Loretta Feeney dwells in color. Her life is wrought by constant inspiration, saturated by creativity. Her artwork is similarly enrapturing for its layers of shades and free-flowing imagination, and her talent is one that originated at a young age, alongside her penchant for vibrant spontaneity and glorious unpredictability.
It is often said that we are shaped by the homes in which we were raised. From an early age, Feeney’s home was one of endless paint supplies and the vibrant colors of a happy, spirited childhood. “Growing up in Chatham there were always painting supplies in my home. My mother was an artist. She painted watercolor portraits and was a writer. So it was accessible to be creative, and I began to paint when I was young, with her help,” says Feeney.
From those early days until now, it would be safe to say that the paintbrush has almost never left Feeney’s hand. Art is something that connects her to the faraway places she travels—many of which become subjects of her work—and back to Cape Cod, where she finds boundless stimulation, motivation, and, always, color.
“Inspiration is everywhere if you are open to it, especially on Cape Cod,” she says. “Inspiration is not just a visual element. It comes from the roar of the surf, the cry of the gull, the smell of the salty ocean. I have circled around subjects for years—looking, listening, waiting for the right time to approach it. I have also traveled to paint and caught a subject successfully with the initial opportunity to paint it, so motivated to capture a scene immediately, that I could not squeeze the paint out of the tubes fast enough.”
Feeney’s most profound inspiration, though, is perhaps found in her unyielding dedication to growing her skills and knowledge as an artist through experimentation. “When I was a young artist,” she explains, “I painted the way my teachers taught me to paint. Now that I am older, I just paint the way I want. I think that after a student learns the basics of their craft they are free to go in whatever direction they choose. Now, if I am not changing things up in the studio, I am not doing my job.”
The result is often a wonderfully chaotic process; Feeney jokes about throwing paint onto a piece only to scrape it off, move the canvas to the floor to work on it there, and then bringing it back to the easel again later. But beyond that, the result is also wonderfully chaotic pieces of mixed media. Feeney’s work is striking in its unabashed use of color (in the spots where you can see where she rubbed off the paint); in the ways that those colors seem to move, playing tricks on the eye and drawing you back in just as you begin to look away. And somehow, all that commotion of vibrant color and movement comes together to express exactly what it feels like to look out across a Cape Cod harbor on a warm spring day or to spend an afternoon under the sun at Fenway Park. She somehow manages to capture the very things and moments that are so majestically alluring precisely because they seem un-capturable.
“When I am stretching as a painter and trying something different, like using new tools to apply my paint…that is where I want to stay. That is what keeps art fresh,” says Feeney. And about being an artist on Cape Cod, where she makes regular painting trips now that she spends most of her time in Florida, she says, “Cape Cod is a great place to paint. It is very conducive to painting on location—an artist can go from one side of the Cape to the other in just a short time and get such a different feel for options to paint. And, it’s the perfect place for finding great teachers to study. There is such a strong history here of incredible teachers, artists and writers.”
Today, Feeney’s next challenge is simple yet complex all at the same time, much like her work. Her goal she says is to push herself out of her comfort zone more than ever. For an artist whose life and art seem to live on the edge of experimentation and soulful expression, one can only imagine the wondrous results of pushing beyond even her seemingly absent boundaries. Booker T. Washington once said, “Character is power.” For Loretta Feeney, character is certainly not lacking—in her art, in her vivacious view of the world, in her lively, strong-willed personality, and in her colorful life on Cape Cod. – Allyson Plessner
Learn more about Loretta Feeney and see her work at feeneystudio.com
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