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In a world of paint strokes and stethoscopes

Photo: courtesy of Matthew Kennedy

For Matthew Kennedy, it’s a struggle sometimes when people ask the good old conversation-starter, “So, what do you do?”

Depending on the crowd and situation, his answer can vary.

“It’s weird … most situations and social context in my life, medicine,” he says. “But then I have certain social circles where the medicine part is irrelevant.”

Kennedy, a family medicine resident at the University of Ottawa and father of two kids, spends his spare time painting and selling his artwork.

He says that throughout high school, he knew he wanted to pursue visual art. With two U of O degrees under his belt—human kinetics and biomechanics—and a medical doctorate from the University of Toronto, science has clearly taken the leading role in his career. But things could have gone much differently.

“I’ve always loved art. In high school I remember trying to decide between a path in science, and hopefully medicine,” says Kennedy. “I was contemplating animation.”

As the sciences require training, Kennedy figured it would be best to leave the art to his own private learning.

“Even after my undergrad, deciding on a biomechanics masters, in part, was because the systems we use … are the same ones they use in a lot of modern animation,” he says. Modern blockbuster film franchises like Transformers and The Lord of the Rings use the same technological system he studied in biomedicine to test the physics of movement as animators.

Instead, Kennedy honed his artist’s craft all by himself. His paintings focus on portraits, surreal landscapes, and Christian-themed stories.

Finding time for it all comes down to the fact that it’s so different from medicine, he says.

“It feeds me, as opposed to draining me,” he says.“It’s what I want to do on a Saturday night sometimes … or what I want to do when I’m burnt out on an (emergency) shift late at night.”

Even though he tries to avoid bringing his work home with him, it can bleed into his artwork. He based one of his works, called The Puppeteers, on an anatomy class with cadavers. “It was incredible just seeing the design of the body,” he says. The painting features imagery of the brain cave and the inside of the human skull. Kennedy finds it fascinating both from a scientific and aesthetic perspective.

His next show focuses on a theme of what Kennedy does most often: coming to terms with parting with his work. Often Kennedy has mixed emotions selling his work, since he then gets furtheraway from having a complete collection. “As a result, my collection, the type of paintings I have, are inherently mixed-themed,” he says.

All in all, though, painting is the resident’s favourite way to wind down after a hectic day, “with some good tunes and a glass of scotch,” he says.

Matthew Kennedy’s Mixed Themes exhibit runs March 1–29 at Irene’s Pub at 885 Bank St.



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