Local artist thrives by reimagining childhood love for art
Back in the 1950s when Bonita W. Conry was a child coloring in the coloring books her mother bought for her, she never imagined that someday she would have an art exhibit featuring her work.
Paintings by Bonita Conry, a solo art show, featuring about 40 paintings by the emerging artist will open at the Mansion House Art Gallery on Jan. 31 and run through Feb. 23.
“As I look back from my childhood days in Maryland to Virginia (1953-58) I remember coloring and drawing. My first paint set was watercolors. Mama would also buy me coloring books,” Conry said. “Even back in grade school, I can remember loving art. I took art classes in high school and I pursued my art only for a short time at Northern Virginia Community College.”
Conry said eventually responsibilities of adult life got in the way and, for the most part, she left her art behind.
Years later after she had retired and her husband had passed away, she moved to Hagerstown, and that is when her passion reemerged.
“I’ve always done a little artwork but really got into it in 2015 when I moved up from Sterling, Va. I just seemed to take off once I moved up here,” Conry said.
That is when she met Donna Mason who was teaching painting classes at the Washington County Senior Center and it opened up a whole new world of acrylic painting to her.
“After finally grasping hold of the technique, I took off with my work. Most of which was landscapes. I joined the Valley Art Association and began to exhibit and sell my paintings at the Mansion House Art Gallery and at the Meritus Medical Center where I was Artist of the Month,” Conry said.
Conry has studied painting with Mason, who is also vice president of Valley Arts Association, for the past four years at the Senior Center in Hagerstown. She said Conry has become a very talented and prolific artist.
“She is amazing. She paints three to four paintings a week,” Mason said. “When she started taking classes from me it just opened up a whole new world for her.”
Studying with Mason reawakened the passion within Conry and she began learning as much as she could to broaden her skills.
Despite not being able to drive, she has managed to attend various art classes with Janet Salter, Tom Renner and Dr. Teresa Roberts at Hagerstown Community College. She has also begun studying oil painting with Elisabet Stacy-Hurley.
“She’s just so excited. She just wants to learn everything and she is just so inspirational to us,” Mason said.
Conry is studying drawing, acrylic painting, oil painting and said she takes about three to four classes or lessons each week.
“I’ve had some great teachers,” Conry said. “I owe so much to each of these wonderful teachers who have set the goal for me for my life.”
Conry works in charcoal, pastels as well as acrylic and open acrylic painting. She is currently learning to do oil painting. For now, she said her favorite mediums to work in are acrylic and charcoal.
“It is my passion especially studying animals. I like to study animals, their bone structures, their vein lines and I like the muscles especially when they run,” Conry said. “I love painting and drawing animals, cats in particular, which helps me with doing portraits as well.”
Conry has previously had her first art exhibit two years ago at Meritus Medical Center as Artist of the Month through Valley Art Association, where she is a member. And she has donated money to the hospital auxiliary from the sale of her paintings there.
Conry said she was kind of excited about having her first solo show at the Mansion House.
“I have an opportunity for some sales which is good because I need to make room for more of my art,” Conry said.
Mason said not only does Conry exhibit her work and volunteer her time to work at the Mansion House Art Gallery several times a year, but she also does volunteer work at her local, and previous churches, sings in the choir, volunteers at Ruth Anne Monroe school, and at Ravenswood Nursing Home.
“And I can’t fail to mention that she is very faithful in helping her neighbors with things that they can’t do themselves,” Mason said.
There will be an opening reception for Conry’s show on Feb. 1, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Mansion House located at 501 Highland Way in Hagerstown. The exhibit will be open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Top photo: Bonita Conry stands with her paintings which will be on display from Jan. 31 through Feb. 23 at the Mansion House Art Gallery. (Submitted photo)