You’ll have to forgive New York City painter Amanda Kavangh for being a little biased. A lifelong New Yorker, she spent many a summer on Fire Island with her family in the 1960s and ’70s, and to her, it’s the most inspiring place on earth.
“When I go to Fire Island, which is my favorite place to go, it strikes me so strongly,” Kavanagh said. “Every time I go out there is when I do most of my painting in the summertime, the summer storms, just being out in nature brings you closer to some inspiration and being more creative.”
The Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) Artist-in-Residence Program, now in its third year, was a natural fit for Kavanagh, one of four chosen artists to participate and will call Watch Hill home until Oct. 2.
“I was looking for a residency program,” Kavanagh said. “Two friends of mine e-mailed me on the same day the invitation was announced almost with the same message, ‘This was made for you,’ and I immediately jumped on it.”
Though Fire Island has been Kavanagh’s go-to spot for inspiration and vacation all her life, Watch Hill is not an area she has been to more than a handful of times. As a child, she and her family spent much of their time in Davis Park and she has recently been frequenting Lonleyvillle. Kavanagh is excited to be able to explore a new part of her favorite Island.
“A lot of my work is sort of isolated imagery,” she said. “I don’t use a lot of figures in my work. It’s mostly about looking for that transition in the air and the water. I think Watch Hill is going to be really interesting because it is so less populated, so I’m looking forward to learning more about it and exploring it very quietly without distractions.”
It will be a change for the wife and mother of an 8-year-old daughter who doubles as a graphic designer and rarely gets time to herself.
“It’s been my dream to be alone and paint.” Kavanagh said. “It’s hard to balance work and family. I’ve never been alone completely without distraction. I thought, ‘This is going to be heaven.'”
Footage from a home movie of Kavanagh as a child with her family in Davis Park
Kavanagh hopes to be able to bring her daughter out for a visit at some point during her residency, but even if she can’t, she wants her to experience Fire Island the way she did as a child.
“It’s such a unique opportunity where you can let children roam free without cars and things like that,” Kavanagh said. “I think that’s maybe why Fire Island was so important to me as a child. Now, finally at 8 years old I can do that to her and I see how great that is for her that she can go off for part of the day and be by herself and come back. I don’t know too many other places where you can do that.”