Meet Galen Cheney

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About Galen Cheney

Galen Cheney is a painter’s painter. Her formal art education began at Mount Holyoke College and continued at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, where she received her MFA and was mentored by Grace Hartigan, Hermine Ford, and Salvatore Scarpitta, among other important artists.

Three decades later, she continues to push herself and her work with honestly, commitment, and fearlessness. Deep diving into her own creative process, Cheney is a physical artist whose richly layered paintings embody her curiosity about and exploration of materials and her own psyche.

Born in Los Angeles and widely traveled, Cheney has spent most of her life in New England where she feels a deep connection to her roots, the land, and centuries-old architecture. A childhood trip to Europe was the start of her enduring love of travel and fascination with ancient civilizations. Along with an affinity for the ancient world, Cheney feels the gravitational pull of contemporary urban life–its grit, noise and neon graffiti and an unshakable connection to the mid-century Abstract Expressionists. In her distinct way she synthesizes these influences to create work that is complex, beautiful, and uniquely hers.

Cheney’s work has been exhibited and collected widely in the U.S. and in Europe, China, Canada, and the UK. She was featured in New American Paintings (vol. 86) and was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Past residencies and fellowships include the Millay Colony, MASS MoCA, Vermont Studio Center, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, and Da Wang Culture Highland.

Her home and studio are in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Artist Statement

Nearly all the paintings in this show were completed during this bizarre period of Covid 19. I have been profoundly grateful for my deep well of painting ideas and for the opportunity and space to investigate them during this time. My studio practice has always been the foundation of my identity and the place I go to center and challenge myself, connect with purpose, and create beauty.

2020 provided fertile soil for sustained and concentrated creative work. During this period I have followed two tracks of work, which, though distinct in many ways, also overlap, dovetail, and otherwise inform each other and advance my work generally.

The first track of work is focused on color and form through acrylic and oil on paper or canvas. Most of the work in this show falls into this category. I quickly start each painting by laying down a bright, sometimes fluorescent color. Painting on paper is conducive to a faster, fluid process, which is what I was after in these works. When I can work quickly there is less opportunity for my mind and ego to interfere. Typically completed in a few meditative-like sessions, the paintings have a fresh, open quality, layered with loose drawing, and with some of that initial bright color pushing through to the surface. The paintings are simultaneously airy and watery and evoke natural processes, landscape, the built environment and intangible forces. 

The second painting path I am on is a more open-ended, lengthier, process-driven exploration of materials and the possibilities of abstraction. It is more unconventional in nature, influenced by graffiti and decay, and existing at the intersection of painting, collage, and fiber arts. These collaged paintings, as I call them, are more built than painted, at least at the start. I make them by staining raw canvas and combining pieces of that raw canvas with remnants of other paintings and drawings and other materials. The works are not stretched when I am making them so that I can continue to add or remove portions at will. The verso of these works, with all their seams and incidental color also have richly textured surfaces, and I have begun to make works that hang away from the wall or are cut and folded to reveal areas of the reverse.

Work of this track is constructed, deconstructed, and reinvented through a creative, physical process that is challenging me and pushing my work to new places.

One painting of this collaged type is represented here—The Path to Town.


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