He Went from Devou Park to Florence (Italy!) for Work Now on Display at NKU Faculty Show
Northern Kentucky University’s annual full and part-time Faculty Exhibition continues through Feb. 5, always offering a wide-range of media -- painting, drawing, photography short film, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design -- and filled with surprises, so much so that a week before opening, gallery director David Knight was still accepting art work.
Do make sure to visit the Third Floor Gallery, where art professor Kevin Muente’s 52 Tuesdays runs in conjunction with the faculty show. There’s an artists’ reception for both exhibits on Jan. 21.
Most of Muente’s year-long project of outdoor paintings was created on a sabbatical that took him to Devou and Eden Parks, to Belgium, to Anderson Ferry and Marydale and Jacksonville Beach and Monchez, Wisconsin and Florence, Italy.
The series didn’t start as a year-long adventure. When Muente began on May 13, 2014, he and friend and artist Rob Anderson painted “between rainstorms and occasional lightning bursts. After a few weeks of painting on Tuesdays, I thought, ‘Maybe I could do this for a whole year,” he said.
It was easy to get in the habit, Muente said. “I just thought of it as something I had to do like brushing one’s teeth.”
Muente “comes clean” in his artist’s statement. He missed one Tuesday in August, “but went out the next day, so perhaps this should be called 51 Tuesdays and a Wednesday.” And the exhibit is 52 ‘plus’ if you count them up. “Perhaps the title of this body of work could also be 52 and a Few.”
Muente decided his subjects and themes based on the weather. He’d be spending his time outdoors, after all. “I would have to go to certain spots that I knew were sheltered if it would be raining or I would have to paint out of the back end of my Subaru Outback."
Devou and Marydale Parks are both close to his home. Covering as much of the region as he could was purposeful.
“Seasonal shift always kept me on my toes, too. I would be on the lookout for blossoming trees in spring and trees that were changing colors in autumn.”
He wanted to learn from the project, so “I sampled different styles, sizes, and subject matter as a way to spice things up, to keep me guessing, and to gain experience.”
And he likens the project to exercise. “It played into my philosophy about working out, in that I think it is essential to have your gym close so that you don't spend all your time getting to the gym to work out. In some ways this exhibition showcases exercises in landscape painting.”
Best work ever? No, Muente says, and that wasn’t the point. He completed most in three hours, one in 45 minutes. That was a chilly March morning in Florence, Italy. “I took a couple of photo students and a favorite painting student, Tyler Griese, out to see the morning light on the Arno.
“The shared experience and our exuberance over being in Italy were well worth the anxiety of making a horrible painting in the birthplace of perspective.
“At the time I remember thinking, ‘I can't leave Italy with only having finished one crappy painting!’ So, the next day I went out by myself and made a quick painting looking east up the Arno at sunrise. It is one of my favorite paintings in the series.”
(It’s one of the "...and a Few".)
Muente says he thinks of the overall work as one piece, ”good days and bad, flaws and all.”
“They document where and what I was doing over a year of my life. A few of the bad paintings (like Florence, mentioned above) gave me priceless memories, and for that I'm thankful."
Another sweet memory: Fog, then Full Sun, at Marydale with Olivia painted Aug. 19. Olivia is Muente’s 12-year-old beagle and it was the first time he’d ever taken her painting.
Muente quotes landscape architect Kevin Lynch. “He said that when walking through a beautiful landscape, the person thinks, ‘I am here,’ which could be shortened to ‘I am.’"
“Perhaps this body of work reflects my need to announce myself to the world. Time is precious, and most of the work we do during our short lives will be forgotten," Muente said. "I deliberately took time to see what some part of the world looked like every Tuesday for over a year, and by only working on a single painting each session, I tied myself to the moment.
“Knowing that our time on this earth is short, I feel fortunate, and indeed lucky, to have been so attuned to myself and these places for one run around the sun.”
A catalog of 52 Tuesdays paintings is now available for purchase on Blurb.com.
52 Tuesdays/NKU Faculty Exhibition, through Feb. 5. Northern Kentucky University Galleries, Fine Arts Center, NKU, Highland Heights. Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays. Artists’ reception: 5-7 p.m. Jan. 21. Include a short gallery talk by Kevin Muente at 5 p.m. (Snow date Jan. 28.) For more information call 859-572-5148.
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Top photo: July 1, Near Monchez, Wisconsin (Oil on canvas by Kevin Muente)