Spotlight: Dale Kennington, Done Deal

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Dale Kennington has spent most of her life in Dothan, Alabama, where she has advanced a distinguished career and created an impressive body of art. Kennington’s haunting paintings, rendered in a seductively realist manner, trigger in viewers a feeling of intimate familiarity with the subject even when the composition is an invention. Her paintings are often amalgams of personal experiences, memories, places, and persons (both known and anonymous) that she melds to produce what she calls “implied narratives.” She carefully orchestrates an abundance of details in her paintings, exquisitely rendered and seemingly ordinary in their occurrence. Further examination reveals them to be clues to a story, which we as viewers happen upon as intruders on the scene, not participants, and are compelled to interpret. Kennington is reticent to disclose too much information or proclaim her “intent,” preferring that an individual viewer bring his or her experiences to a work to find one’s own meaning in its content.

Done Deal is a smaller panel than Kennington’s typically large format paintings, but it resonates with the same mystery and demand for investigation by the viewer. The barroom’s dark setting denies easy knowledge of where the scene takes place. Nor can we discern its location in a?glimpse through parted heavy drapes to a sun-washed exterior. The scant interior illumination falls across only the elements Kennington wants us to see: three empty highball glasses, an open bottle, unoccupied chairs in disarray, and few other items. It is a still life of refusal where even the barkeep turns his back to the onlooker. The title implies that some kind of interchange has been completed, but that, too, is suitably vague. It is that deliberate factor of uncertainty about what one knows or thinks he sees that elevates Kennington’s beautiful painting into a provocative exercise in imagination and visual acuity. Kennington’s art has been featured in numerous exhibitions across the United States and is held in important collections such as the Butler Institute of American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the personal collection of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Alabama State Council on the Arts honored Kennington in 2011 with the Governor’s Art Award for lifetime achievement.

An excerpt from the catalogue, “The Greatest Poem-” American Art from the Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. and Mark Thornton Collection. Catalogues are available now for purchase in the Museum Shop

Credit:
Dale Kennington
(American, b. 1935)
Done Deal
Oil on panel
24 x 30 inches

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