Art Gallery at Wilder: Visionary Folk Artist Leon Kennedy

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(Leon Kennedy, Photographer)
Leon Kennedy’s acrylic painting Veteran James introduces a former Navy man, whom Kennedy met on his walks around hometown Oakland.

    The Lamorinda Arts Council will display a virtual exhibit of Leon Kennedy’s paintings during February as part of celebrating Black History Month. Curator Aniston Breslin organized this solo show.
    All Council art exhibits remain virtual until COVID-19 restrictions change. View Kennedy’s virtual exhibit entitled The Twelve Apostles through images and a video at http://www.lamorindaarts.org/online-galleries.
    The title refers to a metaphor about Kennedy’s habits. He loves the church he attends – outdoors during COVID-19 – and loves painting the people he meets as he walks around Oakland.
    Sometimes he paints on the surface of found objects.
    “My dream is to connect to all people’s dreams,” he said.
    Since the Council had 12 slots for his portraits in its virtual gallery, Breslin suggested naming his exhibit The Twelve Apostles. Visit 
www.lamorindaarts.org/online-galleries.
    Born in Houston, but an Oakland resident for some time, Kennedy is a self-taught artist. His uplifting portraits seem to dip into the core of those he paints.
    John Hildenbrand, Kennedy’s agent said, “Once you are familiar with Leon Kennedy’s paintings, you’ll recognize his work anywhere.”
    One look at Thank God for Giving Me My Heart, an 18” x 24” acrylic on canvas, draws the viewer into the deep pools of the woman’s eyes, brilliant with the light shining from her heart.
    Jan and Chuck Rosenak’s iconic 1996 book, Contemporary American Folk Art, features Kennedy’s artwork. The Smithsonian purchased 200 works from the Rosenak’s collection in 1997 for its groundbreaking American Art Museum exhibit. Kennedy’s Untitled (large wall hanging with numerous figures) 1995, mixed media on bed sheet, was in that collection.
    An article about the Smithsonian’s acquisition of Kennedy’s work noted this was the first American collection exhibited at the Collection de l’Art Brut in Switzerland, which “testifies to its quality and uniqueness.”
    Kennedy has frequent shows and workshops at Oakland Public Library branches. St. Mary’s Center hosts Kennedy, in a virtual Zoom meetingon Thursday, Feb. 18, from 11 a.m. to noon, honoring Black History Month and celebrating the music and art of Oakland. The meeting ID is 857 0496 8720, passcode 472245; RSVP to jcastillo@stmaryscenter.org.
    Kennedy’s fire for painting is unwavering. From his initial recognition in 1996 to present, he has “walked what he talks” by reaching out to “… connect to all the people’s dreams” through his paintings. For more information about his work, visit http://www.leonkennedy.com.
    The Art Gallery at Wilder, closed to the public, remains virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. Contact Curators Denise Nomura and Aniston Breslin at wildergallery@lamorindaarts.org.

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