BY SUE ERWIN – What we behold, we become.” That’s how artist Kevin Fitzgerald describes the inspiration he gets when he starts a new oil painting.
A reception was held at the Hughes Gallery on Tuesday, April 4 and Wednesday April 5 to honor Fitzgerald’s work.
Born in Washington D.C. in 1953, Fitzgerald was drawn to painting when he was a child. He became fascinated with fields, farms, marshes and ponds in the great mid-Atlantic region.
“My grandfather was a visual artist, and he always had paintings around the house … I’d always go downstairs and smell the oils on the canvas. And my mother was an artist as well, so I have art in my background,” he said.
He was nine years old when his family visited Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where the famous Civil War battle was fought.,
“I remember walking around the monument-filled fields and seeing this little bridge – Burnside Bridge – and it really stuck in my memory,” he said.
That scene later inspired him to create one of his first pieces. “There’s a beauty of place that just resonates … You know it’s not going to change, and it will be there to speak to future generations.”
He spent much of his time doing plein air paintings throughout the Midwest and northeast and even worked from a 54-foot barge that he restored and converted into a floating studio.
An avid admirer of nature, he started participating in discussions on the spirituality of art.
“When we look at beauty, we feel it,” he said. “The natural world provides it, and it enhances our life.”
Fitzgerald said his goal is to create paintings that are compass points to contemplative objects.
Many of his paintings are sketches that catch a glimpse of nature, as it would look on a horizon.
“I am spiritually connected to nature. There are miracles happening all around us, and it’s hard to put that into words.”
After receiving a degree from Maryland Institute College of Art, he worked as a teacher for years, continuing to create art as his main hobby.
He was able to retire in 1999, when sales of his paintings started to take off.
“A gallery would call the school, and the principal would have to come and get me from the classroom. That went on for a few years, until she suggested that I quit and pursue painting full time,” he said. “I was afraid, but I went ahead and did it.”
Most of Fitzgerald’s days are spent in his studio set up in a 5,000 sq. ft. barn in Berlin, Maryland. It’s about two miles away from Assateague Island State park, which is the subject of one of his recent paintings.
“People are desperate for authenticity, and Kevin is very real,” said Keith Bellows, former editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler Magazine, in another publication. “He looks at a landscape and channels the energy of the place into the painting.”
The artist has visited Boca Grande several times over the past 15 years. He was first invited to come and speak about his work by Murph Hoeckel, owner of the former Paradise Gallery. Since then Fitzgerald has developed a relationship with Barb Hughes, and his art has been featured regularly in the gallery.
“I’m very thankful just to be able to come here and experience this special, beautifully preserved place,” Fitzgerald said. “I want to thank Barb and her commitment to serve the population of art supporters on the island.”
Fitzgerald’s work can be seen in prominent homes around the country and in private collections in Canada, England and Germany.
The artist also authored a book in 2010 featuring selected pieces of his work as well as excerpts from several publications.
“I am not in this for the gratitude, but rather to be in a state of gratitude. I will always be painting – I will never retire,” he said.
You can see Fitzgerald’s art on display through May at Hughes Gallery, 333 Park Avenue.