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Hotel Phillips' Artist in Residence
Kevin Deen

The Arts have a major influence on the livelihood of any community and downtown Kansas City has an especially vibrant arts community. Being located in the epicenter of local creativity, we embrace and support those people and organizations who are building our city's reputation as one of the most brilliant stars on the Arts horizon. Continuing in our tradition of supporting the lively Kansas City arts community we chose Kevin Deen as our second Artist in Residence. Kevin will share his Architectural Portraits with the Hotel's guests this year from the studio space he utilizes inside the Hotel.

Though they did not farm, Kevin's family lived in the Heartland, surrounded by farm communities, big blue skies and bright red barns, which all made an early impression on his creative sense. While growing up his parents recognized and supported his talents and he had his first one man show while still in high school.

Kevin primarily paints bold-colored canvases of details of buildings that he calls "architectural portraits". He became interested in color in college after studying color theory, particularly the work of Josef Albers. After graduating from the Iowa State University of Design, he moved to Kansas City where he taught high school art. A trip back to his home state of Iowa enamored him of the simple architectural beauty of farms.

"When you stand back and look at what happens between two colors, it almost looks like the line vibrates or creates a third part that's a third color between the two. That's happening inside your retina. It's not there, that third color; when you look closely you see it's just the two colors side by side."

The process to create one of his portraits is painstaking. All of them are based on real places, although he sometimes alters the building's details. They may look silk-screened but they're all hand-painted. No color overlaps another, which means the whole canvas isn't painted blue to get the color of the sky, then painted over again to get the colors of the building. Each area of color, no matter how tiny, is individually taped off and painted on white so the color is kept brighter. For Kevin, it's playing with flat color and basically constructing a three-dimensional world out of completely flat color planes.

"Those are all solid colors (in each painting). They're all flat. I don't do any shading. It's almost like building blocks of little shapes that, because of a slight change in color, create a three-dimensional effect in the end. It looks like you could just grab a piece and take it off of there. And it's just because of the color changing."

The first of his architectural styled paintings was of a barn on his uncle's farm. His use of bright, uplifting colors to create crisp dimension seems to breathe an inner glow from the buildings he paints and gives them iconic and joyous feeling.

"Like any artist, I make my art because it is part of who I am. I paint because I get to make the rules and create the world that exists on the canvas. My Architectural Portraits aren't intended to have a hidden meaning or be something other than what you see. They're mostly about color and how it can cause you to transcend to somewhere where the simple act of seeing is joyous. I often see people standing in front of my work, smiling, nodding their heads and sometimes actually laughing out loud as a reaction to the colors and imagery. I often have people start telling me about happy childhood memories that popped into their heads while they were looking at a certain painting. Whatever your experience is when you view my art, I suggest you go with it and have some fun. I hope you'll enjoy looking at my art as much as I do creating it." – Kevin Deen

Check out Kevin's Kansas City Live 'Art Attack' segment.

Past Artists Include: