Maureen Claffy is a Chicago based fine artist. Making art is as essential as breathing for me. It is my continual expression of prayer and belief in a loving God. Making art is how I embrace the chaos of the world without trying to control it. I paint what I feel, see and experience while focusing on the love. It is, in the end, all about the love. I hope that you find it in my work. I put it there for you.
ABOUT ME, THE ARTIST
Maureen Claffy: A Generous Heart
Written by John Seed
Artist Maureen Claffy has a very generous heart. The works that she makes in a variety of media—including acrylic, ink, pencil and mixed media—are meant to remind her viewer of life’s heartfelt joys and beauties. “I paint to encourage others to believe,” Claffy states, “and to serve as a reminder that life is beautiful even when it doesn’t seem that way.”
Primarily a watercolorist who sometimes switches to thinned acrylics, Claffy creates large format works on canvas, paper and birchwood. Claffy works both independently and for clients: one recent commission centered on family relationships.
Vibrant, expansive and dense with symbols, Claffy’s works also demonstrate the artist’s interest in embracing chaos and letting go.
This emotional fearlessness, rooted in Claffy’s profound optimism and faith, is her way of letting her own love of life leave traces in the form of art. Claffy has said that “Making art is as essential as breathing for me,” and her considerable emotional and artistic energies go hand in hand.
There is a sense of the miraculous in her work, and an essential gratitude in everything she does.
Although Claffy’s work is distinctively hers, you can feel the underlying presence of creative figures that she admires. Van Gogh’s sense of color is certainly there and so is a sense of the organic that might come from Celtic art or the architecture of Antonio Gaudi. During a visit to Paris, Claffy came under the spell of Claude Monet’s sweeping Nymphéas (water lily) murals. Monet’s paintings, which were made after the terrors of World War One were his way of trying to heal the world. Standing in front of them Claffy had an ephiphany: “Beauty is very powerful. It changes the world for the better. I believe in Beauty. That's why I paint.”
Claffy is inclined to work in themed series. She likes to focus her ideas on a central symbol or metaphor and then let the imagery flow.
For example, her “Heart” series came after an extraordinary experience of holding an actual human heart, and grew into a metaphorical exploration of the “language” of the human heart. The “Quilting Series,” used the varied and improvisational imagery of quilts as a departure to discuss the way that we structure and arrange our lives. The “Knitting Series” dealt with themes of nurturance and caring using the metaphor of hand-knit garments.
Working from personal emotions and observations, Claffy moves towards connection and shared appreciation. Nothing gives her more satisfaction than when a collector—who inevitably will also become a friend if they aren’t already—lets her know what they feel and experience when living with one of her works. “It’s overwhelming,” Claffy says, “to have them appreciate my work.”
You could say that Maureen Claffy is building networks of friendship and shared beauty one image at a time. It’s a generous and extremely positive way of living and of making art.
John Seed is a professor of art and art history at Mt. San Jacinto College in Southern California. Winner of a 2002 Society of Professional Journalists award in art and entertainment writing, and a 2012 Creative Capital arts writers grant finalist, he has written about art and artists for Arts of Asia, Art Ltd., Harvard Magazine, The HuffingtonPost and Hyperallergic.
Maureen Claffy, American Fine Artist
The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Certificate of Painting (2007-2014)
Atelier Studies and Private Instruction, Dublin, Ireland (2005-2006)
The American Academy of Art, Chicago, Illinois (1987-1989)
University of Illinois, B.A. English Literature & French (1982-1986)
L’Universite d’Aix-Marseille III, Aix-en-Provence, France, D.E.U.G Studies in Lettres Modernes (1984-1985)
2017, The Sanctuary on Penn, Indianapolis, Indiana "For Doug"
2017, Bistro 750, Chicago, Illinois "The Seed Series"
2017, Village Antiques, Hinsdale, Illinois "Patterned Universes"
2016, Reinvent Gallery, Lake Forest, Illinois "Heart and Soul"
2016, Urban Edge Gallery, Waukegan, Illinois "Body and Soul"
2016, The Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago, Illinois "Grand Opening"
2014, The Lakeview Art Fair, Chicago, IL Juried Participant
2014, The Gold Coast Art Fair, Chicago, IL Juried Participant
2014, The 57th Street Art Fair, Hyde Park, IL, Juried Participant
2014, The Mothers’ Day Art Fair, Solo Exhibition, Hinsdale, IL
2013, The One of a Kind Show, Chicago, IL, Juried Fine Art Participant
2013, The Ravenswood Art Walk, Chicago, IL, Featured Artist
2013, The Oakbrook Invitational Art Fair, Oak Brook, IL Artistic Merit Award
2013, The Glenview Art League Art Fair, Glenview, IL Excellence Award
2013, The Hinsdale Fine Art Fair, Hinsdale, IL Honorable Mention
2013, The Mothers’ Day Art Show Solo Exhibition, Hinsdale, IL
2011, The Hinsdale Public Library, Hinsdale, IL “Art and Motherhood”
2011, The Blackbird Gallery, Chicago, IL, Solo Show, “Bountiful: Images on Gratitude and Attitude in Challenging Times"
2011, The House Beautiful Pink Show, Chicago, IL, Finalist
2010, The University Club of Chicago, March Members Show
2007, Hinsdale Center for the Arts, Enchanted Show
Work in private collections in the United States, Ireland, France, England, Scotland, Dubai and the Czech Republic
Me & My True Loves
When my children were little I mainly painted in the kitchen or around the hub of the house as I felt it was most authentic to paint what I knew which was family and love.
Although I knew I was an artist from the time I was living in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1984 and I took my first life drawing class, I hesitated in my own life and I did not consistently make art for decades.
In 2008 one of my children became gravely ill and painting was the only thing that calmed me. This was the beginning of some of my best work and “The Knitting Series”.
I call the logo for my work, the circle with the cross and the four dots, "my dragonfly". It represents God and me and my four children, which is essentially my life.
Everything that I paint goes back to “Blossom” from the Bountiful series. In 2011 when I was working my way through a painful divorce, I would get out of bed every morning and see eighteen hundred rectangular inches of joyful pink flowers and promise myself out loud “I am going to blossom”. Every painting of mine since has been a visual intention of what I want to manifest in the world.
As my work has evolved to things I have learned beyond the home and life there, the center of my work will always be love and inside of most original pieces you can find the dragonfly. My children are always with me.
A life story through art.