Nothing Ethereal About Her and the Vitality of Womanhood

>>Local artists Kaitlin Roney and Chloe Smith explore topics of femininity and womanhood in their upcoming art show, “Nothing Ethereal About Her.”

It is a famous creative adage to “start with what you know.” Visual artists Kaitlin Roney and Chloe Smith use their natural, authentic lens as women to delve into themes of womanhood. Their upcoming art show, called “Nothing Ethereal About Her,” is an investigation of various representations of women, loaded with potent symbolism and storytelling.

This collaboration could be called fate: “I started this series, and Chloe started this series, and it was simultaneous, and we didn’t know about it,” Roney explains. Friends since crossing paths at the Hungerford a few years ago, the two were talking about their recent projects during a figure drawing session when they realized they were working on the same theme. “We [both] wanted to do something focused on femininity,” says Smith. Both artists were already incorporating powerful imagery, Roney using wallpaper patterns and birds, and Smith utilizing Greek goddesses and flowers. The merging of their collections would be seamless; and so, “Nothing Ethereal About Her” was born.

The paintings capture different stages of womanhood, from the startling but ephemeral natural beauty of youth through the wisdom and nurturing powers women obtain in older age. Smith’s acrylic paintings employ her friends as subjects, each one with a backstory as a Greek goddess. Roney’s oil paintings pull literary symbolism from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and place her subjects in front of and behind textured patterns. Birds appear in each of Roney’s paintings to depict both the fleeting and staying power of female beauty. The two artists come together for a staggering, large-scale work that displays their portrayal of the Nine Greek Muses.

Roney and Smith are veterans of the Rochester art scene. Both artists grew up in creative families and were exposed to art forms throughout their childhoods. Smith praises her father and their early days of doing watercolors together for “giving [me] confidence and getting me interested in [art].” She graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s illustration program and has since worked steadily in commissions. Her latest piece is the mural in the Rochester Central Library’s underground link tunnel.

Roney was raised in a similarly artistic family, full of dancers, musicians, and visual artists. She studied at Nazareth College and worked as an art teacher in Rochester-area schools. She and her husband, artist Chris Blaine, had both become “disenchanted with the constraints of being artists and teaching within a school setting” over time. They decided to use their natural gift for teaching and engaging art learners by starting their own art school. Art Center of Rochester opened its doors in January of 2019. The mission of the Art Center is to take away the elitism of the so-called Art World. “The art world should be the real world,” Roney notes. The center’s motto, “Art for All,” could not be more fitting. Classes and workshops are tailored to people of all ages, skill levels, and abilities. One of Roney’s favorite programs is Club Connect, which she describes as a “social art club for teens & 20s with special needs.” Looking ahead, she hopes to bring in different creative experiences to the Art Center, such as poetry readings and musical performances.

As Roney and Smith prepare for their art show opening, they reflect on what keeps them going as artists. “I have a place here to bring more art into the city,” Smith expresses. She believes that the Rochester art scene is not yet oversaturated, and she feels like she can play a key role in creating and exposing new art to a wider audience. Roney reminds us of the purpose of making art in the first place: to “feel like you’re a part of something eternal, something that transcends time and boundaries.”

“Nothing Ethereal About Her” opens on Friday, November 22, from 6-9pm at Art Center of Rochester, 563 Titus Ave. The event is free and open to the public. The collection will remain on display at the Art Center through January 17, 2020. <<