“I’m constantly challenging myself with new and more complex things.”
Kenneth Browne is a painter living in Allentown, PA. His body of work includes portraits, narrative interior scenes, and, more recently, landscapes. The paintings are characterized by lush, thick brushwork and a generous application of paint. The surfaces of the paintings seem to delight in the physicality of the paint itself, the luxurious, glistening texture of the oil paint. Beneath repeated lighthearted images, such as candy, flowers, clouds, and theatrical motifs, there is a dark emotional undertone in Browne’s work. Much of it carries a feeling of foreboding, or suggests a melancholy or sinister sexual narrative.
In fact, Browne deliberately tries to create a narrative in his Interior Situations series, a sequence of paintings depicting a man and a woman interacting in an apartment building. The paintings are insinuating and mysterious, and since they lack overt explanation, the viewer is forced to create his or her own storyline. Browne created this series during his time at the Pratt Institute in NYC, where he received his MFA.
After graduate school, Browne lived in NYC for a decade. A childhood friend from art camp was already living in New York and performing as a cabaret singer: “Broadway Brassy”. She encouraged Browne to come to performances, and that’s when he met other performers and fell in love with the burlesque scene. He would go to shows two or three times a week. He was fascinated by everything: the personalities, the theater sets, the costumes, and all the amazing things the performers were doing on and off stage. Driven by this new inspiration, Browne began a series of portraits of different performers. Looking at these portraits, one gets the feeling of being backstage, a glimpse of the human beings beneath the costumes. Browne’s confident brushwork reveals real people with imperfections, quirks, and private sorrows and hopes. And yet, at the same time, these paintings celebrate the playful, sexy spirit of the burlesque world.
In 2015, Browne and his family moved to Allentown to be near family, and also near his job at Kutztown University, where he works as an information/data specialist for Admissions. Browne and his wife have two young daughters, ages 2 and 4, and fatherhood has created a big change in his life as an artist. New constraints on his time have made it difficult to have a studio practice. These days, he wakes up around 3:30 or 4 am to work in his studio, before getting his kids ready for the day and going to work. “I can start the day doing something I love,” Browne says, “and then be with my kids and family the rest of the day.” Sometimes he also paints late at night. In some ways, having children has forced him to be more efficient and better with his time management. His two children have a little section of their own in his studio to do coloring and crafts. They also have become his subject matter: “My Last Candy” is a portrait of his older daughter, Nora.
More recently, Browne has been working on a series of landscapes. When he first moved Pennsylvania from the big city, he was taken aback by how big the sky was. He found himself frequently looking out at open spaces during his commute to and from Kutztown University, and other places in the Lehigh Valley. With these paintings, he hopes to convey the beauty of the landscape, as well as its transitory nature.
“I feel like there is never enough time in the day to be in the studio,” Browne admits. “My wife has become one of my biggest supporters and is always behind me… The community here is also very welcoming and I’m glad to have become part of the Lehigh Valley art scene.”
To view Kenneth Browne’s work, visit www.kennethbrowne.com.
“3rd Annual Holiday Art Show & Sale”
Sunday, December 3 from 10:30am to 4:30pm
Art is Inn, 9868 Weiss Road, Breinigsville, PA 18031
Union and Finch restaurant
1528 W. Union Street, Allentown, PA 18102