Although Pawtuxet Village resident Carolyn Hagy Kent grew up in the Chad’s Ford area of Pennsylvania within ten minutes of the renowned Wyeth family and with a mother who painted, she never expected to one day become an artist herself. The first five or so decades of life had her living in New York City, LA, Florida, Mexico and beyond, raising two children with her then-husband and working in corporate America. When she was let go in a round of massive company layoffs in 2006, she knew she needed to reinvent herself.
A few years prior, at a quarterly company meeting, she had given a speech themed around the Grandma Moses adage of “You’re never too old to learn.”
“Little did I know that years later, I’d be in that boat myself,” she says.
Carolyn majored in music in college, yet had always “thirsted for color and texture.” She discovered RISD continuing education online and took the plunge, signing up for a certificate program in surface design – despite having never experienced art “as a creator.”
She felt unexpectedly comfortable in a requisite drawing foundation course with Robin Wiseman. At the end of the semester, Robin offered short private critiques for any interested students; Carolyn leapt at the opportunity.
During the critique, Robin casually commented, “You know, you could make money on the side doing portraits.” This observation ended up launching a brand new career path for Carolyn. After completing the first certificate, she opted for a second one in drawing and painting.
At the time, she was commuting from Orlando and staying with her brother in Rhode Island. “I threw my savings into education, hoping it would work out.” In 2009, she was one of the first artists to sublet in Hope Artiste Village. In 2015, she sold her Florida house and purchased her current home, which includes a garage studio. She typically paints with oils, and influences include the Wyeths as well as John Singer Sargent, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville and Gerhard Richter: “both the conservative and the bizarre.”
Her non-commissioned subject matter is diverse, ranging from humans to still life flowers, dogs, cityscapes and more. “I like the figure – anything that moves or has joints,” she says. Marine themes are also prevalent, as water has always been very important to her. “I’ll paint anything that makes my heart sing.”
Carolyn’s work, which is on display in Reliable Gold’s gallery now through the end of February, is psychologically driven and tells a (usually mysterious) story. Shadowy figures hunch together on a train platform: why?
“I want people to ask, ‘What’s going on with this?’ Life is blurred, there are no black and whites, and nothing needs to be defined,” she says.
She is a coxswain at the Narragansett Boat Club as a hobby, and painted an image of a women’s eight sculling from above. Another painting called 101 Year Old Hands shows several 101 year-old hands joined together close up; Carolyn, who suffers from arthritis, has painted her own along with them, and also painted over the original. “It represents change in life and layering,” she says.
Carolyn Hagy Kent
Gallery on display at Reliable Gold through February 24
9 Wayland Square