About Face






Bio/Artist Statement









Connie Connally: Biography / Artist Statement

Tangled Up at Alice Keck 2011
Photo by Monica Wiesblott       
Connie Connally at Alice Neel MFAH

Alice Neel Exhibit at MFAH
Connie with Joan Mitchell SFMOMA

Joan Mitchell at SFMOMA
Harbor in Riomaggori Italy - October 2006 Painting in Riomaggorie Italy - October 2006
Plein Air at Ledbetter Beach - March 2009 Drawing at UCSB Lagoon - March 2009
Changing Tides Ocean Grisaille
Education: MFA: Southern Methodist University
BFA: Wichita State University (Magna cum Laude)
Oklahoma University

I draw extensively from the dynamic rhythm of the nature that surrounds me and my greatest desire is to recreate that experience on the canvas.

The coastline of Santa Barbara, my new home, inspires my paintings.  The rich color schemes and fluid shapes are informed by this coastal setting; shimmering shorelines dotted with tangled beach wrack, a gray tide shrouded in an evening fog, coastal bluffs blanketed with wild mustard, palm trees silhouetted in the silver light of a fading day, and the ever present tangle of sea grasses and water lilies found in small ponds.

My paintings are influenced by the evolving tradition of abstract expressionism exemplified by Joan Mitchell. As my body of work has matured over the past several years, a lighter, more buoyant palette has emerged. The fluid marks are thinly applied to a multi-layered surface. Oftentimes, a well-placed brushstroke can anchor the painting and allow the color fields and tonal variations to recede and advance across the ground.

"You can do anything you will yourself to do if you are sufficiently tenacious and interested." Alice Neel

Two women molded my vision as a painter: Alice Neel and Joan Mitchell.

First, Alice Neel:

It is not ironic that my artistic profession crystallized upon meeting the tenacious "painter of people", Alice Neel, in 1975 at the Edwin A. Ulrich Museum, Wichita, KS during her solo exhibit Portraits of Alice Neel. A self-proclaimed non-abstract painter, Neel doggedly held firm with her representational portraits during the domination of Abstract Expressionism. She persevered when women artists were pushed to the theoretical and critical margins of the art world. Her indomitable spirit and acerbic wit left an indelible impression on me. Neel was a 75 year old grandmother when I met her and I was a 26 year old having just earned my BFA. She had lived an amazing life and I was just starting mine.

Alice Neel's abstract expressionistic, muscular mark making in her paintings; like those of de Kooning or Chaim Soutine, are what attracted me to her paintings. The expressive, richly painted backgrounds, details of clothes and expressive faces were surplus to the representational painting. As Neel expressed, "I don't do realism. I do a combination of realism and expressionism. It's never just realism." The first half of my career as a figurative and portrait artist was deeply influenced by Alice Neel. Other artists like Lucian Freud would also influence, but it was Neel's astute psychological observations I aspired to emulate.

Next, Joan Mitchell:

The same time I entered the competitive graduate program at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell, exhibited at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, September 21, 2003 - January 7, 2004. Experiencing the great American "second generation" abstract painter's work would influence a change in the direction of my paintings toward abstraction. Mitchell had also moved from the tradition of the figure and portrait in the 50's to abstraction in the 60's. Her abstractions showed an almost superhuman ability in both scale and intellect for planning and building compositions. Continually reinventing the figure-ground model in abstract painting, Mitchell masterfully pushed white pigment into calligraphic fields of daring chromaticism. But as Mitchell insisted her paintings were "about feelings about the things I see in nature, and remember from my most intense experiences, and want to re-create."

And now, me:

In my studio resides the indomitable spirit of Alice Neel. Her tenacity is a constant reminder to work with courage and conviction. Joan Mitchell's courageous language of painting is the bar of excellence I aspire to. Both women used painting as a way of feeling life. I love that because that is what painting is for me...feeling life!

My abstract paintings actually start by working plein-air (in the open air) and most recently have been done with drawings. It is a means of establishing a link between me and what I am seeing in the landscape; a training course for contemplation so to speak. More complex transformations occur in the studio paintings with added layers of vision and meaning; working hard to retain the initial experience. I want to "re-create" my own intense experiences by building a connection between my language of abstraction and the perception of landscape.

And, finally, I find myself spiraling around to my portrait/figurative work again as 2012 begins.  My college age son came home for the holidays and I was drawn to capture his essence at this wonderful age.  A thrilling thing happened as I began to draw; the mark making from my years of painting abstractions was heavily influencing the portrait.  I love the marriage of these two bodies of work and hope to play more with the dialogue between my abstractions and my figurative works.