Art can be a magical journey of light, color, texture, perspective and perception. Art doesn’t need to match your couch. Art should be more than a canvas likeness of your daily routine; it should be an exploration of your inner soul. Colleen Hennessy is an artist that has explored her talents in photography, painting, ceramics and language and boldly confronts her work with abandon.
“I loved drawing as a very young child and at age 12 or 13 I got my first camera and spent every cent on film and developing” Hennessy states, smiles and continues “I always like drawing and painting and was scolded by art teachers when I was a kid. They were angry that none of my work looked realistic. Perhaps this was why I took to the camera. The lens records things precisely”. Setting up a darkroom in the early 1980’s and attending a Certificate Program in Photography at Denver Auraria Community College helped Hennessy understand the process of light, film and making prints. Hennessy spent many hours in the dark room developing her photographs, and then took them to the next level by hand-coloring her black and white images; this process offered her artistic freedom. “Digital is wonderful, however, a lot of the magic is gone, but then so are the nasty chemicals, I guess” Hennessy reminisces.
Hennessy, a Colorado native, filled her early days by volunteering and hanging around Camera Obscura in Denver, which had a large impact on her photography. “Photography has indeed filled my life. Filled it with endless visual excitement, as well as the challenge and satisfaction of capturing moments. It is a way of being in the world, participating in the life of the world. Photography is a celebration of the events and wonder of life”.
Hennessy studied fine art photography and had formal training in drawing as well as access to the New Mexico State University ceramics studio while attending. This access allowed her to explore various firing processes, mixing clay, glaze formulas as well as hand building and wheel throwing techniques. “When I discovered clay it was the perfect balance to photography. I wanted to make clay pieces that I could paint. I was inspired by Picasso’s whimsical work on ceramics,” explains Hennessy “I experimented a lot with glazes and under glazes. The more primitive, the more I liked it. At this time, I prefer to hand-build works in clay and paint them with acrylics”.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and a Minor in Art at the University, Hennessy has traveled to Mexico, Spain and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2005-2007 living in the mountain jungle of Honduras. “The camera is an ice breaker and my ability to speak fluent Spanish allowed me to communicate with my portrait subjects” Hennessy explains, “Living in the jungle gave me the opportunity to really get to know my human subjects and landscapes. Many of my works on paper were painted from photographs that I took during my time in Honduras. The faces of my kind neighbors and friends in the campo provided endless opportunities for photography and ultimately painting. People are my favorite subject, at home or abroad. To see, react and record is my continuous search with no shining end in sight except to go on trying”.
Hennessy while still creating her vision of art whether in ceramics, photography or paintings also works for Qualistar Colorado, a non-profit “that believes all children deserve a high-quality early childhood education experience”. They achieve their mission by providing free child care referrals to parents; assesses the quality of childcare programs while providing college scholarships. Hennessy conducts quality ratings throughout the State of Colorado, which allows her to also use her Spanish. Hennessy is also a commercial photographer capturing a portrait or the moments of a wedding.
With numerous gallery shows under her belt, it is Hennessy’s mission to continue to explore and push her own artistic boundaries. “Art is a diary of one’s personal growth and psychic resolution. Some people’s work is particularly revealing of personal tragedies,” Hennessy explains “Art is the source of psychic salvation, the canvas is a world where you can do as you like. All art manifests some aspect of the autobiographical. I recently passed the half-century mark. The important thing is not how old you are, for that is transient, but how interesting you are”.
In closing, I asked what her philosophy was for work, family and life and what were some of the rewards for creating art. “Friendships, health and humor are the most important things and making art allows me to maintain my sanity. It keeps me balanced, centered”.
To view or purchase Colleen Hennessy’s work, please visit www.flickr.com/photo/chennessy. You may also email Colleen directly at [email protected] Visit Qualistar.org to learn more about this Colorado non-profit.
Wendy L. Pitton R. is a culture writer for 303 Magazine and the owner of WENDO Productions. WENDO Productions is an artistic production and artist representative company. WENDOProductions.com