Jim Cantrell: A Kentucky Master OMFA to feature 60-year retrospective of Bardstown painter's work

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Colin Davis, operations manager, left, and Jason Hayden, assistant director, and development officer move the painting called “Remembrances” by Kentucky artist Jim Cantrell as they help set up the exhibit on Thursday at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art.

Jim Cantrell has been prolific in his artistic endeavors and starting July 26, the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art will present a 60-year retrospective of his works.

With a career spanning more than 50 years, the Bardstown artist has created more than 900 oil paintings, more than 1,500 watercolor paintings, more than 1,000 large-scale drawings and numerous pottery projects.

More than 100 of his pieces are included in this show, dating from the 1960s to the present.

Cantrell, a native of Oklahoma, moved to Kentucky in 1970 where he opened his own studio and the Bardstown Art Gallery.

Cantrell said it will be interesting to see works from such a large span of time together in one show. In particular, he said, he is looking forward to seeing the changes he has made with his style and skill over the years.

"The basis and design is constant throughout all of them, but the subject matter changed because of my interests," Cantrell said. "That's going to be interesting to see them all up on the walls."

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Cantrell began working with what he refers to as his "mylar paintings." Mylar, a reflective resin that is similar in look to aluminum foil, was placed in each of the images so that Cantrell could paint the reflections that were cast. He got the idea for his mylar paintings after experimenting with painting reflections in windows.

"Mylar was really easy to paint because you couldn't tell if you'd made a mistake," Cantrell laughed. "And if you wanted to move something, you could just change it, no problem."

Cantrell considers himself to be "basically a figure painter."

"So I thought, how can I incorporate this wild reflection and put the figure it in," he said. "That's when I started putting people in front of the mylar. Then I'd have a lot of realism in the figure and the mylar would be the distortion. That was kind of fun for a while."

A unique aspect of this exhibition is that a large group of Bardstown corporations commissioned the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art to create a publication of images of all the works in the show. Alongside the images, it will also include featured essays and critiques from art historians and professors of art, including Henry Adams, professor of art history at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, and Brett Knappe, director of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum in Missouri.

Cantrell said he likes the idea of seeing all of the exhibition's pieces bound in a book.

Cantrell and his wife Jeanette are excited to attend the exhibition, and Jeanette said both of their children will also attend. This is particularly interesting to her, she said, because her husband painted the children at various stages in their lives and some of those paintings are included in the show.

"We are excited to see how they feel about seeing their images painted throughout the years," she said.

The book will be on sale during the exhibition for $25, and Cantrell will be doing a book signing from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 26. There will also be a gallery preview and a talk by Cantrell during that time.

On July 27, there will be a 2 p.m. live model painting of a "well-known Owensboroan" open to the public, said museum Executive Director Mary Bryan Hood.

Hood said the pieces in this show have been selected from private collectors and public entities from across the country, including some of the well-known Kentucky distilleries. Other lenders were the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, and the City of Owensboro Municipal Art Collection, among others.

"It's really a privilege for us to showcase one of the leading artists in Kentucky," Hood said.

Cantrell will also present a two-day watercolor seminar for adults 18 and older on Aug.17-18. It will include 10 hours of instruction, a final critique by the instructor and a private gallery tour of the exhibition. Participants must provide their own supplies. The seminar is limited to 12 participants and the registration fee is $100 due by Aug. 15.

Reservation for the Friday preview or the August painting seminar may be made by phoning the museum at 270-685-3181.

This exhibition will remain open through Oct.18.

For more information about the show, or others upcoming at the museum, visit www.omfa.us.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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