Rosemary Bradshaw moves around her art shop as if she is seeing everything for the very first time. She is proud of her pieces and wants everyone else to feel the same way she does about them. The dark colors and blurry faces of her work contradict with her bright red hair and cheery blue eyes. The paintings are like windows into her very soul.
The sun shines in through the windows, crookedly peeking between rows of painted tea pots, bowls, and mugs. It paints the floor, mimicking the designs that Rosemary has painted on canvases of different shapes, sizes.
She sits at her canvas, ducking her head under her drying laundry that hangs above her wood stove. Her paint brush is in the air. She is ready.
With one stroke of black, it is as if she has said one thousand words though she hasn’t spoken even one. Two strokes of black. She dips her brush into a hand-painted bowl. The grey cloud transforms the clean water. Her paintings have the power to transform not only the water, and her once empty shop, but also those that she influences through her art.
Rosemary is an accomplished artist. She has exhibits in Paris, Munich, Texas, and Dublin. She tiled sets for an Irish soap opera, Glen Roe. She taught art on The Queen Elizabeth 2. And, she has even designed a plate for Charles de Gaulle, the former president of France, which is now displayed in Paris. Today she lives in Sneem, Ireland, where she runs a small art store out of her home. “It takes a long time to become sort of recognized or known in any way when you are an artist. I think I’ve developed a style and I think some people like my work and others don’t. It’s different.” She said.
Rosemary continues to paint lines. The lines take shape; faces start to from on the white canvas. Whether they are faces of Sneem, her home, or faces she has seen abroad while teaching art on The Queen Elizabeth 2, a ship that went to and from Dublin to New York City, the average viewer cannot be sure; Rosemary herself may not even recognize the faces. But now they come out of her mind and on to the canvas ready to be seen, remembered, and recognized once again.
“[The paintings] are very strange. And this morning I started painting this and I don’t know how or what it will be at the end. Because really, I was just sort of wanting to paint.”
But it isn’t always easy to do what you love for a living—especially when your love is art. The New York Times reported on June 4, 2012 that Ireland, which used to be economically strong, is now starting to be affected by the recession needing at least $99 billion in assistance by March 2011. This has put a strain on Rosemary’s small business. Fewer residents and tourists alike have less money to spend on a flowered tea pot or an expressive painting. “Tourists don’t seem to have much money. That’s very noticeable. I think the people on coaches probably have pre-booked holidays and don’t spend. They buy ice cream and a post card,” she laughs.
Despite this, many customers travel in and out of the store to get a peek at Rosemary’s work, which, if they had keen eyes, they most likely have already seen decorating the local pubs and stores throughout the small town.
“It’s very much what you would call living art,” said customer Mary Moynihan, of Tralee, Ireland. She confirmed that with the economy, struggling people are in a depressed state, but art is something that may be able to help. “You can use it in your everyday home, not just for art. It could almost transform a space.”
It is not only the rooms that go through a transformation with Rosemary’s art, but also the viewers of her art. She feels that teaching may be the key to making these transformations even more evident.
While she intends to continue selling art in her Sneem shop, she’s always looking for new opportunities to share her love of art with the community—and with the rest of the world. Rosemary has been toying with the idea of teaching art to Sneem visitors, because art is as she said, “a terrific outlet for people.” But, she’s had trouble getting the idea off the ground.
“I feel that art was always given a second place. You always do art or something else and you choose the something else,” she said.
Others agree that Rosemary’s art could become a transforming phenomenon within the community. “Her presence has the potential to inspire people,” agreed Batt Burns,a tour guide in Sneem, who explains that if children see her work they could think “If she can do it I can do it.”
She has witnessed these transformations when teaching at a psych ward in Dublin. “When I taught, they painted for the first time. They saw things differently. [It was a] very interesting observation.”