Kevin McEvoy,
Kevin McEvoy, "The Window," 2020, oil on linen, 60 x 48 in., available from the artist

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

Kevin McEvoy (b. 1980) has been painting honest reflections of everyday life for more than 15 years. Fascinated by what he calls “common things,” this realist sees the poetry in life’s myriad moments, from the mundane to the painful to the poignant.

“It’s really simple,” the artist says. “I paint what I am with and where I am by relaying the story before me — the way the neck of a violin is worn down by a century of playing, the hopeful lines of a pregnant woman, the distant stare of a Vietnam veteran, or the painful regret in a prisoner’s eye.”

McEvoy earned a B.F.A. at New York’s Stony Brook University; after graduating he moved to Florence with his wife, Margaret, to study classical drawing and painting at Charles H. Cecil Studios. Two years later, the couple learned they were pregnant with their first child and returned to Long Island to raise a family. Over the next decade, McEvoy ran an independent studio in West Islip, where he taught and worked on commissions.

In 2016, he joined forces with a friend and business partner to open The Atelier at Flowerfield in the town of St. James. He was appointed president and director while Margaret became director of operations, and over the next three years, they developed a program of weekly classes and summer workshops with visiting instructors, curated exhibitions for the gallery, organized art history lectures, and much more.

In January 2020, everything changed. Due to circumstances beyond their control, the McEvoys were forced to make the difficult decision to resign from their positions. Feeling disoriented but determined to remain optimistic, they temporarily relocated to Europe with their three young sons. “Our hope was to move beyond a painful chapter,” McEvoy writes on his blog. “We were grieving a great loss, and wanted to remind ourselves that life is beautiful, that the world is big, and that our light and momentary pain was a mere blip in the arc of time.”

Their first destination was London, where they accepted an artist friend’s invitation to borrow her large space in the Arts and Crafts-era St. Paul’s Studios. In February, just as the McEvoys were settling into a comfortable rhythm in London and setting their sights on Florence, the winds of change blew again: the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly through Italy, and it seemed the rest of Europe and the U.S. were next. To get their family out of harm’s way, the McEvoys decided to return home. Just hours before catching one of the last flights out before the lockdown, the artist put his brush down on the painting illustrated here, “The Window.”

“Mourning the loss of the atelier and the pandemic rapidly approaching were the twin crashing waves that birthed this painting,” McEvoy shares. “The day I started it, the February sky was a characteristic leaden gray. My sons were sitting on and beneath the window reading. My wife sat with a cup of tea, thinking. I wasn’t thinking about my art, but about my family. The future was so uncertain, the sky so bleak. A line we had recently read at the Churchill War Rooms came to me: ‘Please understand there is no depression in this house and we are not interested in the possibilities of defeat.’ With those words ringing in my ear, I began to paint.”

“Put it in the painting” — that’s the advice artists often share with one another. They mean using their art to reconcile painful emotions and life experiences, perhaps finding a silver lining in the process. That is instinctively what McEvoy did here, as he has done before. In effect, he managed to capture a moment in time that, for all its tension and uncertainty, still emanates a palpable sense of serenity.

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.

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