SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 22, 2013

Three of a kind

Beverly grandmother, granddaughter unite for art exhibit, and remember the daughter and mother they lost

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — The two painters currently exhibiting at Beverly Farms Library, Valerie McCaffrey and Christine Green, have a lot in common.

In addition to being talented artists, they are grandmother and granddaughter, and enjoy a close relationship that they explore in their show.

“She’s the reason I’m painting,” Green said of her grandmother. “Every time I would go over to her house, we’d be doing art. I guess you could say there’s some natural talent there, but she is definitely the reason I could grasp that natural talent and take off with it.”

Most works in the show are self-portraits, a genre Green focused on during her junior year at Beverly High School, but there are portraits of other people.

“We decided, when she came up with the title ‘You and Me, Me and You,’ we would do a painting of each other,” said McCaffrey, who has taught art classes at her Garage School of Art for 18 years.

Green’s portrait of her grandmother, “Her Glow,” depicts McCaffrey’s smiling face, beaming under the brim of a hat.

McCaffrey’s painting, “Christine Elizabeth Unfinished,” shows Green in her prom dress seated at a piano — she is a pianist as well as a painter — working on a canvas that is propped on the keyboard.

“The only finished part of that painting is the figure of Christine,” McCaffrey said.

Christine’s parents, Cathleen and Matthew Green, stand in the background, where Matthew holds a younger version of Christine in his arms. Their forms are less distinct, as if they are watching her from the past, while their love is realized in Christine’s creative work.

“I’m a narrative painter,” McCaffrey said. “My paintings have a lot of stuff in them.”

As Christine’s mother and Valerie’s daughter, Cathleen Green forms a third “you” in the exhibit, and is the main subject of two other paintings in the show.

Cacky, as Cathleen was known, was diagnosed with cancer five years ago and died in 2010. She was an oncology nurse and also enjoyed painting, and her husband suggested Valerie and Christine include a portrait of her with their paintings of each other.

“That was a last-minute decision,” Christine said. “We had about two weeks until the show, so I suggested it to her and she was like, let’s do it. And I really think it tied the whole show together.”

Christine worked from a photograph of her mother, which was hard to find because Cathleen was usually behind the camera and didn’t want her picture taken.

“Everyone says it really represents her,” Christine said. “I think I picked a good picture.”

People who know the Greens and attended a reception for the show on Aug. 13, burst into tears when they saw Cathleen’s portrait, Valerie said.

Valerie’s portrait of her daughter, “Studies of Cacky,” shows her playing violin, attending a class at the Garage School of Art, and talking to a paper girl, but they are preparations for a portrait rather than a finished work.

“I’m not ready to do it,” Valerie said. “You nibble away at this kind of a grief.”

Which makes Valerie all the more impressed by what Christine was able to accomplish in her own portrait of her mother.

“She has the ability to convey psychology and spirit,” Valerie said.

Christine prepared the work for this show in a burst of creative energy between the end of June and the beginning of July.

“I decided to do one new painting for the show. I sat in my attic and whipped it out in about four hours,” she said. It was a self-portrait, something she’d avoided doing for the past year.

“It was like something clicked; it looked so much different than anything I’d ever done before. The painting popped, and I felt like it said so much more than my other paintings did.”

She replaced the paintings she had planned to use in the show with the new ones that quickly followed.

The painting that set her going, “Growth of Confidence,” shows Christine absorbed in the creative process, eyes focused on a canvas where she is about to apply paint.

The growing confidence she records has helped validate Christine’s decision to attend the Rhode Island School of Design this fall, where she was admitted early decision.

She has always been interested in marketing and design along with painting, and won an award for a fashion project she did for DECA, a program that prepares high school students for business careers.

Christine worried that she would have to choose between her interests at RISD, but she no longer sees a conflict.

“I was very apprehensive about going into the art world at first, because you hear so many things — ‘Oh, you’re going to be a starving artist,’” she said. “But I’m really not worried about it anymore.”

YOU AND ME, ME AND YOU

What: Paintings by Valerie McCaffrey and her granddaughter, Christine Green

Where: Beverly Farms Library, 24 Vine St., Beverly

When: Now until Aug. 29

Information: www.beverlypubliclibrary.org/farms, 978-921-6066