Painting a Pathway

Alumna’s first solo art show demonstrates high-quality academics and experience

Since childhood, Maria McDonald loved painting. But it wasn’t until she got to college that she saw how painting could be a career.  

McDonald came to Kent State University as an art education major. But one class made a difference in her education and then her career. After taking a painting class, McDonald switched her major, and in 2023, graduated from Kent State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art with a concentration in painting.

All the professors McDonald had at Kent State inspired her both academically and professionally. 

“It was just really fun. And all of the professors in the art program are working artists,” McDonald said. “They show their work and sell their work and they are professors. So, I was like, ‘Oh, okay, there're ways to make a living like as an artist.’”

Maria McDonald and Charles Besham
Maria McDonald and Charles Basham

Her former adjunct professor Charles Basham had one of the most profound effects on her, helping McDonald explore her work and connect it to something inside of her.  

“He just made me love painting,” McDonald said.  

As McDonald's academic journey continued, she took a four-day study away trip with Shawn Powell, associate professor and graduate coordinator of the School of Art. During the trip, they went and visited an artist’s studio, and this opened McDonald’s eyes to a new kind of painting.  

“We went to see Eleanor Swordy’s studio. She makes these really big paintings, and she paints really weird-looking figures,” McDonald said. “They're kind of abstracted and all the perspectives are just warped, but they still made sense. She talked to us about her process and just living there. It was just really cool.”  

Maria McDonald in Massillon Museum’s Studio M

While McDonald was finishing up her senior thesis, she saw an opportunity to have her first solo art show in Massillon Museum’s Studio M and took it.  

“They posted on Instagram that they were looking for students and recent grads to apply for the show, so I applied for it,” McDonald recalled.  

McDonald’s paintings titled, “In Another Life: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Living,” are being shown in the museum until March 17. This is her first solo art show.  

The paintings are inspired by events that happened during McDonald’s senior year, chronicling the relationships and friendships she was in.  

Maria McDonald reflects in front of one of her paintings

“They're all about relationships, like my relationship with others. Some of them are like my relationship to myself or my past,” McDonald said. “A lot of them are about my friendships and relationships that I was having in the moment, while I was painting them.”  

As McDonald is looking to what’s next, she hopes to continue painting and show her work in more galleries.  

“I have to make sure that I keep painting, no matter what. Hopefully, I can show my work in more galleries around Ohio,” McDonald said.  

Learn more about Mcdonald's show at the Massillon Museum.

View Maria McDonald’s Instagram.

Learn more about the School of Art.

POSTED: Monday, February 26, 2024 11:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 27, 2024 11:18 AM
Tanner Poe, Flash Communications
Courtesy of Maria McDonald