SRU library technician paints his way into renowned exhibition


Kevin McLatchywith artwork

Kevin McLatchy, a Slippery Rock University library technician, has had his artwork, titled “Late Summer Creek,” featured at the 81st National Midyear Show at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. The exhibition, which runs through August 20, presents works by contemporary artists who reside within the U.S. or its territories.

July 25, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - No matter if it's rain, shine or stink bug season, Kevin McLatchy can usually be found outdoors, sketching the sloping horizons surrounding his New Wilmington home.

And while the SRU library technician enjoys going about his craft in relative anonymity around western Pennsylvania, in the greater Youngstown, Ohio area, McLatchy is a celebrated painter at one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in the country.

McLatchy recently made history when his painting, "Late Summer Creek," was accepted into the 81st National Midyear Show at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. The exhibition, which runs through August 20, presents works by contemporary artists who reside within the U.S. or its territories.

Nearly 900 works from more than 300 artists from 26 states were submitted, with 81 works by 76 artists from 11 states making the exhibition. Two dimensional works in all media, including digital works and photography were selected. This year's exhibition was judged by Sean McConnor, professor of painting and curator of art at Thiel College in Greenville.

Founded in 1919 by Joseph Butler, Jr., the Butler Institute is the first museum of American art. The original structure is a McKim, Mead and White architectural masterpiece listed on the National Register of Historic places. The Butler's mission is to preserve and collect works of art in all media created by U.S. citizens. The Institute's holdings now exceed 20,000 individual works.

"It certainly was a great honor for me," McLatchy said of his inclusion. "To know your work is hanging alongside famous artists is incredibly satisfying. I'm just excited to be in the building."

Displayed on a 40-inch by 36-inch canvas, "Late Summer Creek" depicts a colorful, summer day surrounding a local creek. McLatchy's focus on the landscape is abstracted, an artistic technique which uses shapes, forms, colors and textures to represent internal, rather than external, reality.

"The best way to describe it is through metaphor," he explained. "I love painting nature like this because I see it as a metaphor for all sorts of elements within ourselves: life, death and revival. Whether or not your audience feels the emotion of your piece is up to them."

McLatchy completed the work a few years prior to its display as part of his desire to produce art directly from nature, a passion that dates back to his early childhood.

"I remember winning an art award as a young boy. That really motivated me to get going," he said. "My parents were also supportive, which helped me a lot. Not everyone's parents are supportive of the arts."

McLatchy's passion for painting really took off during his time as an undergraduate at the former Boston State College, before concentrating his studies in painting and drawing at the Vesper George School of Art and Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As a graduate student, he earned a MFA at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

"I would say my college experience is really where I became serious about making a career of art," said McLatchy. "Painting was always an interest of mine, but after that, I was beginning to see a world of light and color that I had never taken the time to notice before."

McLatchy followed through on his passion, first as an instructor of painting and drawing at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design; followed by stops at Curry College in Milton; Franklin Pierce College in Ridge, New Hampshire and the Hoyt Institute of Fine Art in New Castle.

In 1997, he and his wife, Patricia, broadened their artistic horizons, opening the doors to the their Gloucester, Massachusetts-based McLatchy Gallery. The pair used the facility as a temporary exhibition for their paintings and sculptures before the arrival of their son a year later.

"The gallery was right on the ocean and quite beautiful," McLatchy said. "I concentrated a lot of my painting on the seascapes around Cape Cod. Unfortunately, we were forced to move on."

McLatchy can now be found using his lunch breaks to sketch the sights around campus, particularly the wooded areas surrounding the Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research where he can appreciate nature.

"I never take a specific idea or any preconceived notions with me," said McLatchy. "I may start with the energy of a line or the surface of water, but I always let the art decide for itself."

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