Artists Shine at Loretto Twin Exhibitions Are Portraits of Kevin Kutz and Kathleen Zimbicki's Careers

By Thomas, M | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), October 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Artists Shine at Loretto Twin Exhibitions Are Portraits of Kevin Kutz and Kathleen Zimbicki's Careers


Thomas, M, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Volumes have been written about what it means to be an artist, but a much more pleasurable route for gaining insight to that vocation is the empirical one offered by two visually seductive exhibitions at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, Cambria County.

Either show is revelatory. However, the impact more than doubles when they're seen together, which requires a visit by Saturday.

The featured artists, Kevin Kutz and Kathleen Zimbicki, are lauded figures in the local art world who have exhibited widely. What differs in Loretto is that the selected works are as much about the artists developing their medium and reflecting their worlds as about the artworks themselves.

"Sadie," for example, is an uncharacteristically realistic portrait from 1980 by Ms. Zimbicki, known more for fantastical scenes and creatures. An attractive gray-haired women with thoughtful expression smiles warmly, her hand extended to a balcony rail.

"That's my mother in Mexico," Ms. Zimbicki said of a trip made after her father died in 1975. "I especially like her hand. I got her arthritic hand really well."

"Languishing Leaves" (2006-11) by Mr. Kutz is a composition on nine panels of autumn leaves floating on the silver-blue surface of water in which their bare trees are reflected. The panels used were salvaged from a devastating studio fire that destroyed much of the artist's work and materials, adding a layer of poignancy to seasonal references that often symbolize contemplation and transition.

"Some of the paintings were totally black," Mr. Kutz said, "but I was able to sand down to the pigment." When he reclaims a work, he likes to leave some of "what was," which could be a burnt remnant or a trace of the old image, but upside down. Mr. Kutz likens those inclusions as kindred to pentimenti, compositional elements overpainted by artists that sometimes seep out in later years.

"After the fire, to get the ball rolling, I decided to try to springboard into something new with these damaged pieces. They're not the same but moving toward a new direction."

These two paintings are among many that typify the way the public object arises from an artist's personal experience. "How can you separate life and art?" Ms. Zimbicki asked. "I can't."

Both artists are in the main painters, although they work in other media, and most of the approximately 50 works in each exhibition are paintings. Created between the 1970s and this year, they show the artists becoming comfortable with their media - primarily watercolor for Ms. Zimbicki and oil for Mr. Kutz - as they master technique and then push boundaries. Ms. Zimbicki is recognized for her exuberant use of color that is fearlessly and fluidly brushed and blended. Mr. Kutz is pensive, his expression often simultaneously impressionistic and controlled.

The subjects are drawn from what they know, but represented through an artist's filter. If her world is macro - her family, Pittsburgh and environs, world travels, and boundless imagination - his is micro, a resplendent examination of southwestern Pennsylvania and its residents, from Lincoln Highway icons to friends and family, expansive landscapes to the interiority of quiet pools.

Mr. Kutz, who was born in 1955 in Pittsburgh, resides in Bedford, the county seat. "Reflections: Artwork by Kevin Kutz" comprises works that range from the very personal "Painter With Fiddle," a 2011 work in which no less than Rembrandt looks over the shoulder of Mr. …

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