Artist’s sculpture and drawings in new group show
All roads lead back to Beacon. Or at least they appear to for Matt Kinney, a painter, sculptor, woodworker and stoneworker who moved to Beacon in 2003. He has left several times since, most recently returning a few months ago following a pandemic sojourn in Massachusetts, where he grew up.
A sampling of Kinney’s work, in a variety of media, will be part of “The Beginning of Spring,” a group show curated by Zeng Han at the Wappinger Town Hall. It opens on Saturday (Feb. 25) with a reception from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Kinney’s first encounter with the Highlands occurred just after 9/11. He had been working at a Brooklyn foundry in the “sand department,” where they made pull-apart molds. He became enamored of the process, learning on the job, and began casting his own sculptures.
“There’s this alchemy of glowing, liquid bronze metal — breaking the mold open is like having a gift,” he says.
After 9/11, Kinney landed a job in the sand department at Polich Tallix, a foundry then located in Beacon, but eventually found it too hazardous. He began working at University Settlement Camp, and when that closed, joined with Pat Freeman, the camp’s then-director, in a carpentry business.
His passion for art was evident in childhood. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. “When pre-computer graphic design — which I saw as ‘very clean hands pressing little squares’ — was required to continue with illustration, I switched to drawing.” He eventually left Pratt and earned a fine arts degree from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
While Kinney was living in New York City, he created thousands of ink paintings, primarily working in plein air. “You’d show up, pay the model, have no instruction and work for a few hours,” he recalls. “Ink and water was an easy choice; it would dry quickly.”
In Beacon, he renovated and sold a home, using the proceeds to maintain a studio in Newburgh. In 2018, he traveled to China for a two-year residency at the Boxes Art Museum in Foshan, where he made 25 pieces that were also later shown at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and other locations.
In 2020, amid the pandemic, he put everything in storage and moved back to his hometown of Boxford, Massachusetts, to live with his family. It was there and then that he decided to dive into ink painting again, this time with animals as subjects, particularly endangered species.
“I love cave drawings and am interested in animism and how animals have been portrayed throughout civilization,” he explains. “Now that I’ve been creating them, I’ve been learning more about them. Recently, zebras died in the Horn of Africa, mini-extinctions because of climate change. It’s a desperate situation, so maybe creating this can bring awareness.”
When he returned last year to Beacon, he took up residence in a friend’s camper and studio. It was there he painted his first large-scale animal in oil for clients in Manhattan.
In December and January, Kinney had his second New York City solo show, consisting of monochromatic oil paintings, at Robin Rice Gallery. (The first, in 2002, was organized by his drawing studio and featured his inks.)
“It was a great opening, which brought together old friends, faces not seen in 15 years,” he says. “It was awesome to bring these animal paintings to concrete and glass. I framed them myself, painted the gallery walls and felt willing to do whatever it took.”
The Wappinger Town Hall gallery, at 20 Middlebush Road in Wappingers Falls, is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The show continues through March 8. See mattkinney.net.