by Gail Callahan
Warren Kimble wears the mantle of “America’s Best Known Living Folk Artist” well. The 83-year-old Brandon resident built a storied artistic career that has spanned more than three decades.
On September 4, Kimble will add another line to his already impressive resume with a new exhibition, Warren Kimble, An Artist’s Journey, which opens at the T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier.
The event, which draws from more than 50 years of Kimble’s life as an artist, teacher, and antiques collector, includes an opening reception, a talk by Kimble, and a two-day workshop on “Creating Your Own Lazy Susan.”
“It’s an opportunity to show the different art I do,” said Kimble. The gallery’s executive director, Ginny Callan, is even more excited, bubbling with enthusiasm as she talked about the upcoming show. “We’re thrilled and honored to have such a diverse and exciting exhibit of Warren’s coming to the gallery.”
Kimble’s casual and sophisticated style of American folk art is easily recognizable and often depicts the rural landscapes, animals, and buildings of the Green Mountain State. His folk art renderings of plump cows and round barns are particularly popular and often wind up decorating such household items as dishware, calendars, note cards, and more.
Although Kimble “formally retired” about a dozen years ago, he has remained active in community and artistic affairs in Brandon, where he and his wife both serve on an array of community committees and panels. Indeed, at 83, art remains a constant companion, as it has been his whole life. “As a child, I always made things,” Kimble said. “In high school, I was always in an art room.”
Kimble came to Vermont in the early 1970s, after a childhood in Belleville, New Jersey; education at Syracuse University ( he jokes that he “bleeds orange”); and a stint in the army. Kimble started teaching art, working at Castleton State College. After a divorce in the mid-1970s, Kimble and his son remained in Vermont. He re-married in 1976 to his current wife, Lorraine, and became a step-father to her two children.
His career in art didn’t take off until 1990, when a couple took a liking to his work and wanted prints. He produced classic folk art paintings and then produced and showed two collections, helping to acquire something of a reputation as “Mr. Brandon, Vermont,” because his studio and gallery (now open by appointment only) are there. Along the way, Kimble founded the Brandon Artists Guild and served on the Green Mountain College Board of Trustees and Syracuse University’s alumni panel and visual and performing arts’ board.
Although Kimble experienced a huge amount of professional success during the 1990s, the early part of the decade also handed him a devastating personal loss. His son, Chris, was diagnosed with AIDS, dying of the disease more than a quarter of a century ago.
When asked about artistic influences, Kimble answered without skipping a beat that life’s peaks and valleys helped form his creative canvas. For inspiration, Kimble also annually attends the Vermont Studio Center. During one visit there in the mid-2000s, he heard about more deaths occurring in Iraq. Moved by the horror of war, he created a collection known as Widows of War. The paintings and sculptures are a reaction to the Iraq War and the burden it places on those left behind, especially wives, mothers, and children. On the heels of that, Kimble wrapped up a new collection, Let The Sun Shine, featuring acrylic paintings reflecting optimism for the future.
Like all his exhibitions, Warren Kimble, An Artist’s Journey also displays Kimble’s appetite for work. “I work 9 to 5, and I never plan on retiring,” he explains. “There’s always something to create. I’m working for myself all the time,” he said, adding, “Art is a job like any other job.”
Warren Kimble, An Artist’s Journey runs September 4 through October 26 at The T.W. Wood Galley at 46 Barre Street, inside the Center for Arts and Learning. The opening reception will be September 7 from 5 to 8 pm. Kimble will speak at 6 pm and then spearhead the two-day workshop on September 8 and 9.