Artist of Note | Merrimon Kennedy

A passion for plein air

Merrimon Kennedy, Overlook Park Study VI, oil, 12 x 16.

Merrimon Kennedy, Overlook Park Study VI, oil, 12 x 16.

This story was featured in the September 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

During the 30 years Merrimon Kennedy owned an art gallery, many of the artists she represented were plein-air painters. And she thought they were crazy. “You have to lug all of your stuff around, and you’re fighting the elements, and people are talking to you all the time,” she says. “Why would you want to do that?” Flash forward to Kennedy’s first time taking her work outdoors at the insistence of a workshop teacher. “I was stunned, and now I prefer to work outdoors most of the time,” she says.

Although she began in abstract expressionism, her work gradually became more representational as she began painting portraits of her daughter. However, when she moved to New Mexico after selling her gallery, the landscape became a new obsession. “When I saw this magical place, I knew I had to just paint and get it out of my system,” she says. 

Kennedy’s original interest in abstract expressionism shows through on her panels. The artist utilizes optical color—portraying color as it appears to the eye—to interpret her favorite views near her home. “I’m taking those colors I see and exaggerating the intensity so it is truer to what I feel about the scene,” she says. Kennedy uses palette knives to lay the paint on the canvas in thick swaths. “It’s important for my work to have a feeling of spontaneity,” she says. “It’s like a little dance I’m doing on my panel as I make marks of varying intensity. I love it.” —Mackenzie McCreary

Kennedy is represented by the Santa Fe Society of Artists, Santa Fe, NM, and at www.merrimonkennedy.com.

This story was featured in the September 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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