Celine McDonald has been painting since she was a child, and the quiet precision of her work reflects as much. Restrained yet bold, her paintings have been exhibited at galleries and museums from New York City to Miami. I’ve known Celine for going on ten years, and like her paintings, have found her to be calm and present—yet also spirited. I was delighted to interview her and discover more about her life.
You seem to have a strong affinity for boats. Can you talk about the meaning they hold for you?
The simple boat is a powerful image. “She” carries life (and death).
They are womb like and embracing, reminding me of cradles. Yet I see them too as caskets carrying our souls, floating into a space where our bodies don’t exist.
You work a lot with bold, primary colors. Why are you drawn to these? Or do you not have a choice in the matter?
My paintings starts out as colorful and messy. As I work they becomes more orderly. Only the most important spots of color and detail remain. It is a sense of grounding and balance that is not predetermined but I recognize it when I arrive there.
How does your meditation practice affect your art?
They are intertwined, one in the same. Before I paint, or if I am working and my mind is all over the place, I will stop and do a walking meditation or sage my studio and pray. But also for me the process of painting is like a prayer. It reminds me of saying the rosary, repeating the Hail Mary over and over again. As I add layer upon layer to my painting my mind moves into an emptier place of quiet and clarity as does my art.
How does your art affect your spirituality?
My art forces me to “go there,” to step out of my life and thoughts and to live in the present. In return, in my life, I am then better able to exist in the moment. But ….it is an on going practice!
You live in Upstate NY surrounded by rich, wooded landscapes. Even though these don’t show up in your work in a literal sense, do they nevertheless inspire you? If so, how?
My work is often created through images found while at the sea combined with memory. Not being there as I develop my paintings creates somewhat of an imagined landscape. My work as a painter began in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. Since then I have always carried its abundance of light and water with me, sometimes painting it into paintings where it realistically would not exist. The quiet of an isolated studio anywhere is inspiring and conducive to getting work done.
You have a diverse modern family. What drew you to these life choices?
It was a natural choice. A frequent quote of my Mom’s, when some one would show up unexpectedly for dinner or for an overnight in our already overcrowded house, was “there’s always room for one more.” I carried that motto a bit further with adoption. My father was a social worker, nonjudgmental and inclusive. We didn’t have much in terms of stuff but we had a large and loving family. It felt normal to extend that to those who didn’t. And I have an amazing spouse.
Can you describe what is most precious to you in your life and what you have learned from it?
TIME. Having time to be with those I love. I have learned that this life is fleeting but relationships are eternal.
How does your family inspire your paintings?
Our family can be at times chaotic. Each one’s well-being is important to the whole. We all work together to lift whichever one is struggling and we rejoice together when one excels. In the end it is about balance. In my work as well as in my family I try to attain a sense of wholeness (holiness).
Are you hoping to inspire others with your work? If so in what manner?
Yes. I hope that my work gives the viewer a sense of calm and connection.
What are you currently working on?
Sheds that open and shut. Like the boats they are containers.
Anything else you’d like to add?