By Allison Plitt
Although Long Island City artist Kathy Ferguson has loved making art all her life, it wasn’t until her own children left for college that she was able to devote herself full time to her craft.
Growing up in the suburbs of San Francisco, Ferguson remembers having fun doing arts and crafts in elementary school. It would be years, however, before she was able to take an art class. As a high school senior, she enrolled in a drawing class, and made a piece that impressed her teacher so much that it was submitted into a state contest.
Ferguson won first place and a partial scholarship to college where she majored in civil engineering.
After a short time working in the engineering field, Ferguson realized she didn’t really enjoy it. So she opted to return to college and enrolled in business school where she met her husband. Majoring in marketing, she graduated and went to work in consumer product marketing for a several companies in New York and Los Angeles. Then, after working a few years, Ferguson became pregnant.
“I had my first of three children and it was at that point, I went back and started taking art classes,” she said.
When her oldest daughter was 7, she and her husband headed to the Rockies to raise their children.
”When we moved to Colorado, I took a few art classes, but at that point, I was a little bit more self-taught and started doing a few exhibits here and there of my work,” she said.
Nowadays Ferguson is completing her master’s in fine arts in painting and drawing online from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
“After going through my MFA and pretty much doing every kind of medium that you could think of, I decided, I liked to do it all,” she said. “So now I’m working in mixed media. I’m doing a lot of layering of mostly acrylic paints, collage paper and ink.”
Ferguson said her works tend to focus on living creatures and plants, but sometimes she’ll throw in an anthropomorphized image, which means attributing human emotions to inanimate objects.
“It’s like taking this chair and treating it like it’s actually alive and it’s going across the room,” she said. “I do have a fanciful imagination.”
She gives an example of that in a piece titled “Circle Invasion.”
“I painted this painting and it was this benign sea of kelp creatures living happily in harmony, but an insidious horde of circles comes in, sends out scouts, takes over and before you know it, the kelp creatures have been overrun in their own community,” she said. “So like I said, you may not see that when you look at it, but in my head, there are all sorts of things going on.”
In another piece titled “Harbor Town,” Ferguson creates an aerial view of the Boston Harbor.
She spent three years in Massachusetts after leaving Colorado, so New England nautical images frequently appear in her art.
“I do a lot of things with water,” she said. “I think it’s maybe the colors or it’s a little mysterious.”
New York has been an ideal place for Ferguson to exhibit her artwork and meet other artists.
She has recently been invited to participate in several different shows in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Portland, Ore. This spring, from April 5 until May 10, she will be displaying her artwork at New York Institute of Technology in Long Island in a group exhibit titled, “The Visual Language of Contemporary Art.”
“I think the biggest thing is be true to yourself. It’s hard to do, especially initially if you’re not getting much recognition or you’re not making the sales,” Ferguson said. “I saw one woman. I think she was 90 and she just got recognized. She’s been painting her whole life and they were saying her art was never in vogue and now it’s like the hottest thing ever. I was thinking, ‘Your art was always good.’ Sometimes the public is not in that place with you, but as long as you stay true to yourself, you’re enjoying it while you’re doing it.”
For more information about Kathy Ferguson and her artwork, you can visit her website at www.kathyfergusonart.com.