Tim Kennedy / S.R.A.
It is a clear, hot July day during the summer after my country collectively lost its mind. I am painting a boat and trailer being sold from the front yard of a tidy ranch home. People from the neighborhood stop to chat with me. I trade pleasantries with a middle aged white man in a cap taking an interest in my painting. A transistor radio hanging from my easel and playing the news informs us that the famously short tenure of Anthony Scaramucci has come to an end. We agree that Washington is in chaos. While we are both dumbfounded, the man makes the excessively generous observation that, being a businessman, the President is unused to dealing with the hierarchical nature of government. I flatly suggest that he is insane. The man laughs – but does not disagree. We exchange a few more words and he eventually wanders away. It occurs to me that in all likelihood this man voted for the President. The next day I paint another boat for sale further down the street. The man honks as he drives by. We exchange waves.
My last show of paintings was set at Paynetown, a state park on Lake Monroe near Bloomington, Indiana. Last summer I painted at a different location on Lake Monroe. It is beautiful and remote and goes simply by the name Cartop S.R.A. – State Recreation Area. It is essentially a parking area at the side of a road with picnic tables and a few steel grills before a little mud and rock beach where people put canoes and kayaks into the water. To get there I drive along country roads and cross a little backwater bridge. Directly in front of the bridge is a metal sign with a portion that is able to fold down to warn drivers of "high water". It is truly rural and off the city's water grid. As I drive with the car window open I am occasionally greeted with a whiff of a septic system gone awry. It is an area that is whiter than other areas of the park but within this demographic a wide range of economic strata manifest themselves. Feckless college students rub elbows with considerably less well-off rural laborers. A day excursion outfitter with a trailer able to hold multiple kayaks waits for his clients, who are late. At this site, I have seen an osprey, an eagle and I regularly spot a pair of great blue herons that, from time to time, release an alarmed and disgruntled squawk. The creatures are beautiful, reassuring and guiltless and manage to make me forget the Confederate flags I drove past to get here. As the sun sinks it projects a warm light on the hillside across the lake and the swampy reeds just below it. The color of the water deepens.
A Claude glass is a dark convex mirror into which the artists of the 18th century would look in order to see a compressed and reduced range of values discernable in a landscape and to help them paint it. For the past year I feel that have been looking at the world through a different dark lens – it is even there when I close my eyes. To the objective eye I am sure that nothing has changed but to me everything seems a little smaller and dingier.
What good is art? No one asks for it. It can't feed you. It is a poor weapon. It is not an effective argument to those that do not wish to be persuaded. It is unable to refute lies since it communicates without language. And yet it feeds the soul. It is explanation without speech. It reveals by allowing the pieces of a disjointed world to lock into place. It provides hope. Matisse produced his cut outs while half of his country was under military occupation, the other half was administered by a corrupt, collaborationist government – and a war raged. He was convinced that his cut outs held healing properties and he would bring them to friends in hospital rooms. When asked whether he believed in God he responded by saying that he did when he worked.            
We live in the world as it is. We cannot simply wish the aspects of the world that we abhor away. We perform the duties of citizenship even when they seem futile. Art creates an Edenic space, a refuge. It shows us what is real and teaches us how to live.         
Tim Kennedy
Bloomington / December 2017