Mike Rooney began to hear about Key West during his high school years in the early 1970s. And though it all sounded so beautiful and free-spirited, he never dreamed it would one day be his creative Neverland.
Talk of turquoise waters lined with palm trees and sun-drenched sands drove him south. He loved it before he ever got here, and even more once he’d felt the pixie dust of island life.
The painter and teacher decided a decade ago to visit the Florida Keys with plans to capture the feel of the place with paint on canvas. What he found was so much more than he expected.
An impressionist painter in the tradition of the Cape Cod School of Art, he spent many years on the island crafting the colors that are his style and reveling in that island’s quiet, secret places to paint. Since then, Rooney has wandered up and down the Eastern seaboard, painting and playing instruments in a myriad of bands, flitting like Tinkerbell but always returning to the unparalleled enchantment of Key West for the winter.
His vibrant and dreamy images chronicle lazy afternoons on the Islamorada waterfront and mid-afternoon meanderings down alleyways in Old Town Key West. His love of the temperature of the tropical light is evident in the warmth of the colors.
“Out of Focus” is an apt name for this year’s Gallery on Greene exhibit of Rooney’s recent works. “Never too literal but always unambiguous” is an apt description of his modus operandi; leaving out two-thirds of what is really in the scene, he boils down what is absolutely essential and plays colors against each other to weave unexpected harmonies, all the while maintaining the credible passion of his paint strokes.
Gallery on Greene (606 Greene St.) hosts an artist’s reception for Rooney from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, March 16. The public is welcome. ¦