Dozens of paintings line a long hallway at Brookdale Canyon Lakes in Kennewick.
Some are big, some small. Some are framed and some aren’t.
They’re all landscapes or still life pieces — some vibrant and colorful, others muted and moody. Most were done with acrylic paint on canvas, but wax and glass also are in the mix.
One person painted them all — an accomplished artist with decades of experience and numerous sales and gallery shows under her belt. The artist also happens to be a resident at the Brookdale retirement community.
Rosemary Merckx, 95, has a studio in her apartment where she paints what inspires her.
She’d taken a break from art for a while, but then during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, she had a renaissance of sorts. “I played bridge for a long time, three times a week. And then when Covid came along, those bridge games were canceled. So, I went back to painting,” Merckx said.
Her work has impressed Brookdale staff members, fellow residents and visitors alike.
“We do a ‘paint and sip’ here once a month, and when Rosemary comes, she’ll do something totally beyond. It’s so fun to watch,” said Deanna Brown, resident enrichment coordinator.
Virginia Pitts, a longtime friend, said Merckx’s skill and talent is personally inspiring.
“She’s starting to be my mentor. I’m going to learn how to draw,” Pitts said.
Merckx has been a fixture in the Tri-Cities art scene for decades. She was an early leader of the Allied Arts Association in Richland; she’s displayed work at the group’s Gallery at the Park and other spaces; and she’s sold many pieces, with her paintings done on glass proving to be especially popular.
For Merckx, the arts have been a lifelong passion.
She grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, singing and drawing from the time she was a little girl.
She attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied fashion design and figure drawing, before eventually moving west to the Tri-Cities. She met her husband Kenneth at a water-skiing party on the Columbia River in 1954, and they were married a year later.
Merckx didn’t have much time to paint while her four children were young, but she picked up her brushes again as they got older, she said.
Kenneth was a mechanical engineer and nuclear fuels expert, and he and Merckx enjoyed traveling together. Her love for painting grew as she took in work by the masters.
“I’ve seen just about every museum possible,” Merckx said, listing the Louvre in Paris as her favorite.
When she paints, she takes inspiration from all around her – from places she’s visited, trees and flowers she’s admired, snapshots and memories she holds close.
Her home studio at Brookdale Canyon Lakes includes family photos and painting supplies. A large window lets in plenty of light.
Merckx and her husband moved to Brookdale after his Parkinson’s disease began to progress. He died in 2016, and Merckx has found there a feeling of home and community, she said.
Her work has been displayed on the hallway leading to her apartment for a while now. The pieces “dress up the hallway because the walls are pretty bleak (otherwise),” she said with a laugh.
She walked down the hallway on a recent morning, giving context to some of her work.
“This was my husband’s favorite fishing spot,” Merckx said, nodding toward a blue-and-green-hued painting depicting white-capped waves crashing against rocks.
Another painting, a bit farther down, had a more arid color palette.
“It’s from a photograph my granddaughter gave me,” snapped in Utah, Merckx said.
Another piece, a garden scene, was painted from a sketch she made while visiting Claude Monet’s garden in France. Another bright, more abstract piece is a tribute to one of her sons, an actor.
Merckx has made sure to share her work with her children.
“I love giving them my paintings and knowing they’ll be in their homes,” she said.
She loves what painting adds to her own life as well.
“It’s brought me a lot of happiness and fulfillment,” she said. “I tell you what, (when the time comes) I would like to die at my easel because that’s where I’m happiest.”
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