I feel most alive and most connected to the world when I am creating. In college, I fell in love with painting. I received a very traditional art education as an undergrad, learning the foundations of painting, drawing, and sculpture. Our studio time was spent exploring still life setups and the human figure. In graduate school, I branched out and explored other ways to use materials while trying to find my own vision. Through my exploration, I discovered that my work always come back to portraiture.
There is something about painting a portrait that feels like a special connection that I am making with my subject. I want to invest the time to really see a person in a way that we don’t get to do on a day to day basis. I use portraiture to explore identity and personality, and how much we can really know each other. I feel a rush of adrenaline when a painting starts to form on the canvas, representing my personal relationship with and interpretation of the subject.
When my niece, Anona, was about 10 months old, I painted her portrait. At the time, I wasn’t thinking past that initial portrait. I just wanted to capture her as I knew her that day. Anona is now 7 years old, and I have painted her portrait every year since she was born. That first portrait started an ongoing project that, for me, is about more than painting.
Anona 2012, oil on canvas and Anona with her early portraits.
Anona and I live on opposite sides of the country, so I don’t see her very often. The distance and time between visits make it seem like she is growing up so very fast. It is amazing to see how much she changes and exciting to watch her grow into her own unique individual. Each year, I try to capture her in a way that feels true to my interpretation of her, and shows her personality. In a sense, the portraits become a representation not only of Anona, but of my relationship with her.
A theme that runs through my work is one of identity and what shapes our sense of who we are and how we present ourselves in this world. By painting Anona each year, I am watching her grow up and become who she is, while creating a lasting document of milestones throughout her life. All of the portraits of Anona live with her on the west coast. While compiling these pictures of the paintings today, I realized that this is the first time that I’ve looked at them all together. I love seeing them as a group and noticing how she changes from year to year. I’m pretty sure she enjoys seeing herself on canvas, as well. I am determined to add to this group every year, for as long as she will let me!
Anono with her 2016 portrait and Anono 2016, oil on canvas
Kelly Anona Kerrigan is an artist living and working in Boston’s Fort Point Artists’ Community. She received a BFA in painting from Boston University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University. In addition to painting, she also enjoys designing and making clothing and costumes. Some of her favorite things in life are running, nail polish, and the Red Sox. See more of her work at www.kellyanonakerrigan.com