In visiting the Charlestown Gallery last summer, I had very little inclination as to what that could lead to besides a pleasant afternoon viewing art to share on this blog. When posting photos of art work, I strive to make sure that artists are attributed properly so that you, dear reader, may find them if you so choose. So when the reverse was true, and an artist reached out after finding his work on my blog, it (slowly) set in motion the development of this new bi-weekly segment. I find it only fitting that the first post feature the artist who got this ball rolling. Without further ado, I will share what I gleaned from my wonderful studio visit with Kevin Gilmore.
In the Studio With…
Working out of his South Kingstown basement, Kevin Gilmore works with acrylic paint and mixed media. His studio is a warmly lit place with a nice bout of sunlight in the late afternoon, which is when I visited the space. From a high vantage spot, a portrait of his great-grandmother Trena oversees all that is created within this space. All around are paint tubes and different materials, not scattered but not necessarily excessively organized. At the time of my visit, Gilmore’s foot was in a cast, so keeping things close while working was key.
When it comes to pinpointing an exact moment in time where art came into his life, Kevin Gilmore would have to say it was the Christmas that his sister got “awesome pastels”. In true brotherly mode, he would “borrow” this true artist’s tool and blend colors to his heart’s content. This discovery of what one could do with color hooked him into a life long commitment towards making art. Gilmore would spend his adolescent years with still life set ups in his room and admiring the work of Lionel Feininger at the RISD museum. He also received fostering for this passion from his high school art teacher, Lucille Mota-Costa.
After a plein air painting session at a university with no art department, Gilmore realized that he was not where he needed to be and transferred schools. His tendency towards painting and collage came about during his University of Rhode Island years, especially under the tutelage of Professor William Klenk. Gilmore was allowed access to a shared barn studio and would often spend his weekends painting before the usual collegiate partying. Having this space was essential to his development as an artist and as such he has culled out a separate studio space wherever he’s lived around the country. No small feat, having lived in all the “cool” places, especially when residing in spatially challenged Brooklyn.
Gilmore has a modern approach to working the canvas. Channeling the methods of Picasso and Braque, his surfaces are built of layers and layers of paint and collage elements. Gilmore looks out for antique books and papers made with cotton as they absorb paint better. While I love the aesthetic and the idea of re-purposing found materials, I was torn as my inner bibliophile balked at the loss of a book that had survived for so long. Currently he’s been incorporating fathom paper, once used in the navigation of coastlines, which may peep out from the coats of acrylic above. Old player piano paper is another favorite of his, due to its textural feel and the way the holes act as windows to the layers below. Much of his work hangs in his studio and upstairs in his kitchen, and much of it was incomplete according to his process, but he could have fooled me.
Kevin Gilmore makes art because it is the only way to be completely in control. While external forces may come into play at times, he gets to make the choices from start to finish. While he may have been alright with creating for others in past jobs, at the end of the day the work wasn’t his own. Simply put, Kevin is an artist because “It’s what I enjoy doing.” Painting is what he does alongside raising his two small children as a stay at home dad.
Gilmore is working on larger canvases (about 5′ tall) at the moment after a long bout of smaller (12”x12”) collage work. He doesn’t have a specific regiment per se, but like many artists he pushes hard when he has a deadline coming up. Gilmore is a huge fan of The National and other musicians whose work is built in a similar fashion, by working off a loose idea and collectively adding to it. His titles often come after the completion of a piece and are either lyrically based or use the chopping of words found in the collage elements within the finished piece.
What initially drew me into Kevin’s work were the subtle pops of colors amongst the vintage, historic imagery of his grid paintings. There was something very textural and textual to the work that distinctly called out to me in a unique voice amidst the many others at the Charlestown Gallery. This studio visit was truly enjoyable as it was my first one with an artist that I was not initially well acquainted with.
Currently, you’ll find Kevin Gilmore participating in the 10th Anniversary Show at Jessica Hagan Fine Art in Newport, RI. He’s also represented at the Charlestown Gallery in Charlestown, RI and the Cynthia Winings Gallery in Blue Hill, Maine.