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By Kevin Convery
Dec 6, 2011
“THE GOLDEN THREAD: REFLECTIONS ON MYTH AND MEMORY” by KEVIN CONVERY REVIEWED by JOE R. FRINZI for The Easton Irregular 'Bookshelf' In 1963, nine-year-old Kevin Convery came into possession of a Golden Book children’s edition of “The Iliad & The Odyssey”. Filled with stylized 1950s-era illustrations, it fired his youthful imagination with its retelling of the battle of Troy and the adventures of Odysseus. That serendipitous encounter eventually blossomed into a full-fledged devotion to mythology and lore which would find its expression for him as the backstory to his other great love, art. Over the ensuing decades and after earning his degree in Fine Art from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s, Mr. Convery continued his exploration of mythic literature in a series of striking canvasses which depicted archetypal encounters reimagined through the tableaux of his eclectic vision. Drawing his iconography from a variety of sources and influences, including... More > primeval forests, classical portraiture and diverse cultural symbols, the works also reflected the artist’s own personal observations from his travels across the United States as well as a four-year stay in Russia. Throughout these years, which saw Mr. Convery get married and raise a daughter, he periodically would pursue the notion of combining his artwork with his ruminations on mythology into a comprehensive whole. The result, after nearly two decades of intermittent effort, is the book, “The Golden Thread: Reflections on Myth and Memory”, which he self-published this year. Part vision quest confessional and part art catalog, one is immediately drawn to Mr. Convery’s spirituality and his sensitivity to natural surroundings. He explains through colorful, descriptive passages, which prove him to be as much of a poet as an artist, how his life and experiences have influenced his art. The reader is also taken on a journey through a number of classic myths that have inspired this artist in the creation of his distinctive oeuvre. More often than not in his canvasses, he favors the left side to carry the primary focus (usually a young, idealized female looking directly at the viewer), while the background and right area contain vital clues to the mythic story he is telling. In some works, e.g. “Faintly Through The Universe”, which depicts a young woman playing a violin before an enormous window, outside of which a serenely luminous snowstorm serves as an almost mystical backdrop, Mr. Convery is able to fuse multiple elements into a uniquely satisfying whole. Here he combines his Irish heritage (the title is from a line in James Joyce’s “The Dead” about falling snow) with his time spent in Russia (the setting and image evoke his reminiscence of East European culture), both used to great effect. As in many self-published books some errors and typos have crept in which might have been avoided through the experienced eye of an editorial professional. Still, the text conveys Mr. Convery’s thoughts and insights in a warm and friendly voice, making the reader feel like an invited guest on this man’s personal pilgrimage through life. Of particular merit, the color plates are exquisitely rendered allowing one to fully appreciate the dense quality of tone and texture inherent in the original works which, stylistically, owe more than a passing nod to the pre-Raphaelite era. In several cases, he even provides detailed close-ups of a painting which further enhance one’s appreciation of the imagery. One has to marvel at the effort Mr. Convery put forth to produce this very personal record of his artistic and literary exploration of the creative process. At a time when it seems as if “anything goes” in the art world, this eclectic blend of very traditional elements (images and text) speaks directly to the reader about passion, culture and living one’s life with purpose and direction in order to gain some measure of insight. That seems as lofty and worthy a goal for anyone to pursue. With his book, Mr. Convery does this and much more, and he delivers it with a heartfelt sense of grace. There is an interesting postscript to this story. The day before Mr. Convery hosted a book party for a number of close friends (including this writer) to celebrate the completion of his publishing venture, he visited a library book sale and made a startling find. There, beneath a stack of late-arrival donated books, he discovered a copy of that long-ago Golden Book edition of “The Iliad & The Odyssey” which had first so enthralled him as a child. Its uncanny reappearance at the conclusion of his own artistic quest spoke eloquently as an acknowledgment of his decades-long endeavor. And the message was exceedingly clear. Odysseus, it seemed, had finally returned home. No disciple of mythology could have asked for a more fitting affirmation.< Less
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