Visual Arts

Take Your Passion and Make It Happen: The Art of Shannon Corrigan

“Hitchcock Sunrise,” mixed media, 11 x 8

Karen: Shannon, I know you as the bartender/manager of my local bar/restaurant. Then I discovered that you were a painter and later I saw a show of yours in the neighborhood in 2018. You grew up in New York and told me you started drawing when you were 3 years old. What were those drawings like? And do you know what drew you to that art form?

Shannon: My mom has photos of me when I was still in a highchair, I must have been two or three years old, holding a crayon and scribbling away. I have been drawn to mark-making from a time before I can remember. When I was around five, I started drawing houses and women in costumes. As the years went on, the architectural and fashion designs grew more elaborate. I think I wanted to escape childhood and drawing allowed me to fantasize about living in other places and being other people. The subject matter has changed over time, but my love of fantasy and bold colors has remained constant.

Karen: Where did you go to school? And did you know going into college that you would be an art major?

Shannon: When I was fourteen, I was faced with a big decision. I could attend a Catholic high school to play basketball or go to Hicksville high school and pursue art. I chose Hicksville and am so grateful that I did. It offered a huge variety of art classes. One teacher, Mrs. Atkinson, encouraged me to go to the New York State School for the Summer Arts Program. That experience solidified my desire to study and make art in college. I was accepted to different art schools but decided to go to a SUNY school with a strong art program. I went to New Paltz because I fell in love with the Hudson Valley and received my BFA in painting.

“It ain’t 3 Card monte in Coney Island when the man comes around,” acrylic and oil on Linen, 24 x 18

Karen: Over the years, your art has taken on different forms and subject matters. How did that happen?

Shannon: During school, I became obsessed with rendering and photorealism. I think I was trying to prove something like: “Look at me. I’m such a good student.” That changed after a portfolio review at Cooper Union when I was told: “We are looking for artists, not students.” I laugh at it now, but that stuck with me for a long time. The inner critic creeps up and says, “you aren’t a real artist.” Anytime that happens, I remind myself that there are as many definitions of artist as there are artists. Like the only rule is that there are no rules. It took a while for me to find my style, but that process is at the core of what being an artist is. My art is an exploration into myself. I consider myself a seeker. Curiosity has led me to experiment with different motifs and mediums, but certain themes and techniques perpetually repeat.

A big fascination of mine is biology and human form. During college, I started dissecting the female figure; quite literally. I would make these collages from women’s magazines. I cut out different body parts from the models and put them together to make absurd and monstrous characters. Simultaneously, I became interested in medical illustrations and began painting internal organs and inventing my own microbiological worlds. The finished pieces could appear quite different, but in my mind, they come from the same place; the need to deconstruct reality in order to discover alternative planes of consciousness.

“Rise and Run,” mixed media, 13 x 10

Karen: When I saw your exhibit at Freddy’s, I recall thinking that all of your drawings were so beautiful and some pieces seemed political to me.

Shannon: I like taking jabs at the Orwellian establishment. It’s cathartic. I would call it subversive rather than political because my work is usually more ambiguous than specific. Cesar A. Cruz is credited with saying “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Banksy later spray painted it on a wall. This idea is at the crux of what I strive to create. I want to walk the line between grotesque and beautiful.

Karen: You went back to school to become a radiation therapist. When and why did that happen? And how it is in reflected in your art?

Shannon: I was managing the restaurant where I met you and I knew that I didn’t want to continue doing that, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Then in January 2018 my grandma was hospitalized with metastatic breast cancer. I got the idea of becoming a radiation therapist while I was taking her to one of her appointments. I researched what it would take and decided to start with a couple of prerequisite classes. Going back to school rekindled my love for math and science. I put one foot in front of the other and was accepted to school at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I have been a licensed radiation therapist for over two years now. My grandma never got to see me on this leg of my journey, but she’s the reason why I am here today. I mentioned previously being interested in medical illustrations and anatomy. This subject matter has resurfaced in my artwork, along with the physics and math I use in my career. Double Strand Break is a mixed media drawing of a photon delivering a lethal strike to a DNA strand. The double helix emerges from the center of a golden spiral.

The golden ratio is found throughout nature, even in dimensions of DNA. Photons are used in radiation therapy to attack the DNA of cancer cells. The main objective of radiation therapy is to deliver a lethal dose to malignant tumors, while sparing healthy tissue.

The juncture where science and art meet is such an exciting place to be. This can be a controversial topic. Some people think the two disciplines have no association with each other, but there are similarities even if considered mutually exclusive. It takes a lot of creativity in problem solving in both science and art. Science is based around the factual truths of observation. What will we observe tomorrow that will make us question what we have accepted as truth? Artists and scientists find a common ground in curiosity of the unknown. This is the realm that makes communication between the two fields possible.

Finding a balance between my passion and work can be hard, but everywhere I go, I bring my artist’s eyes. There is magic in the ordinary, we only have to change our perspective to see. Being an artist lets me share that with other people. G&S
IG: Shannoncorrigan1984

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