Lisa Daria Kennedy grew up along the northeast edge of the Hockomock Swamp in Massachusetts. She received her BA from Roger Williams University (1995) in Graphic Design, a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Illustration (1998), and an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2D (2013).  Kennedy creates product designs and surface illustrations for the international giftware industry. She is affiliated with Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI as the Design Editor for the literary publication, Mount Hope and is an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA.


The Daily Painting Project

I’ve been making one small painting every single day for the last 3600 days.

After ten years, I've no intention of stopping. Having cancer as a young adult, I discovered living is not just surviving. At age 29, I was a lead artist in the giftware industry when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After six rounds of chemotherapy, one month of radiation, and now, years of monitoring to make sure I’m still cancer free, my perspective has changed. Young and faced with an existential crisis, I questioned, who am I? What does it all mean? Psychologically, existentially, transcendentally - what can a life amount to? I was acutely aware of all the time I’d wasted and the things I put off - like painting.

But, like a lot of artists, I had trouble working up momentum. After all I had been through, the idea of starting an artistic project and failing was terrifying. I had a moment of clarity and pared the creative process down to this one idea - show up for the job. I treat creativity like a disembodied spirit and that I simply must be present daily to receive it. [1] I started showing up for my new job in 2009 and without excuse I wake up every day at five and I paint.

[1] Elizabeth Gilbert, “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” video, 19:09, February, 2009,

Narrative Paintings; A Negotiated Process of Being

Although my ritual continues, over the past two years I’ve expanded my work to move beyond this self-imposed, rule based project.

I now understand the controlled parameters.

The project is a way to manage the out of control circumstances of an abject body. However, I’m not interested in depicting the debasing and vile aspects of the abject. I’m interested in how the relationship with the body changes after one experiences the abject.

In my Fainting Party series women are shown in vulnerable poses. The edges of the figures break apart and there's an uncertainty between where the interior body ends and the exterior space begins. Cancer disintegrates a sense of stability and the potential for further catastrophe is incessant. So, there is a constant negotiation between one's self and their surroundings.

I portray this negotiation by pulling from art history. I appropriate the reclining nude in my work, however I repurpose her as fainting. The fainting pose symbolizes vulnerability, because the fainting body represents loss of control. Fainting therefore signifies abject embodiment.

In my paintings, boundaries are blurred and skin and bones no longer act as protective shields. An impending collision between interior and exterior is forever present.

In my research doctors Waskul and Van der Riet state that,

“A person does not inhabit a static object body but is subjectively embodied in a fluid, emergent and negotiated process of being. In this process, body, self, and social interaction are interrelated to such an extent that distinctions between them are not only permeable and shifting, but also actively manipulated and configured. The body is embodied.”1

The body is a vessel - a cultural product that is easily assaulted and penetrated, so the figure in my work is gestural. The loose lines imply bodily boundaries and the searching characteristic of my line work represents uncertainty. These gestural lines create gaps and openings in the frame work of the figure so, what is inside can come out and what is outside can come in.

In abject embodiment, the body repeatedly defies it's own boundaries.

In my work I simulate a feeling of disorientation by including hints of a recognizable world that are tangled up with abstraction. The collision between realism and non-representation creates a disconnect between self and one's surroundings.

The thing is that those who have never experienced abject embodiment should understand, is that it is we who have experienced it, cannot just let it go.

We deal with our bodies and negotiate our surroundings every day.

I paint to tell this story of a fluid, permeable and negotiated process of being.

1  Dennis D. Waskul and Pamela van der Riet, “The Abject Embodiment of Cancer Patients: Dignity, Selfhood, and the Grotesque Body,” Symbolic Interaction 25, no. 4 (2002): 487.