Upstate artist’s two-handed drawings are on display at the Schweinfurth

"Ancient Growth," Kathleen Farrell, 2019.

Artist Kathleen Farrell of the Rochester suburb of Greece has an unusual style of drawing: She uses both hands to make her colorful, cartoon-like pieces. She attributes her method to attending parochial school as a child – and having dyslexia.

She preferred writing with her left hand when she was a child, something that the nuns at school tried to change. Farrell says, “The nuns tried to get me to switch.”

But their attempt was foiled by Farrell’s dyslexia. “When you have dyslexia, reading and spelling is difficult, so I would always draw my notes instead,” she said. “I would be taking notes with my right hand and be drawing in my lap with my left.”

Farrell’s two-handed drawings are on display in “Presence of Silence,” a solo exhibition in the Schweinfurth Art Center’s Gallery Julius through Aug. 18. Also on view is “Made and Remade: Re-Imagining Industrial Systems,” an exhibition of three artists who explore different aspects of industrial systems that are embedded in our lives.

A Rochester native, Farrell has worked at Monroe Community College (MCC) since November 1986 as director of the college’s Mercer Gallery. She administers an arts program of gallery exhibitions, artists’ workshops, residencies, and an artist lecture series.

She also is a full professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at MCC, and teaches in both the Commercial Illustration and Graphic Design programs. She enjoys teaching, adding, “I like helping students become something they never thought they could be.”

Farrell said it’s fun being able to draw with both hands simultaneously. She is constantly drawing, and some of the drawings at the Schweinfurth began as small sketches she drew while attending and participating in meetings at MCC. “Even at graduation, I’ll bring a sketchbook,” she said.

Many of Farrell’s drawings evoke nature scenes. “I think about nature as if it were human and could speak,” she said. “If a rock or trees could talk, what would they say? That’s what I try to capture in my drawings.”

For instance, her piece “Nature Walk” shows a colorful insect walking through blades of grass. “Ancient Growth” shows fanciful trees growing tall from brightly colored ground, looking like an alien landscape. And “Learning to Fly” shows four stages in a bird’s first flight as it attempts to fly to the top of a large boulder.

Farrell’s focus on nature reflects her concern for its future. “We as humans aren’t doing anything to nurture the planet,” she said. “Humans are so far from nature that they don’t realize that they can see beauty in it.”


If you go …

What: “Presence of Silence,” a solo exhibition of drawings

Who: Kathleen Farrell, a gallery director and art professor at Monroe Community College

Where: Schweinfurth Art Center, 205 Genesee St., Auburn, NY

When: Through Aug. 18, 2019

Cost: $7 per adult; members and children 12 and under are free

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; closed on Mondays

Also on display: “Made and Remade: Re-Imagining Industrial Systems,” by Abraham Ferraro, Sherri Lynn Wood, and Landon Perkins

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