Piece by piece: Artist Charles Kirkland showcases work in one-man show
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
This ability to mix color and shapes to create artwork worthy of display has been inside Charles Kirkland for decades.
It first expressed itself when he was a small boy in the second grade and completed an art assignment. One of his fellow classmates who was obviously jealous accused him of tracing.
He was dumbfounded.
“I just thought everybody could do it,” he said. The talent has only gotten better.
Kirkland is self-taught and does most of his paintings in acrylics. He also creates original sculptures using things you might find in an old barn — pieces of wood and metal. There are the stand-up sculptures that can reach 6 feet high or the ones made for hanging on the wall.
These three different dimensions of art will all come together in Kirkland’s one-man art show that starts today. It will be held in the DENSO Gallery of the Clayton Center for the Arts. They are three separate expressions of the artists’s talents but each is tied together with one unifying element — underpinnings that are evident beneath the surface of the paintings and also the sculptures.
He’s been painting since the mid-1970s and has done so during a lengthy career at Blount Memorial Hospital. He retired a few years ago and has been able to devote more time to an activity he believes he was made for.
“I really feel like I have finally lined up with what God intended me to do,” the artist said. “I really feel like everybody is intended for something. When I retired, I got to do that.”
Some of Kirkland’s sculptures are a mix of tree roots and metal. Some have one ingredient, but all have the artist’s vibrant colors. The sizes are varied, a challenge Kirkland loves to meet as he seeks attention for his work.
Making an impact
“Look at this small piece and imagine if it was large,” Kirkland said. “Art, even if it is small, should be powerful. No matter small or big, that’s the way I look at it.”
The fact this is a one-man show is exciting for the artist, who said having all three types of art in one room is something he doesn’t often get to do. There will be seven 48-by-48-inch paintings in the show along with several of the stand-up sculptures and the wall hangings.
“It took me a while to do those 48s,” the artist explained. “I worked and then made changes. They are never set in concrete.”
The title of Kirkland’s exhibit is called “Shapes and Colors That Work Together.” Seeing all of them in the same room will be proof enough he chose the right title.
His home and studio are full of his work. He has done an original religious series that includes a portrait of Christ. He has also done studies of famous artists and painted replicas of their work. One of them is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Kirkland has also tried his hand at recreating Jackson Pollock’s work.
Lou Ann, Kirkland’s wife, is a great support as they get the artist out there in the public eye. He has had pieces displayed at the Sheldon Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, Ind., Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory. N.C., The Parthenon in Nashville, and the Oak Ridge Community Art Center and Museum. Several awards have also come Kirkland’s way. The couple loves to visit museums around the country.
For others to enjoy
If you see something you like at the show, Kirkland has offered to sell. He will also be there to greet art lovers at a Meet the Artist event, from 5 to 8 p.m. on July 26.
The studio in back of his Maryville home is where Kirkland spends much of his time these days. He said he sometimes goes out there and works for hours before he realizes so much time has elapsed. His aching body is his only clue.
Kirkland believes it’s his duty to share this talent, otherwise it’s wasted.
“I truly feel if it is in you, you have to do it,” he said. It’s just like with a musician or a writer. It’s in you and it has to come out.”