My art is driven by a strong belief in the inherent value of all living things and my innate desire to protect them. I am greatly inspired by my rural Colorado landscape and the agricultural animals that punctuate it. By painting what are essentially contemporary formal portraits, I am aiming to bring an honor to the lives of these animals which are so often seen as insignificant; portraiture as an act of reverence.
The paintings start with a visit to the farm, where I love getting to meet and photograph the animals and hear stories about their lives. Back in the studio, I begin each piece with a detailed drawing, and then apply oil paint layer upon layer, over the course of weeks or months. I have between ten and twenty works going at any given point, each in its own stage of completion. The elements of color, texture and brushstroke come together to create a narrative of a brief existence, allowing for a silent story to come to life.
Elizabeth Kinahan received her Bachelors of Fine Art degree from the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey in 2004. The following year she packed up the car and headed west, in a move that would transform her creative process immensely. Although she had planned to move to Arizona, a stop in the town of Durango, Colorado became the beginning of a 14 year- and going- love affair with the high desert. Having known from a young age that her life ought to include direct proximity to nature, Elizabeth has found a fulfillment here that she never thought possible. She currently spends her days painting in a small cabin ten miles north of town, where she routinely gets visits from deer, turkeys, bear and foxes. Elizabeth’s art strives to add beauty and compassion into the world, and serves to benefit organizations that rescue and protect both wild and domesticated animals.
Statement from my most recent exhibit, Common Nobility:
"He felt their pain. He called it almost a curse, but by painting it, it doesn't hurt so much."
-Helga Testorf talking about Andrew Wyeth.
When I heard Helga say this in an interview, I was stunned. It was as though someone was able to articulate my own reasons for painting, something I have had difficulty defining even for myself. But it is just that; I feel their pain. I have never known what to do with it, it kept me awake at night for much of my life, thinking about the things that animals endure at the hand of humans. I felt powerless, but thinking about the bad only brings about more bad. Over the years I have learned how to move through it; you have to be an alchemist, you have to take the thing that hurts you and turn it into something beautiful.
The portraits included in this exhibit are animals I've met in my travels, not just around this region but to Mexico, to Oregon, driving across the country to Virginia and back on a string of visits to farms and ranches. I love meeting the animals that provide so much joy and function on the farm. A farm without any animals is much less exciting, the animals bring so much. They are, to me, simply mesmerizing. I could watch them all day, sheep interacting, nuzzling, curling up against one another. Goats bouncing and climbing, cows with their calves, directing them, encouraging them. When I paint the subject, I spend so much time looking at it, just staring at the image, and I gain a much deeper understanding of that animal. I see scars on their face, ears ripped and healed in new formations where tags have been torn out, flies congregated around their eyes. I often see in their eyes a plea, an exhaustion, and just as often I see a joy, a sense of humor even. Spending hours upon hours staring into a single face, you do glean an understanding, it feels like you start to truly know them.
What I have experienced through these visits tells me that they are not different than us. This is what drives my work, the concept of sameness. We are emotional beings, all of us, and there is an innate intelligence in all things. And however we communicate, we all want the same thing; to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
If I can help to bring more joy into the world, and at the same time alleviate some of the pain, I will consider it an achievement.
-Elizabeth Kinahan, June 2019