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November 7, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
*CORRECTION: Jenny McGee uses acrylic paints and mixed media. An earlier version of this article misidentified her medium.
These two artists work in close quarters. Jenny McGee, who takes the right half of the art studio, paints in abstraction with long, sweeping acrylic paint*. Robert Hodgson creates portraits, landscapes and the occasional abstract piece. She paints with passion; he paints with pragmatism. However, the interesting contrast in styles between the pair does not affect other aspects of their relationship: McGee is Hodgson’s daughter.
But Hodgson says that their art transcends familial bonds. “There’s a kind of pure relationship that exists,” he says. “Art has kind of leveled a lot of the old distinctions that society might place on you.”
A man Hodgson says looks “like Jimi Hendrix” with a brown afro is holding a bottle of beer, and a pack of cigarettes peeps out of his shirt pocket. This is a portrait of Johnny, Hodgson’s brother-in-law, who Hodgson says was more like a son. The original photograph that inspired the painting was taken while Johnny was living with Hodgson’s family about a year after he unsuccessfully tried to become a Roman Catholic priest. Johnny died from cancer in December 2011.
“Repairing a Broken Limb”
While McGee underwent chemotherapy in 2009 to treat breast cancer, her loved ones rallied together at a family gathering and cut their hair in support. She then used those pieces of hair to weave a unique work of art: a nest, complete with egg shells and a branch. “This family that came together to support me through this time, every single person there cut their hair, and to be able to weave that into a home, into a nest, was hugely important to me,” McGee says. “It’s a symbol of, ‘We’re in this together.’”
Hodgson and his wife, Mary, once lived in New York. They were deeply involved in their community and the gardens in Battery Park, and they were devastated to hear about the terrible storms plaguing their old neighborhood and friends. Hodgson’s painting exhibits heavy abstraction with angry reds and swirls of gray to represent the heaviness of his emotions while he watched the hurricane news coverage, as well as the churning violence of the storm.
Wall of Expression
A dark-brown board splattered with every color of the spectrum lines the right wall of McGee’s half of the studio. These splatters are the works of more than 100 friends, family and clients, McGee estimates, and are the result of a free expression platform that visitors to her studio can use to vent whatever they’re feeling. Passionate smears of paint run off the large board and onto the wall surrounding it, and several rectangles on the board outline where McGee has stood to work on her canvases.