“From Sabbatical” by Kevin Gardner
February 25 @ 8:00 am - March 29 @ 5:00 pm
Exhibition run: February 25 – March 29, 2019
Kevin Neal Gardner
Art is, at its best, more beautiful, better crafted, and more interesting than the reality we think influences it. However illusionistic it may or may not be, art is, in the end, purposefully unreal. These drawings and paintings were created in pursuit of these artistic ideals during my fall 2017 sabbatical term. They were inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art, the paintings and photographs of the 19th and early 20th century Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins, and exploration of questions around what it means to be a visual artist today and to live an artistic life. Dialogue with other artists is for me an artistically necessary continuation of tradition: it is the variation of historic imagery and idea into something new. I locate my place as an artist through reflecting on the traditions and aesthetics of visual art and its history.
In addition to being in dialogue with historical influences, this genre-varied show is unified by the ideas of drawing as preparation and drawing as seeing. My painting Diana Robing is how this group of work started, beginning with an exploration of a technique new to me. A charcoal drawing is fixed and then layered with amber shellac, which is used to size the paper for painting with oil and to seal the drawing as a detailed underpainting. Remnants of shellac-layered drawing can still be seen in the Vermont Window and Swimming Hole paintings.
Drawing as a way of perceiving the interactions of different moments of time became an important motivation. This began during my residency at the Vermont Studio Center with 24 and 5 Moments, inspired by Thomas Eakins photographs with people and animals documented in motion. The 24 and 5 Moments drawings were created to show how overlapping poses from different points in time and in illogical comparisons of scale interact in unexpected ways. This led to the final work of my sabbatical, Reading and Looking, and to a current piece in process, Sleeping (projected), in which taking myself as a model I imagine and document a character secretly seen through simultaneously perceived moments within a bedroom.
After earning and experiencing my first sabbatical, I understand the value of spending uninterrupted energy, time, and thought on creative work. The idea of being a professor without this focus on creativity or research seems wrong—especially given the inseparable bond between scholarship and teaching. I am extremely grateful that Berea College maintains the sabbatical tradition; I am fortunate to have had this time to create the show you see here.
Image: Vermont Window by Kevin Gardner, oil on paper, 2017, 40.5″ x 28″