To understand how Steven Kennedy’s art manages to pro- ject both raw natural force and urbane sophistication, it helps to know the full story of his professional life. While primarily a painter, the Wellfleet resident’s other talents include being a feature writer specializing in commercial fisheries, a racecar photographer (a book on vintage racecars is due to debut this year), and an art teacher. All his work thrusts him into settings that satisfy his fascination with the outdoors—especially the traditional waterfront—and his desire to showcase people with an expansive worldview.
Kennedy is aware of the pull between his worlds. “Sometimes I think I’m an urban painter trapped in the country,” Kennedy says, chuckling. His plein air paintings, mostly done on the Outer Cape, but also in urban landscapes such as mill towns, capture the powerful forces of nature somewhat subdued by manmade structures—boats, bridges, working harbors. There are no soothing, white-flower-bedecked fences here. “I like the drama of the ice and the heartiness of winter against the graceful lines of the boat, the harshness of saltwater, the man-against-sea feeling,” he says. “It’s an interesting aesthetic that draws me.”
Provincetown Winter (a sizable 36 inches by 24 inches) is a depiction of a commercial fishing boat that has cut through ice to dock at MacMillan Wharf. The sun is low, casting a murky yellow light on Cape Cod that those who spend deep winter here know well. Even in his more sedate paintings, such as Dottie’s Garden, the flowers are electric with color, the deep green trees painted in moody expressionist style. It is very close to realism, but with just enough of a painterly touch to give it deeper emotion.
Kennedy started his art career in representational style, and then experimented with modernism while training at Paier College of Art in Connecticut. He moved to the Cape, where he and his wife Lucy have lived for 30 years. Kennedy says her support is critical.
Once on the Cape, another art style bubbled up. “In a sense, I went back to my roots. I shed the modernist style of working pretty quickly,” he says. “I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
Steven Kennedy’s work may be seen at Left Bank Gallery, located at 25 Commercial Street in Wellfleet (leftbankgallery.com); Kiley Court (kileycourtgallery.com) Gallery at 445 Commercial Street in Provincetown; and stevekennedyfinearts.com. Kiley Court Gallery is displaying his work from July 20 to August 2. He is guest artist at Addison Art Gallery on Route 28 in Orleans from August 10 to 24. A reception will be held on August 11 from 5:30 to 7:30p.m.