Keating shared love of painting

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Friday, May 7, 2010
— Janesville has lost a beloved painter, teacher and supporter of local arts.

Prominent Janesville artist Marilyn Keating died Tuesday, following a battle with cancer. She was 72.

Born in Prairie du Chien, Wis., Oct. 31, 1937, Keating graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Prairie du Chien, and the Marquette University School of Dental Hygiene. But it was in Janesville where Keating blossomed into a prominent painter of watercolors, and a renowned teacher.

Claudiadair Fitzgerald of Janesville, longtime friend and business partner to Keating, said Keating was a generous woman with a warm sense of humor, a gentle spirit and a magnetic personality.

“Marilyn was the perfect business partner and a dear, dear friend,” Fitzgerald said. “We always were such opposites, but we balanced each other out perfectly. Like sisters, I suppose.”

Keating and Fitzgerald, along with Judy Lyons of Janesville, were local art students who made a pact to open L’Atelier, an art gallery and teaching studio in Janesville, following the retirement of their art teacher, Ellen Malsch. They’ve run the gallery since 1988.

Fitzgerald said at L’Atelier, Keating “loved to be in charge” and had a gift for drawing in clients with her cheery demeanor.

As an artist and a teacher, Keating had a different side.

“Marilyn had a gentle hand,” Fitzgerald said. “She was never critical of herself or students.”

At L’Atelier, Keating taught scores of local artists the ins and outs of watercolor painting—the artistic medium she knew best.

Barb Tapovatz, a student of Keating’s for the last four years, said Keating taught her to embrace her own talent and to grow through mistakes.

“She wasn’t afraid to say, ‘Oops, I tried something, and I messed up,’” Tapovatz said. “That helped us (students) relax. She taught us to do the best we could.”

Keating was a supporter of the arts in Rock County through the Janesville Art League and other coalitions and a tireless volunteer for local organizations. Colleagues said Keating donated dozens of her own works to local fundraisers.

“(Marilyn) always just stepped up to every challenge,” said longtime Janesville Art League member Jackie Wood. “I never saw her down. She always had a bright demeanor.”

Among her crowning achievements, Keating was a 2005 inductee to the United Arts Alliance Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Rotary Garden Award, the Garden Purchase Award and the YWCA Woman of the Year Award.

Keating’s death closely followed the passing of her husband, Dr. John “Jack” Keating, who died in March 2010. The couple has four children, and they were married 51 years. Both had fought cancer in the last year, friends said.

Fitzgerald said the pair was inseparable.

“Marilyn was a wife and a mother first and foremost, and then an artist,” Fitzgerald said.

One of the last paintings Keating produced, Fitzgerald said, family members found unframed in an upstairs room in Keating’s home.

The piece, which family said Keating painted within the last year, depicts a bustling European market, teeming with parasol-carrying patrons and dotted with brightly colored wares.

Almost hidden in the painting’s background, Fitzgerald said, is a man bearing the likeness of Keating’s husband, Jack.

“(Jack) was always just amazed by Marilyn’s talents and all she could do, and so proud of her. It’s fitting,” Tapovatz said.

Fitzgerald said she’ll always remember Keating’s love of painting flowers at Janesville’s Rotary Gardens. In art and in life, Fitzgerald said, Keating had a gift for making life’s simple things jump into focus.

“I’ll miss her terribly,” Fitzgerald said. “So many, many others who knew her will, too.”

Last updated: 1:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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