Editor's note: The Muskegon Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library for the following article. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Muskegon Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


Paintings: Douglas Kinsey

July 1 through August 28, 2005


(above: Douglas Kinsey, Emergency Crew, 2005, 4 x 4 feet, oil on canvas, image provided courtesy of the artist)


The paintings of Douglas Kinsey are bold and unflinching. They are beautifully crafted and rendered, but depict humanity caught in the brutality and chaos of life, trapped in the horrors of natural and man-made disasters, escaping however they can. Drawing from a rich tradition, Kinsey's works are reminiscent of masterpieces of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Academic periods, portraying striking figurative groups caught in dramatic and profound moments. In this familiarity of artistic reference, the paintings possess a spiritual or contemplative resonance, as though the figures in, for example, Emergency Crew, might be the disciples gathered at the Last Supper, or the struggling figures of The End Is Where We Start From, players in an ancient mythological drama. While there is a strong narrative component to the works, Kinsey provides no clear details as to the source of the strife, and no easy answers for its resolution. Rather, these figures are held in an undefined moment, revealing to the viewer their struggle, anguish, hopelessness, and fear. (right: Douglas Kinsey, L'homme armé, 1995, 4 x 3 feet, oil on canvas, image provided courtesy of the artist)

Kinsey is first a painter, and his early training with several Abstract Expressionist artists has left an important legacy. For an Abstract Expressionist, the true impact of a painting comes from its physical appearance, its forms and colors, and not the narrative nature of what images might be depicted. The process of painting, of making the work, in turn provides the truest insight into the emotions and intent of the artist. In Son of Man, the scene is rendered in stark, flat forms, creating an abstract play of color and shape that heightens the tension of the piece without a need for intricate rendering of the figures. In L'Homme Armé, the men are starkly surrounded by a flat, dense color field, establishing them simultaneously as narrative figures in a real space and as abstract icons or symbols for the conflict they are engaged in. In the most recent paintings, such as Escape II, Kinsey has added an element of printed lines across the surface of the works, reminiscent of Abstract Expressionist collages. The lines create a sense of discomfort, deliberately flattening what would otherwise appear to be a three-dimensional space, and work as well to suggest erosion or loss, much like a scratched and grainy piece of vintage film which has lost its clarity. As the figures of Escape II flee, do the lines across them foreshadow their disappearance and death?

Recent catastrophic events in the world lend additional poignancy to Kinsey's works. By portraying scenes of loss and crisis, Kinsey reminds us of the plight of humanity and of our own suffering, but also offers comfort and quiet contemplation in the beautiful and passionate techniques of his painting.

Artist Statement
The imagery of this exhibition has to do with surviving natural disaster, such as an earthquake, and man-made disaster, violent conflict such as war. In fact, most of the paintings show refugees fleeing a crisis or trying to survive after a crisis has occurred. In one painting, men retreat inwardly by taking drugs and, in another, a guerilla who reacting violently, perpetrates destruction on others as they have on him. At any rate, the sensibility is anxious, just as our own lives can be anxious, and the imagery, as foreign as it may seem, is meant to remind the viewer of his own condition as much and of other people's problems. The basic source for the figures, in most cases, has been appropriation from the print media, usually The New York Times.
-- Douglas Kinsey, 2005

Kinsey received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1957 and an M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1960. He has had over 70 solo exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad (Japan, England, Sweden) and has been represented in many galleries, and in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Houston. He has illustrated more than 15 books; the most recent, The Chimeras by Gerard de Nerval, is presently promoted on the web at www.spuytenduyvil.net. Kinsey is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame where he taught for 31 years. He has also taught at the University of North Dakota, Berea College, Oberlin College, and Kobe College (Japan). (left: Douglas Kinsey, Open Kitchen (Diptych), 1995, 6 x 8 feet, oil on canvas, image provided courtesy of the artist)

-- Art Martin, Muskegon Museum of Art Registrar


This exhibition was organized by the Muskegon Museum of Art.


(above: Douglas Kinsey, Escape II, 2003, 4 x 4 feet, oil on canvas, image provided courtesy of the artist)

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Muskegon Museum of Art in Resource Library.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library.for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2005 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.