Trustman Art Gallery

800 Million Heartbeats

Solo Exhibition by Figurative Painter Colleen Kiely

October 11 - November 9, 2016

Opening Reception:
Thursday, October 20, 5-7 p.m.

Artist Talk:
Wednesday, October 26, 12-1 p.m.

Read catalog essay by Susan L. Stoops, “Time Lived, Time Imagined.”

Simmons University presents 800 Million Heartbeats, a solo exhibition by figurative painter Colleen Kiely, from October 11 – November 9, 2016 at the Trustman Art Gallery located on the fourth floor, Main College Building, 300 The Fenway in Boston. The title of the exhibition references the concept that all mammals have a total of 800 million heartbeats in their lifetime, sharing the same approximate mortality. A reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, October 20 from 5-7 P.M. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.

The transitory nature of time and memory and the inevitability of loss are the conceptual foundation of Colleen Kiely’s recent work, which focuses on the artist’s aging basset hound Beau as model and avatar. Kiely is an inventive painter whose imagery is deceptively familiar, but on further inspection is unsettling in meaning and narrative. Kiely’s paintings are formally and materially challenging, but her forte lies in how she makes us feel. She nudges us towards something more – a realization of time’s passage – through joy, sorrow and comprehension of our own transience. In the western tradition, vanitas artworks depict ordinary objects that symbolically remind us that the nature of life is death. Kiely’s depictions of her now deceased canine companion Beau touch us with their bittersweet sensibility. The paint handling is expressively fluid, connecting figure and ground, image and surface. Contrasting transparencies with moments of definition, these paintings are not a frozen snapshot of a time or place but rather a continuum of experience for the painter, the subject, and finally, our complicit acknowledgement as viewers.

Her splendid Beau (Portrait with Cone Flowers and Rainbow) layers images in receding space from foreground to background. The bright pink coneflowers place us at ground level contemplating the low-slung form of a basset hound. Presented in traditional three-quarter portrait view, Beau’s form rendered in grisaille implies his fading from the material world while soft edges merge his body with the dark space beyond. The rainbow mandala is both pattern in colored concentric rings and a nod to the importance of the subject. The work’s power is enhanced by the painterly brushwork, marks and drips fusing the layers of space and time together. Her painting is the antithesis of a still photograph in time. Rather, it conjures via a kind of magical realism, evoking the mutability of our existence and our memories.

Kiely treats us to multiple explorations of her subject in two paintings: Beau (Striped Blanket 1) and Beau (Striped Blanket 2). In number one, we view Beau from above. His expression is gleeful, yet his form is semi-transparent with paint running down the surface. His left eye is not lit by the gleam of life but presents a light tunnel into unknown territory. Number two is painted with translucent colors, the light spring greens, the pentimento of a background figure, and Beau himself, turned away and melding into the striped blanket that disintegrates at the edges.

Kiely earned her M.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her numerous awards include a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is the recipient of the President’s Fund for Faculty Excellence award from Simmons University, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Music.

We continue our Lunchtime Lecture Series on Wednesday, October 26, from noon-1P.M., when Kiely will present a gallery talk.

Trustman Art Gallery hours are 10 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, 10 AM – 7 PM on Wednesday and Thursday. The gallery is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible. For more information, contact Kyle Mendelsohn at (617) 521-2268 or find us on Instagram.