Denise Cormier Mahoney is a mixed media painter and printmaker. Denise received her BFA in printmaking and painting from NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and her Master of Art Education from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Her contemporary folk-art paintings are narrative, colorful and visually textural. She explores themes that unite with a goal to uplift and encourage.
What have you done since leaving NSCAD?
When I graduated from NSCAD as a printmaker with a minor in painting, I quickly realized I couldn’t afford a printing press so I pursued painting and evolved as an artist from there. I lived in the US for quite some time and worked as an art teacher, sharing my passions with my students. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle in 2000 that I starting working on my art full time. I had my own studio and worked with the Women Painters of Washington group, which was an excellent resource for me in the development of my art. In 2020, my husband and I moved back to New Brunswick, where I am from. Most recently, I was accepted into the Kingsbrae International Artists in Residence program in St. Andrews, which was the most rewarding gift that I have ever been offered as a creative.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a series that evokes the dreamscape. When I started thinking about moving to back home to the East Coast, it prompted reflections on my childhood memories and all the different phases of my development there. It’s sort of like a thought discovery. Each panel is designed to represent an intangible observation of nighttime dreams or a child’s memories, distorted through the mist of time. The artistic goal of this series is to reconnect with a younger stage of development and a simpler worldview.
What continues to inspire your work?
I am a narrative artist and I like the idea of telling our stories to find our shared commonality and to focus on the things that unite us. There is so much in our world that divides us and pits us one against the other and I want to stand up and pinpoint the things that bring us together as humans. In a world that seems so dark, it’s important to reconnect with the fundamental values of hope, understanding and acceptance.
How did your time at NSCAD contribute to your career path?
I went to NSCAD quite young and ignorant about who I was as an artist and what it means to be an artist and NSCAD opened up my mind and helped me discover my voice. If I didn’t have that foundation of confidence that NSCAD gave me, I might have gone in a different direction.
What was your favourite part about NSCAD?
NSCAD gave me my first opportunity to be in a collaborative environment with other artists where we talk and share. Artists are meant to inspire and be inspired so being around other artists who not only understand what I am talking about when I talk about my art but also have something to contribute, that’s an incredibly powerful and meaningful experience.
What was the biggest takeaway from your time at NSCAD?
To trust my training and the importance of my voice. NSCAD really made a point of validating what we felt was an important concept or idea. It’s so important as an artist to have confidence in our voice and even though it took me a while to truly believe that, it was NSCAD that had planted that seed for me.
What is the proudest moment of your art career?
Getting into the Kingsbrae International Artists in Residence program was a validation and told me to keep doing what I am doing. The time spent alongside other creatives, living in the same house, creating without time constraints for 30 days, became for all of us, a bond. Each of us worked on our proposed body of work with a focus only an environment like this could offer. We got to know each other, shared ideas and enjoyed developing friendships as like-minded creatives. It was a gift of time, creativity, and validation as an artist and I am now carrying that confidence into my work.
What do you wish you had known when you were a student?
The importance of confidence. I looked around too much and saw what other people did and believed that their voice was more important than mine. I wish I had known that I could listen to and believe in my own voice more.
What do you think is next for you?
It’s all exploratory at this point. I want to figure out where I belong in New Brunswick and what my role is going to be here. Is it bringing artists and studios together, is it doing residencies, is it teaching workshops? I am open to what being a New Brunswick artist looks like for me.
You can learn more about Denise and check out her portfolio on her website at https://www.dcmstudios.org/.