December 4th, 2017

By Veronica Vale, Fine Art Consultant

After nearly two decades of painting, Vermont-based artist Rebecca Kinkead enjoys a level of success and popularity that proves quite rare in the art world. Even still, she carries with her the same feelings of humility and overwhelming gratitude that she felt when she first began her artistic journey.

“My greatest triumph is that I am still painting after two decades. I’m not sure who I would be without it.”

“I think I am still surprised when people respond to my work. It delights me beyond words. To be alone day after day working in your studio and make something that then resonates with other human beings is always surprising and wonderful.”

“My greatest triumph is that I am still painting after two decades. I’m not sure who I would be without it. I know that this is what I will be doing for the rest of my life and I am so grateful for that every day.”

One of the first things collectors notice when admiring Kinkead’s work is her unique approach to applying paint to canvas. Kinkead has “never limited [herself] to brushes.” Instead, she works with a variety of tools from silicone bowl scrapers to floor squeegees to shoe polishing brushes. To her, “anything is fair game.” Her tool-work application of the paint gives her work the expressive, abstract quality that she has become nationally renown for.

Breaking into the art world with ceramics, Kinkead quickly developed a ”deep affection for the physical properties of materials and what they can do.” When she began painting, her appreciation for physicality carried over. She even began adding wax and marble dust to her paint to increase its viscosity. “This opened up a new realm of possibilities. Wax can be molded, burnished, carved, and scraped in ways that paint alone cannot.”

“I’ve always wanted to paint more of an experience than a description.”

These unique techniques help her to achieve the creamy, flat strokes and highly texturized ridges in her paintings, which have distinguished her as something of a sculptor of paint.

“I love juicy paintings with surfaces one can bite into. I’ve always known I wanted to paint like that. I’ve always wanted to paint more of an experience than a description.”

Standing in front of one of Kinkead’s paintings, you cannot help but feel that distinction between experience and description. Her work has a way of capturing the spirit of a moment or of the season they depict. Viewers may find themselves staring into her work rather than merely at it.

In this way, her latest exhibition “Winter” encapsulates not just the look, but the feeling of winter. A ski scene conveys the chill of the air, the rush of the wind, and the exuberance of the movement. Her popular “Chairlift” paintings elicit a feeling of elated anticipation and of nostalgic warmth.

Living in Vermont, Kinkead is well-acquainted with the way in which snow transforms the landscape. “Sound is dampened, shapes softened, the light and shadows turn to incredible shades of orange, pink, blue, and purple. It all makes me feel very alive and inspired.” It’s no wonder this liveliness transfers to her work. Snow is applied to each piece in bursts of energetic paint while figures are animated through dynamic strokes to the canvas.

“I am fascinated by oil paint’s ability to be transformed by the pressure or angle of a tool. I try to manipulate the materials in ways that contribute to the energy of the painting, which is one of the most important things to me… the energy.”

Each painting pulsates with the movement and energy of a seemingly ephemeral moment in time, drawing the viewer in and encouraging them to participate in the experience. And we as viewers watch and wait, hypnotized and with baited breath, as if we dare the work to move.

A 2016 artist residency to Iceland shifted Kinkead’s outlook on her art. “Iceland was magical. I think it was more transformative once I returned home and had time to reflect on the intensity of the experience. The residency was on the north coast which felt like the end of the earth. The angle of the sun is so different up there you experience these optical illusions which are quite disorienting. It’s also possible that lack of sleep from 24 hour daylight compounds this feeling. I painted horses and wild animals the entire time I was there which was different and very exciting for me.”

“Trusting one’s instincts and following them without hesitation is where the best work happens.”

A slight shift in Kinkead’s color palette and overall tone marked the impact of this residency. Her colors during this period are more earth-toned and moodier, and her subject matter, more dramatic. Her horse paintings take on something of a haunting beauty, contrasting from the predominantly joyful and triumphant tone of her previous work. “The White horse offered a segue into animal forms for me. I think it will always feel like a spirit animal beckoning towards the unknown, which is always where I want to go as an artist.”

Looking back on a two-decade long career, Kinkead muses, “I think my painting style has been a slow evolution over 20 years of painstaking trial and error. Failure in art often leads to deeper insight, so it’s hard to see it as failure. If I have failed it is in not taking risks every time they present themselves. Trusting one’s instincts and following them without hesitation is where the best work happens.”

It is this continual evolution of style and this willingness to take risks that distinguishes Kinkead as a powerful, ever-evolving force in the art world. Join us for the unveiling of Rebecca Kinkead‘s exhibition “Winter” at our artist reception on December 29th from 6-9 pm.

Contact the gallery for an exclusive First Look catalog of the exhibition’s 20 fresh, bold works.