Paintings bring Carolina Ballet to life

Nicole White Kennedy opens 20-piece exhibit

ccampbell@newsobserver.comNovember 3, 2012 

  • Details What: “The Carolina Ballet on Canvas,” by Nicole White Kennedy. Where: Nicole Studio & Art Gallery, 719 N. Person St., Raleigh. When: The exhibit will be on display through Dec. 15. The gallery is open 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; noon-5 p.m. Saturday; and by appointment. Info: 919-838-8580 or

Since she first picked up a paintbrush, Nicole White Kennedy has captured mostly still scenes on her canvas.

For the past year or so, she has tackled a new challenge, spending much of her time with the Carolina Ballet. Kennedy has been trying to represent the beauty and grace of ballet through her art.

“That is the big obstacle in this – how do you take performing arts in motion and freeze it?” she said.

Kennedy unveiled the results on Friday, opening her exhibit “The Carolina Ballet On Canvas” at her North Person Street space, Nicole’s Studio & Art Gallery, featuring 20 paintings depicting scenes from the rehearsal process.

“The movement ones are absolutely the most complex,” she said. “I’ve approached that from some different techniques. Some of it has to do with brushwork, blurry edges – more impressionism helps convey the movement of the figures. In some I actually freeze the movement.”

The idea grew out of Kennedy’s friendship with the ballet’s artistic director, Robert Weiss, who opened up the group’s studio for the project.

“In the course of a year, I intermittently went to the studio or the stage to photograph with my own camera and experience the process of the ballet being choreographed, which created a far more interesting connection for me as a painter to be a witness,” she said.

Kennedy said the ballet’s creative process made a big impression.

“You’re just in awe at how these bodies can do this. It’s almost mind-boggling.”

She wound up with 1,000 photos and based the paintings on her favorites.

Weiss said he was “blown away” by Kennedy’s paintings.

“The world of ballet is not easy to portray on canvas and very few painters achieve the skeletal correctness while at the same time find the poetry and realism in the world of ballet both backstage and out front,”he said, praising Kennedy for capturing the movement in performance and rehearsal and also the dancers in repose with “great artistic subtlety and panache.”

To give back to the dancers, Kennedy plans to donate 7 percent of sales to the organization.

Kennedy got into painting shortly after moving to Raleigh, where her husband was opening Caffé Luna downtown. He asked her to help decorate the space by painting. She opened her gallery in 2000 and now represents 25 artists.

With the ballet project behind her, Kennedy plans to return to her popular series of beach scenes. She said she might even tackle the N.C. Symphony too.

Campbell: 919-829-4802

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