therefore, like a child (or Neanderthal), I make pictures."  [3]

Daly primarily paints still life arrangements of ordinary objects she encounters by chance on walks through Wyoming County, an activity that began in her youth:

"I have always been mesmerized by the shapes, colors, and textures of objects I find in my path. As a dawdling child I kept a fruit basket hooked over my arm to lug treasures home from my forays, amassing heaps of snail shells, feathers, butterfly wings, leaves, etc. I am still doing the same thing, but now I paint them. It's more than sharing my rapture over the blue of a petal or the radiance of a freshly peeled onion. It also has something to do with my need to know it betterto study it and internalize itperhaps to make it part of me." [4]

Returning to her studio, Daly creates compositions with the material she has collected, carefully arranging and lighting the items to draw attention to the beauty she finds in them:

“I establish strong directional lighting because I'm fascinated by the shapes of cast shadows and I depend on them as integral elements of my compositions. Generally I create a simple, asymmetric design using a flat expanse of negative space. It's a device that was utilized in Japanese wood block prints and the subsequent compositions of 19th century Western painters such as Whistler and Degas. By thoughtfully dividing the picture plane and editing extraneous clutter, there is a graphic quality to the image that gives it strength from a distance despite its small size.” [5]

In a 2008 review (of an exhibition of work by Christine and Thomas Aquinas Daly and their son Jonathan), writer Gerald Mead describes the results of her meticulous efforts:

“[Her] diminutively scaled still-life oil paintings … reveal the artist’s virtuosity as a draftsman, but more importantly, her ability to use composition as a tool to evoke a poetic sense of balance and repose. The objects she selects are commonplace—a cup, a vase with just a few flowers, some fruit—[but] it is the placement of the objects and overall arrangements that show her editorial prowess.  The effect is decidedly elegant—a study in the power of visual restraint that takes advantage of states of tension that can exist between object and surface.” [6]

Daly’s watercolors and oil paintings have been exhibited in galleries throughout the U.S. Her one woman shows have sold out and her paintings have appeared on the covers of national periodicals. In addition to painting, Daly wrote the text for Painting Nature’s Quiet Places (Watson-Guptill, 1985) and conceived, wrote and designed The Art of Thomas Aquinas Daly: The Painting Season (Daly Studio, 1998). She also makes jewelry, administers the family business, and works for the Arts Council of Wyoming County.

In 2012, Daly was designated one of the Burchfield Penney’s first “Living Legacy” artists.

For more information on Christine Daly, visit www.christinedaly.com.

 

 

[1] Christine Daly, interview with Heather Gring for the Living Legacy Project, Burchfield Penney Art Center, 07/12/2012. (See recording to the right on this page.)

[2] Mark Strong, “Christine Daly,” Meibohm Fine Arts website, 09/2008, http://www.meibohmfinearts.com/artists.aspx?ID=481. (Accessed 08/06/2013)

[3] Christine Daly, Gring interview.

[4] Christine Daly, artist’s statement, reprinted in Paul Mrozek, “ACWC exhibit explores 'Local' talent,” The Daily News, 01/12/2012, http://thedailynewsonline.com/entertainment/article_c7b7cf10-5cb0-5aa0-bdda-f2fecab90fed.html. (Accessed 08/06/2013)

[5] Strong.

[6] Gerald Mead, “The Daly Show,” Artvoice, 11/12/2008, http://artvoice.com/issues/v7n46/meibohm_fine_arts. (Accessed 08/06/2013)

 

 

Listen or read Christine Daly’s interview with Heather Gring for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, conducted on July 12, 2012. In it, Daly discusses how she never gave art a second thought. “It’s just who I am,” she says. She speaks about her influences and mentors, including her painting professor in college and her husband. She feels very strongly about painting “what you know” and discusses her creative process and how she chooses her subject matter. Daly also discusses her work at the Arts Council for Wyoming County, which includes bringing arts to young people and challenging children with artistic talents.

 

 

 

Transcription of Living Legacy Project Interview with Christine Daly

July 12, 2012

Transcribed by Cassandra Chu, 2017

 

HG: Christine, what inspired you to be an artist?

CD: What inspired me to be an artist? I’ve never really been inspired to be an artist, I’ve just always…as soon as I discovered how I could use my opposable thumb, I’ve picked things up and made things and drawn things, and it’s just evolved. It’s who I am, it’s integral to my being, I mean it’s just something I’ve always done and I’ve never ever gave it a moment’s rational thought. It’s like breathing.

HG: What were some of the earliest things you created in your life, do you remember?

CD: Lots of drawings, I always had lots of drawings, because my grandfather worked at Kimberly-Clark and he would get massive piles of paper and I could just, you know, I think my family was kind of happy that I would sit quietly in a corner and entertain myself for hours drawing pictures, so that was the beginning.

HG: Where did you attend school?

CD: I went to the State University of New York College at Oswego and the reason I went there is because I needed an affordable education. I had planned to go to Syracuse all along, I was accepted at Syracuse but my father really balked at spending the money, and back then, he didn’t think it was a worthwhile investment for his daughter to be educated, so I had to find a means of paying myself, and so I went to a SUNY school and at the time, Oswego had a fairly good art department, but more importantly, it was situated on the lake, which I think you can understand, but I knew I’d be happy there, I’d be comfortable there. They also had stables there and horses have always been an integral part of my life, so that’s something else that made me comfortable about being there. I loved it, it was a wonderful experience.

HG: Who are some of your influential mentors?

CD: Well, one of my mentors at Oswego would have been Al Bremmer, who was my painting professor. He gave me a lot of leeway and really let me explore things on my own, and then outside of…outside of Oswego, obviously my husband’s been a tremendous influence on me just because I watch the way he works, I watch the way he operates. Dinner table conversations in our house are always about what’s wrong with this painting, how can I fix it? And our children grew up in that environment too, I mean we never fostered the notion of becoming artists—in fact I was hoping to discourage it in any way possible, but it was just…it’s the way we live and it’s a part of our daily lives so obviously he was tremendous…he’s always been an influence on my work cause he always had a studio full of material I could filch, so…but yeah…and his good friend, Bruce Kurland, he’s around a lot, and just the conversations are always…I’ve never actually had Tom or Bruce ever hands-on instruct me or help me with problem solving in any way. In fact, I don’t even let Tom in my studio, which people find shocking cause they’ve always thought that he probably mentored me in some way, you know, as instructor, but he never sees anything I do until he sees it in a show or something, it’s…he’s just…I just…I like to solve my own problems. I guess what I find interesting in the creative process is having this baffling, you know, predicament in front of me and working through it, and you know, falling on my face, picking myself up and figuring it out and hammering away. If somebody gives me the answers, well, what’s the point in that? It’s like looking at a crossword puzzle, you know, looking at the back page and finding the answers—what’s the point? It’s like…I wanna find out myself, so I really haven’t had anybody actually physically stand over my shoulder and…and help me in that way, not since school.

HG: What about some other—in addition to Bruce and Tom—are there any other influential artists that have, throughout your past, sort of influenced your trajectory?

CD: Well, my high school art teacher was very influential. He really, really fired me up—David Vitrano, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him at all, he lives in Buffalo and he works in Buffalo—but he was terrific. But other artists…you know, my dad and my uncle were both…they did a lot of cartooning. My uncle was a political cartoonist, my father just always doodled and painted, and I think as a child, you know, you see somebody doing it and it looks really cool and you want to do it too.

HG: Could you talk about what type of art you create a little bit more, what inspires you to choose your subject matter and how you go through that process.

CD: Well, I feel very strongly that you should paint what you know, you should paint something you have some feeling about, otherwise you end up with something kind of sterile and shallow, and even though I know, I mean, people have done what I…what I’m doing over and over and over again, beaten it to death, it’s still something that moves me. I…We live on a farm, I’m…I’ve always grown, you know, a big organic garden, I love to have my hands in the earth, it’s just who I am. I’m fascinated with things that grow, and I get so excited by them, it’s…it’s ridiculous, but I just get so crazy when I see something, you know, that I’ve pulled out of the ground, like an onion or something, and it’s so exquisitely beautiful, and I’m just obsessed with it, and I want everybody else to see it, so I have to…it’s…it’s just a very basic, very primitive thing; I have to make a picture of it to show everybody because how can I go out and describe it verbally? You can’t, it’s like, “I want them to look at this!”

HG: And how do you set up your still lifes?

CD: Well, I have a little shelf when I open like one…you know, darken up a room so I have real strong directional light, and I’ll set them up, you know, on the same…basically where I can control the light, and I’ll do a whole series of photographs from all different angles just to see which way the shadows…you know, I’m so interested in cast shadows on the wall, I mean it’s an integral part of the picture, and so I’m always looking for different configurations of shadows as much as anything when I’m actually composing a piece, and I’ll take an awful lot of pictures, because an awful lot of what I paint is really ephemeral stuff; you pick some wildflowers, you’ve got thirty seconds until they start to collapse, so you’ve got to photograph them and I just don’t work that quickly. I’ll work from life with my, you know, my basic setup, but I need the reference to keep the flowers fresh. I mean, a lot of things, like squash or turnips or something like that, that’ll keep, but the flowers, I really need to photograph.

HG: When it comes to your art, do you hope to achieve anything with it? I mean, that’s a very broad question, but how…if you were to imagine how others view your work, or how your work would be viewed in the future, do you have any sort of conception of that?

CD: I would hope that maybe people would look at things around them with a fresh eye and more appreciation, you know, slow down a little bit and take a minute to look at the…the beauty of some of these simple, simple things that, you know, you just pass by in your everyday life. I mean, there’s so much to see, there’s so much wonder and awe in all of these beautiful, beautiful things and people miss it. So I hope, you know, that maybe once in a blue moon, somebody will look at one of my pictures and say, “Oh, I never realized an onion is really a beautiful thing,” you know, and maybe it’ll change the way they look at things. Maybe it’ll make them treat things with a little more reverence, with a little more appreciation, be a little more careful with what they’re doing to the planet.

HG: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a big component.

CD: Yeah.

HG: And I wonder, could you speak to that for a minute, do you find that environmental components play into, if not your work, into your mentality about your work?

CD: Oh, absolutely, it’s huge. It’s huge. I mean, I live in a very pristine place—we’re really way out in the hills, and you know, we have a lot of land and we love it, I mean we absolutely love it. I mean, we’ve sacrificed everything we had just to have this piece of land that we could protect and keep for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren, but we’re surrounded by farms that are very dependent on a lot of chemical use, even…so even out there, I mean, you’re not as untouched by it, as much as I try to keep everything organic and fresh and clean and it’s…it’s an ongoing battle. It’s…they’re just lacing, you know, pesticides, just streams of pesticides, clouds just, you know, when they’re spraying the fields, just come over our farm, it’s like, I mean, I find myself, like, running out in front of the tractors like that guy in Tiananmen Square, you know, “Stop!” It’s crazy, but I just, I get nuts, I just get absolutely crazy.

HG: Well today it’s the farms with pesticides, tomorrow the farms will be gone and the subdivisions will be (inaudible-12:00)

CD: I know, I know.

HG: It’s actually interesting, I grew up in a place…I grew up in the suburbs, and…and it used to be farmland, you know…

CD: Yeah.

HG: ...And it was really interesting when I became old enough to recognize that, “Oh, where all these cookie-cutter houses are used to be farmland,”

CD: Yup.

HG: …You know, and that, that was…that was a really big moment for me, saying “Wow, this hasn’t been here forever.”

CD: Yeah, yeah, I did…I grew up in a subdivision like that also and, you know, there would be, like, one old farmhouse in the middle of all the little cookie-cutter suburban houses and I would...you know, it’s fascinating to…wow, that was probably just sitting out here in fields at one time, it’s…yeah.

HG: What role does your personal life experiences play in your artwork, and maybe talk about your farm some more, talk about your relationship with your husband, and these other areas.

CD: Well, it’s…it’s everything. I don’t ever have a preconceived idea that I’m going to paint, you know, this…this or that, it’s always kind of a coincidental thing. I’ll be outside, and I’ll see something, and it’ll, you know, set me on fire, and I have to do something about it. It’s…so, if I didn’t live where I lived and see what I see, I wouldn’t paint what I paint. I’d be painting something else because it’s…it’s purely accidental, it’s you know, it’s very spontaneous. I just, you know, I can counter something, and that’s what…that’s what I paint.

HG: Would you say that your subject matter has been pretty consistent throughout your life? Like, do you find you paint the same things now that you did maybe twenty years ago?

CD: Yes, I paint them differently, hopefully, but…but yeah, I mean, twenty years ago, I would’ve been painting flowers, and yeah. I used to do more…like, when I was a kid, of course, I drew horses all the time, I was obsessed with…because I always had ponies and horses, and I would sit in my horse’s stall and…and draw horses all the time, and I have done a lot of paintings in the last twenty years of fox hunting out in Geneseo because a lady that I know in East Aurora took me out there one time just to show me the fox hunt, and I went berserk when I saw it because it was like an otherworldly experience. It was, you know, the…the galloping horses and the hounds, you know, and the horns, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with the landscape out there, but it’s phenomenal. They’ve got these massive, massive oaks that are hundreds of years old, and all this is playing out in this vista that’s unbelievable. Of course, I just had to go home and start painting pictures of that. So I did have a whole series of fox hunting paintings for a while. I haven’t done them in a bit, but that’s still something that resonates with me really heavily, and it’s just…you know, it’s something I…I had a strong feeling about, so I painted it, but it was quite a departure from my still life paintings.

HG: Absolutely.

CD: Yeah, but.

HG: Do you find that the challenges of representing something in motion is very different, or not too different from still life?

CD: Oh, it’s…yeah, it’s very different. Yeah. But you know, the landscape is still pretty stationary, yeah. And because I’ve always drawn horses in motion, and dogs and things, I mean, it was just...it’s easy for me to do that. I mean, if I…if I had my (inaudible-12:35) it’s probably all I would ever do, with, you know, just sit and draw horses. They kind of pounded it out of me in college, because it just wasn’t a cool thing to do, so, you know, it was kind of fun to get back into doing it again.

HG: You were born in the wrong decade, you know, like a hundred years ago, you could’ve made a whole career just painting horses.

CD: I know, I know, I know.

HG: Could you talk about some of the materials and the process of creation that you go through, like what…what do you primarily paint in, and what do you paint on?

CD: I…I scrounge, basically, I mean I…I raid my husband’s studio, and my kids come home from school with art supplies I use, you know, I…I…really not very meticulous, you know, as long as it does the job. I do a lot of watercolors; what I’ll do is just what, you know, he has Masonite board so I just take them down on Masonite boards and use Windsor-Newton watercolors and that’s that, and with the…with the oils, I paint on Masonite. I keep it simple.

HG: So, talking about your career as an artist—now, when you graduated from Oswego, what was your degree in?

CD: I had a double major in studio art and art history.

HG: Okay. Wonderful.

CD: Yeah.

HG: Throughout your career, what have you done?

CD: I worked in commercial art when I first got out of school, and then when we decided to move out to the sticks, you know, I made a decision to give it up and we had the children, I mean we’ve got an awful slew of kids, we’ve got six kids between us and then we’ve got eight grandchildren now, I mean we just have a pretty large tribe, so…so I had…I had plenty on my plate, you know, I didn’t mind turning my back on…on the job in Buffalo, and I wrote a couple books with my husband and did some painting, and I’ve always done a few graphic design jobs and a lot of volunteer work and things like that, you know, I work at the arts council, and that’s it.

HG: Would you say your work at the Arts Council of Wyoming County, does that…is that more of an administrative role, or is that something that really gets you in contact with other artists, and with enriching the arts community out there?

CD: Well, I have a strong feeling about bringing the arts to an underserved community, I mean, there…there isn’t much going on out there, and a lot of the children out there never get an opportunity to hear a symphony, or go to an art gallery, so...really motivated to expose them to some cultural events, and we do little art shows for the kids, you know, at the arts council, and we… we do an awful lot of things to…and then we…we serve them in another way, and that would be the kids coming up that actually have some artistic ambitions, and their parents really don’t know what to do with them. You know, they’re hardworking farmers, and they just…suddenly, they’ve got this child that sings like an angel and they don’t know what to do, you know, where do we…so, we try to funnel them into, you know, the right…the right direction.

HG: That’s awesome.

CD: Yeah. Yeah, it’s…I find it really super gratifying work, I just love it.

HG: How long have you been there?

CD: Oh, probably fifteen years, Twelve years, maybe?

HG: What would you say some of your needs are from the wider community, and you know, think about where you are…do you exhibit in Wyoming County often?

CD: Oh, well, we do our member show at the…at the arts council and try to encourage everybody in the community to participate, so, you know, we participate as well…we feel kind of as though we should, so…yeah.

HG: What do you need, for example, from the wider arts community?

CD: Gosh, I really don’t think I need much. My biggest problem is, you know, getting in my own way. If I was a little more motivated and a little more disciplined, it would help a lot.

HG: That’s okay, you’re doing just fine for yourself, don’t be too harsh!

CD: I just get so distracted, I just…I’m just involved in so many different things, that I don’t have enough focus.

HG: That kind of leads into the next question, which is what could help advance you career? You know maybe that’s even…what could the community provide you, or also, perhaps, what could you provide yourself?

CD: Beyond what I said…well, I mean, opportunities to show you work are really important, and we talked about this previously, like the opportunity here with the members’ exhibit and things like that, just to get people to look at your work, and like, I think you’re doing a phenomenal job here, this is exactly what you should be doing, it’s great, so...

HG: Thank you so much for saying. What recommendations do you have for new and emerging artists? You know, having a couple decades under your belt. It’s…it’s you know, it’s quite a…it seems very daunting, as I have many friends who are…

CD: Oh yeah.

HG: …Emerging into the arts field.

CD: Oh yeah. Well, I have a son, you know, that’s a painter and it’s…it’s just, I can’t believe that, you know, he’s tackling this, because it’s…I think you really have to…I think the most important thing is something we touched on earlier, and that is you really have to sincerely believe in what you’re doing. You can’t do something because somebody suggests, or says, “This is marketable,” or, “This is what you should be doing.” I mean, it is, you know…number one, it’s personal expression, and it’s gotta, you’ve gotta maintain that focus that that is…you’ve gotta really feel it. You’ve gotta, you know, imbue the work with some real feeling, and if you’re just painting things because other people tell you to paint them, or because it’s somebody else’s idea…I don’t know, you just have to…I think the most important thing is to be absolutely true to your own…to your own vision, and don’t think you’re gonna make money doing it. You really need to find an alternative source of income…gazillions of opportunities in the arts, but you have to be willing to go into a more commercial facet of the arts, and this is one thing I tell the kids all the time that come, you know, to the arts council for some advice with college and things, is there are just scads and scads of jobs that are art-based, but they’re commercial applications of art that are still very creative, I mean…but you can’t think you’re going to paint pictures for a living. It’s difficult. Very difficult.

HG: It is very difficult. Could you talk a little bit about some of the challenges you might have faced, being an artist and also raising a family?

CD: It was difficult, because I never wanted to…to have the studio door closed and not be available to them. I mean, I understood that this is just a short period out of my life that I have to do this, and I have to do this job well, and it was always a priority, so I never worked until the kids went to bed at night. And so, I was very often pretty tired by the time I did, but that was…that was how I did it when the kids were little, absolutely. Yeah.

HG: How many works do you generally make a year?

CD: Very, very few, because I never finish anything. I have so many things I start, and…I’m…I’m so…I…I’m just not goal-oriented, as far as having a finished piece. I’m just so interested in…in the process, and in…and doing it, and then I just don’t know when to call it quits. I usually overwork something, I just beat it into the ground, and then it’s out, you know, so I have very few…unless I’m really backed into a corner and I have to meet a deadline, I’ve committed myself to a certain number of paintings. I don’t get much done.

HG: Sounds like you do a lot, but you don’t get much done.

CD: I don’t get much done, exactly. Exactly. I’ve got so many paintings that are just…you know, half done or overdone, or painted…I mean, there’s probably four or five paintings under every painting I’ve got, you know, that got angry and painted over them.

HG: Reduce, reuse, recycle, right, you know? Live your values.

CD: Yeah, well I’ve done that.

HG: How long does it take you, for the works that you do finish, how long does it take you to finish a work?

CD: Oh, that’s hard to say. Some of them come along so quickly and easily. In fact, usually, I’ll have…I’ll have, like, three quarters of it done in no time at all, it’s that last…it’s that last twenty minutes, basically, that’s the hardest part, because I’s just having that right twenty minutes that’s…so, it…it’s different with every painting.

HG: Have you done any artist residencies, like large or small?

CD: Nope, never.

HG: Christine, thank you so much for coming in to interview with me and take part in the Living Legacy Project.

CD: Oh, you’re very welcome. You’re very welcome.