Canadian born and New York Native, Chippie Kennedy, is an award-winning sculptor trained in Florence, Italy where she studied the great masters, pushing herself in her later years to become one in her own right. She now resides on the South Shore of Nova Scotia with her partner John, both local patrons of the arts. We visited her in her studio in the Foundry, located in historic Lunenburg, to talk about her life and journey to becoming a renowned sculptor.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Ottawa, Ontario. My father was in the military, so we moved often.
You got into sculpture later in life, what prompted you to move to Italy and study classic sculpture at the Florence Academy of Art?
Widowed, and in my early fifties I decided it was time to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a sculptor. I enrolled in a ‘once-a-week' sculpture class at the New York Academy of Art and Design in New York City in 2007. I quickly realized I had found my passion and so I began to develop a portfolio to send off to the Florence Academy of Art, Florence Italy, for full-time study in their Masters Sculpture program. In 2008 I moved to Florence and remained there for 4 years.
Tell us about living in Florence. What memory stands out?
My years spent living and studying in Florence were life changing. Not only was I learning a new art form, but I was also learning about myself as I was fully immersed in a foreign culture. My fellow students had come from 10 different countries and were half my age. Our shared desire to learn to become sculptors was our common bond. I learned to see life through a broader lens and to see form through a tighter more specific lens.
Who are your favourite artists, particularly sculptors, and did they influence your work?
Alberto Giacometti (b:1901) and Bruno Walpoth (b:1959) are two of my favourite sculptors. They are from two different periods in time, countries, and both have vastly distinctive styles. The works of both artists are equally highly emotive and expressive while at the same time exhibiting a structured grace.
Portraiture is difficult, particularly self-portraiture, both of which you have mastered, what is your secret?
I do have a particular fondness for portraiture with a preference for working from life, however I have sculpted many busts posthumously and find that too to be most satisfying. It is a challenging discipline because we all see ourselves and others very differently from one another. To capture one’s spirit can be quite elusive.
Where do you find inspiration?
You used to design patterns for the famed New York company McCall Patterns, did this prepare you for your art career?
Yes, my career as a clothing designer absolutely set me on a path to better understanding form, the basis of all sculpture. The drape and hand of a fabric, the flow over the human form, tactile ... like the movement of clay by the touch of the hand.
My sculpture practice is primarily classical studies of forms from nature. My art form has transitioned from cloth to clay. I no longer dress the body but create the body.
Your studio is in the historic Foundry in Lunenburg, what drew you to Nova Scotia?
As my mother was born and raised in Nova Scotia the Maritimes are in my blood. I have been coming to NS for many years, it was only a matter of time before I became a full-time resident.
How would you describe your personal style?
From a fashion point of view, I would guess eclectic, casual chic...???
From a sculpture point of view, I would say: classical, from-life, as nature presents itself to me.
You can learn more about Chippie's art on her website.