It was a pleasure hearing University of Alabama alumna Dale Kennington discussing last night her approach to painting at an exhibit of her work at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in Tuscaloosa. Two weeks ago, I opened a talk on race and intimacy at the same facility by referencing my appreciation for how Kennington, a Dothan, Alabama, native, captures human life including African American life.
I mentioned how she caught the tilt in the head of one African American debutante in one painting. I said that tilt was a familiar to me, a woman of African descent. It can only be captured by someone who really pays close attention to people for whatever reasons.
I was struck to learn that she, generally speaking, takes several pictures of individual people and then inserts them into one painting to offer a single narrative. Sometimes the photographs are taken years apart. She even inserts objects into paintings that were not originally there.
For example, she deeply desired to do a painting of an African American barbershop. She was finally able to do as much when a friend found the perfect shop. At an exhibition of her work that included the barber shop painting , an observer told her that something was wrong with the image. He pointed to an upside down issue of Golf magazine and said, “We don’t read that magazine.” Indeed, she’d inserted that magazine on her own.
There is irony in this story. Just two days after this critique by this observer who was an African American man, Tiger Woods won his first Masters tournament.
One of her paintings featured a row of taxi cabs in Manhattan. She changed the license plates to honor her children’s names.
Below are other images of last evening’s event. I hope you enjoy the photographs as much as I enjoyed seeing them and Ms. Kennington.
A cancer survivor, she has quite a presence and sense of humor. We have much to learn from her curiosity about the world around her.