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 Dale Wilson Kennington  (1935 - )

About: Dale Wilson Kennington


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Lived/Active: Alabama      Known for: painting-portrait, narrative, figure-genre

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Dale Wilson Kennington
An example of work by Dale Wilson Kennington
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Dale Kennington, known for her interior scenes with figures in realist style, has her primary studio Dothan, Alabama. She focuses her paintings on traditional Southern social rituals, especially people's needs for belonging.

Of this focus, she says: "The individual has significance not so much because of [her] individuality, but rather by being a part of the great human community. We find our destiny through ties, not coercive ties imposed upon us, but by ties we freely choose" ("Women in the Arts," Summer, 2000).

Her work has been part of the U.S. Department of State's Art In Embassies Program, selected for the embassy by the ambassador to Caracas, Venezuela.

Recent museum exhibitions include The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Birmingham Museum of Art, Butler Institute of American Art, The Columbus Museum, Huntsville Museum of Art, Wiregrass Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art, Maitland Art Center, Auburn University Art Gallery, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Hunter Museum, Chattahoochee Valley Art Museum, Mississippi Museum of Art, Cummer Museum of Art, Fitchburg Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts at Tallahassee Florida State University, and Art Gallery of University of West Florida.

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Dale Kennington was born in Georgia; however, she has spent most of her life in Dothan, Alabama.  Reminiscing about her earliest art experiences, she wrote, “When I was in the fifth and sixth grades, my teachers would allow me to skip other subjects to draw and work with pastels.  They would give me Audubon prints to copy.  These were then put up in the classroom.” (1)

Attending both Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama, she acquired a strong knowledge of drawing but found most of her training dictated by abstraction. In her student years, Kennington also absorbed the lessons of art history.  Kennington taught briefly at Auburn University and then spent years raising a family, which placed her art on hiatus until 1974 when she picked up her paintbrush to create a portrait of her children.  She eventually transferred her exploration of the figure from portraiture into large-scale vignettes of real life.

“Kennington paints the world in which she lives with great observational skill, employing a straightforward and confident realist style that is closely allied in spirit to the painters of the Ash Can School and the artist Edward Hopper.  However, unlike Hopper, to whom she is superficially compared, Kennington avoids starkness and provocation in her paintings, favoring engaging compositions that evoke a viewer response and reveal layered meanings with quiet subtlety. She is a master at capturing the essence of a narrative by focusing on a moment that is revealing, but not necessarily charged with drama.” (2)

Kennington’s work from the mid-1990s reveals this narrative approach to the human condition, tempered by a desire subtly to integrate social issues.  Her paintings combine pieces of memory and photographic images to give extended glimpses into familiar settings.  Kennington’s paintings show the artist’s innate grasp of the human condition and her success in addressing human frailties, emotional balance, relationships, and one’s role in contemporary society on canvas. (3)  The artist stated, “Each of my paintings comes forth in a similar manner.  I take bits and pieces and put them together to form a whole that never really existed. If the painting is successful it has such familiarity to it that viewers often insist that they know what city it’s located in, that they have been there and just can’t recall the name of the place.” (4)

Kennington intends to present a powerful exploration of human interaction, from conversations and body language, to gazes from one figure to another.  These anonymous people are not specific to a place or time, but represent anyone in attendance at a similar function; they may even serve as stereotypes.  Although the portrayals were not always flattering, Kennington limits the amount of criticism within her painted dialogue.  Certainly, issues of wealth, self-indulgence, and self-importance can be elicited from the array on the canvas, but this may be too complex. The artist avoids severe emphasis of obvious social issues and pretensions, and offers an alternative—a familiar environment, immediately recognizable, understood, and assimilated by viewers.

Kennington states, “I am convinced that all I, or any other artist, can offer is my own world, filtered through my experiences and my sensibilities.  A Southern female is trained from birth to communicate in many layers, obliquely rather than straight on. My work tends to evoke, rather than provoke a response.” (5)


1. Artist interview. Collections File. Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia.

2. Peter J. Baldaia, “A Conversation with Dale Kennington,” in Encounters: Dale Kennington, exhibition catalogue (Huntsville, Ala.: Huntsville Museum of Art, 1997), n.p.
Other publications include Joseph W. Gluhman, Dale Kennington: Time and Place (Dothan, AL: Wiregrass Museum of Art, 1994), and Peter J. Baldaia, Dale Kennington: The Realm of the Everyday (Philadelphia: Claire Oliver Fine Art, 1998).

3. Exhibition catalogue, Brigitte Foley, The Human Condition: Recent Work by Gary Chapman, Dale Kennington and Art Rosenbaum (Columbus, Ga.: Columbus Museum, 2001).

4. Artist interview. Collections files. Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia. staff, Columbus Museum.

5. Ibid.

Submitted by the staff, Columbus Museum

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