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Artist Galen Cheney

Galen Cheney is a painter’s painter. Her education as a painter began at

Mount Holyoke College and continued at The Maryland Institute, College

of Art, where she received her MFA and was mentored and critiqued by

Grace Hartigan, Sal Scarpitta, and Hermine Ford, among other

influential artists. Nearly 30 years later, she continues to push herself

and her work with honesty, commitment, and fearlessness. Deep diving

into her own creative process, Cheney is a physical artist whose richly

layered paintings embody her curiosity about and exploration of

materials and her own psyche. She was born in Los Angeles though has

spent most of her life in New England where she feels a deep connection

to the land and centuries-old architecture. A childhood trip to Europe

was the start of her enduring love of travel and fascination with ancient


Cheney’s work has been exhibited and collected in the U.S., Canada,

Italy, France, Monaco, England, and China. She has had

residencies/fellowships from the Millay Colony, MASS MoCA, Vermont

Studio Center, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (Cornish, NH), and

Da Wang Culture Highland (Shenzhen, China), as well as a nomination

for a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in Painting. Her home and studio

are in North Adams, Massachusetts.

The creative process and the exploration and manipulation of materials are the

chief drivers of my work. They are the engine and the fuel. Experimentation, risk

taking and pushing my own boundaries are ongoing concerns, always with an

eye toward gritty beauty and a palpable energy. This energy alternately recalls

natural forces or more urban frequencies.

The work I am currently making is a furthering, a deepening of work that I started

during a residency in China in 2015.  There, I was working with accumulated

papers, building them up into multi-layered constructions.  While I continue to

work with paper, I have also shifted that approach to using canvas and more

durable materials.  The process is additive and reductive.  I use fragments of

past paintings, old receipts, used airline tickets, remnants of past experiences

and work them into the texture of the new painting. They become one with the

surface, imbuing the painting with memory, history, a sense of time, and an

accidental quality, which I find beautiful and compelling.  Paintings made this

way—constructed, really--have a distinct object-like quality, which is satisfying.

Working in this physical way allows my mind to stay open and present in the

process.  It keeps me from becoming too tight and closing down the creative

possibilities of a painting before it is finished.  I strive to keep the painting as

open as I can for as long as I can before finishing it.  It is the opposite of planning

a painting and then executing the plan. I prefer my paintings to have a raw, open


More recently I have introduced liquid textile color into my work, which I pour and

brush onto raw canvas.  This fluid, intensely pigmented paint soaks into the

canvas and is often difficult to control, which is an ideal way to open a path into a

painting. I am now working on combining this staining process with collage and

oil paint.

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