By Ruby Love
Kenny Neal is a Junior at Evergreen, currently studying painting and drawing in the program Art/Work. His four-part series of abstract paintings, titled “The Probable Fall of the Earth into the Sun,” was inspired by the Fauvism movement and graces this issue’s front and back covers!
Originally from Florida, Neal transferred to Evergreen in fall quarter of this year. He enrolled in Community Resilience: Science and Society. “I got to learn about Olympia oysters and about the Capitol Lake issue and what’s happening. It was pretty fun; I was way more interested in it than I thought I would be… But I missed art, I missed making something with my hands.” Switching to Art/Work for winter quarter, Neal joined the program’s Drawing/Painting seminar.
Neal says he doesn’t consider himself someone who works in a particular medium—“I jump around”—and Art/Work is the first class that has required him to paint. Having worked with charcoal, acrylic, graphite, ceramics, and more, Neal says he’s always been doing art: “I feel more and more like it’s a natural process that you go through, or one should go through. [Art] should be a practice for everyone, for some kind of deeper, in-touch-with-your-consciousness thing, like a meditative process… I’ve always been making art…life is art, in a sense.”
Neal’s series of paintings were a class assignment, in which students were tasked with aesthetically interpreting a passage from Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist. For those who don’t know, the novel focuses on the lives and lore of elevator inspectors in an unnamed early twentieth century city. We asked Neal about the process of painting the series:
“I did the four paintings based on The Intuitionist, and the particular passage was about describing the void that was left in the elevator. I kind of just kept going with that, and trying to imagine this void, and that’s just what came out—this really psychedelic, colorful image instead of a blackness.”
Neal continued, “We had to stay within constraints of our schools, so I chose to do some alla prima…done in one sitting…I did a copy of a painting… I focused on pointilism, because I did a little research on some artists like Matisse and some others that were in the Fauvist movement, which is like the wild beast movement. [It] inspired me to keep the image of the elevator in mind but then just paint what I was feeling, so it was more like abstract expressionist. But I like that Fauvism is the wild beast movement, so you’re supposed to just follow whatever internally feels right, and I like the name, too…wild beast!”
Neal says he enjoys hearing people’s interpretations of the paintings, and they often highlight things he did subconsciously, helping him understand his own work better.
Looking forward to next quarter, Neal says he was inspired by Dr. Lina Aguirre’s art lecture about Latin American Experimental Animation. He’s thinking of incorporating animation into his work; perhaps stop-motion animation using painting. “I’ve never done it; I think I’d like the challenge. I think if you’re not pushing yourself to be uncomfortable, you’re not allowing yourself to find new things, new avenues.” He’s interested in using “beautiful things to deal with really disturbing or dark things, and making it more accessible… I want [my project] to be about maybe something difficult, but give it some beauty.”
To readers, Neal says: “Everyone should pick up a paintbrush, everyone should draw, paint…every day if they can. Make it a practice, enjoy it, love it. Get your ten thousand hours!”
I asked Neal if he had a website or social media account to send people to: “I have an Instagram but I didn’t think to use it for work…I should fix that, though…right? @Neal_Kenny is the Instagram, maybe I’ll turn that into a more art-focused thing.”