By PAULA MARTIESIAN It takes a special kind of person to commute from Florida to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. For four years Warwick painter Carolyn Kent did just that. A few days before the semester began, she'd load up her car and take the
It takes a special kind of person to commute from Florida to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. For four years Warwick painter Carolyn Kent did just that. A few days before the semester began, she’d load up her car and take the three-day trip with only her dog Lily for company.
Originally from Concordville, Pennsylvania, Kent was immersed in the rural landscape and artistic culture of the Wyeth family. Her mother took art lessons from a Wyeth cousin; her brother played in a band with realist painter Jamie Wyeth. But Kent wanted something different. Intrigued by music, she attended and earned a degree from the Centenary College for Women in New Jersey. After graduation, the urban environment called and she relocated to New York City making a living in various administrative jobs, none of which had anything to do with music or the visual arts.
Marriage brought her to the west coast and divorce brought her back east to Florida. For several years she worked in a real estate investment trust and development firm until she and her fellow workers abruptly lost their jobs in a real estate down market.
Kent was 59. It was time to take stock. What did she want to do with the rest of her life?
“Florida was never a good fit,” said Kent. “I missed the seasons. I missed the grit of the people. Florida was too beige for me.” Her brother lived in Rhode Island and she visited often. She loved to go with him to the RISD Museum of Art and visit artists’ studios. Kent called him. “How would you like a roommate?” she asked.
Each semester from 2006 through 2010, Kent made the long commute to attend classes at RISD’s Continuing Education program. She earned certificates in surface design and in drawing and painting. Back in Florida, Kent missed Rhode Island. She decided to relocate and begin her new life as a fine artist in the union’s smallest state.
Kent approaches painting much as a young aspiring artist might, exploring and experimenting with different materials and subject matter. She is as comfortable painting portraits as she is delving into abstract expressionism, using acrylics, charcoal or oil. At age 72 in a newly discovered halo of white hair, Kent is invigorated and excited to be painting.
Kent employs an expressionistic technique to capture the emotional core of her subject matter. She’s not interested in a finite realistic approach to painting, but in conveying the mood and mystery of her subjects. Whether it is a long ribbon of highway or a shower of falling fish, Kent aims to get at the center of a visual experience.
The BankRI Galleries are curated by Paula Martiesian, a Providence-based artist and arts advocate. Her work is on exhibit at the BankRI Pitman Street Gallery, 137 Pitman St., Providence now through January. Exhibit hours are Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, visit bankri.com or call the branch at 401 456-5160.