Works of Rhode Island Artist Featured at Campbell House Galleries
BY PAULA MONTGOMERY
Special to The Pilot
Horses and other animals, and landscapes by Rhode Island artist Betsey MacDonald will be on display for the month of February at the Campbell House Galleries.
"As a child, I always wanted a horse," says MacDonald. "But I also found time to explore my growing interest in drawing, and horses, of course, were one of my favorite subjects."
Her other pets were also frequent subjects, and MacDonald still has a pastel of the family's big, lovable St. Bernard that she painted when she was just 7 years old.
Born in New England, MacDonald resides in Clayville, R.I., with her husband, four horses, four dogs and three cats.
MacDonald has been around horses for 40 years. She has competed in disciplines ranging from saddle seat, jumping, western, polo, hunter paces and dressage. She does all her own horse training and has won several Massachusetts and New England championships.
MacDonald no longer shows very much, but trail rides all over New England with her Morgan horses.
She received a bachelor's of fine arts degree and a master's degree in studio art from the University of Massachusetts.
She also completed a pre-med program and taught chemistry and anatomy for 25 years, and currently teaches art at Cumberland High School in Rhode Island.
"I don't think science is very far removed from art," says MacDonald. "I believe that the whole explanation of light and color requires an understanding of chemistry and physics. It may be why I don't paint a chestnut horse with brown paint. Brown is a mixture of all the primary colors, and it's much more vibrant when it is painted from colors rather than a tube of brown paint. There are a whole host of colors in a chestnut horse, including pink, violet, yellows, orange and blue."
Watercolor, oil and pencil are MacDonald's trademark mediums, and she is currently experimenting with collage. Her watercolors are fluid and bold, with dramatic light effects.
Her oils employ clean, strong tones and portray the life and energy of her subjects. For portraits, MacDonald uses the classical technique of a monochromatic under painting and then adds colored glazes.
In addition to her love of painting animals, MacDonald enjoys painting scenes of boats, farms, the ocean and anything white enhanced by shadows and light.
From MacDonald's love and fascination with chemistry and anatomy arises a special admiration for her favorite artist, Leonardo da Vinci.
"Leonardo is my hero for several reasons," she says. "One, he was a great scientist, anatomist, and inventor, but also an incredible artist. I've seen 'The Last Supper' and the 'Mona Lisa,' and they are two of the greatest paintings ever done. Plus, his horses were incredible. They were very Morgan-like with huge necks, big bones, large eyes, tons of action, and proud carriage."
MacDonald has other projects that she has worked on that benefit from her scientific background and artistic abilities.
Several years ago she wrote a children's book about an old lady and a little boy who was afraid of her because she was old.
"I became involved with the elderly because I used to take my dogs to nursing homes to visit," she says. "It got me thinking about how we treat senior citizens and before I knew it, I was writing a book.
"The Massachusetts Council on Aging saw it and commissioned me to do a poster for a day celebrating the elderly. Shortly after that, the United Nations had a day in celebration of aging and I was asked to paint their poster."
MacDonald has designed posters for the town of Westport and the Ocean State Marathon, illustrated three children's books, and has had more than 25 solo exhibitions. Her paintings hang in more than 400 private homes across the country.
Her most recent show, titled "Mute Creatures," was in Providence, R.I. The show focused on animal slaughter and abuse. Paintings from this show are currently on loan to be used in a new movie by Karen Iacabbo.
"Spring Fever," featuring works by Betsey MacDonald, opens Friday, Feb. 3, with a reception to meet the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. The reception, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by Suzanne and Max Powell.
The exhibit is on display through Feb. 24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The galleries will be closed on Monday, Feb. 20, in observance of President's Day.
The Campbell House Galleries are located at 482 East Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines.
For more information about the Spring Fever exhibit, contact the Arts Council of Moore County at (910) 692-2787 or visit the website www.mooreart.org.
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