Giverny, Giverny, Giverny…you can certainly hold your own: Giverny 2013 Residency, Part 1

By Shannon Kenny (MFA 2013)

August 10th, I arrived in Paris to meet with the Chilean women of the group, Alonsa and Daniela. We succumbed to the forces of the infamous Sennelier Store, almost in tears as we left, not because we were sad, but because we were persuaded by our worse judgment to buy way more supplies than necessary.

Then, as the weekend was over, we boarded a train to Vernon, a neighboring town just outside of Giverny. As we stepped off the train, we were surprised to find that the other Academy students had been riding along in the same train. This was the first inclining as to just how small Giverny was.
As we walked the platform, we were greeted by two lovely women who ran the program at the Terra Foundation. They then took us to Giverny: the town that encompasses Claude Monet’s house, his private gardens, the Impressionist Museum, and an overabundant supply of beauty. Have you ever heard the saying, “when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful”? That’s how some of the residents began to feel. Immersed in Giverny’s encompassing beauty, everything began to mesh together.
Several after-hour trips to Monet’s gardens gave us an insight into Monet’s painting practice. He created his oasis in Giverny, and over the past two weeks, we got to experience a small part of that dream. We even befriended the head gardener, whose responsibility is to maintain what Monet created over a century ago. He even joined in on the painting while Daniela gave him an unofficial private lesson.
It’s funny, going to Giverny, the eight residents felt the historical burden of all the world-renowned paintings that were born there and the numerous painters who have worked there over the decades. Thus, we all felt that we should give plein air painting the good ole’ try. After being immensely frustrated, many of us realized that we didn’t have to paint like Monet because we were in Giverny. What we needed to do was let that environment influence the work that we already did—let it inject itself into the work that is ours and ours alone.
Once that pressure melted from our shoulders, the work began to explode, and with only two weeks, we definitely broke some boundaries within our painting practices. For me, in particular, I felt like I went off the deep end, but in a good way. I would begin paintings from life or sketches done in the garden, and then I would let my imagination take over and empower my hand.
Who knows if what I created is ever going to see the light of day, but my time there helped me to loosen up and really dive into my painting practice. After graduating, and two years at the Academy, you find yourself wondering…what now? I think Giverny gave me a clearer idea as to where I want my work to go, and for that I am ever grateful.
That place is magical; it’s a painter’s oasis, and if you ever have the chance to experience its wonder, don’t let that opportunity slip from your hands.
Giverny allowed us to create art and art alone. It gave us the freedom to do what we love without the worry and burden of everyday life. Its culture, its beauty, and its charm have changed the way we see. I have also left with friendships that are much stronger than when we first stepped off that train.


On August 12, 2013, eight Academy students arrived in Giverny, France, to start a two-week residency hosted by the Terra Foundation forAmerican Art-EuropeJessica Benjamin (MFA 2014), Adam Cross (MFA 2014), Alonsa Guevara (MFA 2014), William Logan (MFA 2014), Shannon Kenny (MFA 2013), Daniela Kovacic Muzio (MFA 2013), Kerry Thompson (MFA 2014), and Stephen Vollo (MFA 2014) will share their experience while in Giverny!


  1. Thanks for the post Shannon. It looks so green and lush.

  2. "...let my imagination take over and empower my hand." You should have been a writer too.

  3. your article gave me goosebumps! xoxo