Durango artist has an eye for men in her latest paintings

Leanne Beasley, left, chats with artist Elizabeth Kinahan in front of “The Fisherman” (Mervin Stilson) on Friday evening for the opening of “Portraits of Men” at the Durango Arts Center. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Leanne Beasley, left, chats with artist Elizabeth Kinahan in front of “The Fisherman” (Mervin Stilson) on Friday evening for the opening of “Portraits of Men” at the Durango Arts Center.

It’s a tricky business for an artist, capturing the elusive essence of what makes a person an individual. In her new show at Durango Arts Center, Elizabeth Kinahan discovers that mysterious “something” in her on-canvas depictions of local Durango men.

Attendees will see many familiar faces in a new and thoughtful light in “Portraits of Men.”

“By studying the features of another person’s face, I learn so much about them,” Kinahan says. “I love the art that people add to their skin – and scars, I love scars. These things all tell stories, and that’s what a portrait does for me, it is a story-telling device.”

“Portraits of Men” follows the success of last year’s “The Women of Durango,” an all-woman collection of portraits. Where Kinahan’s women were perfected to the point of fantastical, her men are rough-hewn and organic. In places, Kinahan left facial features unfinished or unrefined in an allusion to the lifetime of stories hidden within.

“The women were so finished, so polished, and I loved them, but I really adore being able to be a little rougher with the men, stylistically speaking,” Kinahan said. “I wanted to develop a style of painting that allowed for a looser approach, and the masculine energy lends itself so nicely to bolder strokes and non-local colors.”

Kinahan began work on “Portraits of Men” a bit more than a year and a half ago; reaching out to subjects she had long desired to paint. Most of the portraits are the result of photo sessions, though some were based on photographs taken at parties or provided by friends.

The subjects are Michael Rendon, Mervin Stilson, Roger Seliner, Tim Kapustka, Nick Kapustka, Ty Iwasaki, Todd Macon, David Halterman, Ted Holteen, Jeff Wollenberg, Slater Bootenhoff, Karma Bhotia, Tom Kipp and Jeff Madeen.

A portrait isn’t a depiction of who a person is; rather it’s a painter, photographer or writer’s interpretation of who that person is.

There is much more power in a paintbrush than we give it credit, and Kinahan uses it wisely. Her portraits are kind out of admiration and respect for her subject, but unforgiving to their imperfections.

“Seeing the subtle differences in everyone – the way their eyes close, the smile lines that have been formed from years of laughing, the different ways the corners of their mouths turn when their thoughts go from serious to funny to inappropriate,” Kinahan says. “It made me realize how we are all so very much the same, but how years of life have molded us differently.”

Originally from New Jersey, Kinahan has lived in Durango for the last several years and is an active member of Studio &.

Her work is very much influenced by the natural surroundings of the Southwest, and, if you view “Portraits of Men” in that regard, the show is a representation of the human life we encounter everyday in Durango.

Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at margaretyh@gmail.com.

Vernon Greif is greeted by Elizabeth Kinahan’s painting of Michael Rendon. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Vernon Greif is greeted by Elizabeth Kinahan’s painting of Michael Rendon.

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