An artist’s first solo show is a big deal. When I received an invitation to Elizabeth Ann McNally’s first show I immediately put it on my calendar. Tuesday, October 6th marked the opening of her show Playful at Tunxis Community College’s Barnes-Franklin Gallery. Elizabeth is an artist and printmaker who resides in New Britain, CT. I first met Elizabeth when she was enrolled in the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Make.Art.Work program from January through June 2015. Make.Art.Work. is a comprehensive career training program for visual artists in Connecticut. The program addresses essential business and entrepreneurial skills for artists within a supportive peer environment. Elizabeth was enrolled in the third and final class of the three year program which concluded with a group show this past August at the Windsor Art Center.
With a BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago Elizabeth was fortunate to be surrounded by influential professors. She learned printmaking techniques from Jeanine Coupe Ryding and scientific and natural history illustration from Peggy Macnamera. The class that opened her up to a spectrum of mediums was taught by David Kroll and she recalls the plant and animal drawing class of Oliva Perides that met at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Elizabeth’s solo show has something for everyone and exhibits the variety of influences from her art education and her everyday life. Her abstract work uses lines, patterns and collage that allow for the viewer to focus in and create their own meaning while her playful prints of woodland creatures focus on fine details and techniques that tell a story. One work with young rabbits is particularly amusing and my eye was drawn to Proud Catch, a linocut on paper of a playful cat in a hat (pictured). “About half of my work centers around animal subjects. My entire family has always been animal lovers, my parents let us have every pet from salamanders to gerbils,” says McNally. The amusement of the piece comes from the humor that also influences her work. “My dad and I bonded over things like reading Far Side comics and listening to Talking Heads. I married a wonderful husband, Jim, who fully embraces his inner 12 year old silliness and lets me be the total goof ball I need to be. We have breakfast together and completely straight faced we discuss how we suspect the cats are plotting against us.”
Mixed in with the love of animals and humor is a fondness for math. One wall of the two wall gallery is filled with abstract work that is clearly influenced by geometry. The variety of techniques on display is something Elizabeth can’t help but display. She has always been interested in creating different types of art since she was young. Even in high school she remembers creating art that was realistic and other pieces that were abstract. “I find working back in forth between the representational and nonobjective styles allows me to have a sense of harmony and calm.”
After graduating from art school Elizabeth’s artwork was put on hold and her life consumed by a 65 hour a week sales job that left her unhappy. After 10 years and a round of harsh layoffs, she and her husband decided it was time for her to go all in with her art. “The last two years I have been pursuing my art full time and with vigor, and selling for a year and a half. I am still a new business facing the typical issues creating a customer base, but I am the happiest I have
ever been. I am thrilled that I am getting opportunities like this show at the Barnes- Franklin Gallery. It really is something to celebrate and be grateful.”
Playful runs through November 4, 2015. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 860-773-1974.