When Kevin Kissinger, Albion senior, takes someone into his painting studio on the second floor of Bobbit Visual Arts Center, they may have a bit of difficulty differentiating from a room for a high school punk band’s jam sessions.
Kissinger is participating in a directed study, which is a part of the Painting III course in the art department. Within this senior seminar, the student is supposed to create a hypothetical exhibition that is completely original and presented in time to replace an artist, who had to back out at the last minute from a display at the Guggenheim, according to Kissinger. This scenario is designed to help student artists create and plan their work in an efficient manner as well as understand the process of displaying a personal exhibit.
Kissinger admits that he had a bit of difficulty finding what it was that he wanted to paint, but it was his hometown roots that put him on the path towards achieving a successful project. Kissinger’s corner studio includes three large canvases, all of which are painted with large, old wooden barns.
“It’s kind of an arbitrary thing to be painting, I know, but these barns say a lot about our history and society,” Kissinger said.
Kissinger went as far as 12 miles outside of Albion in search of these old wooden structures. Some of the barns, which are as old as 100 years old, were constructed in as little as one or two days.
“They were built on a sense of community,” Kissinger said. “Most of these were used during the Great Depression, and people didn’t have a whole lot. But, people that were all in the same boat came together to help each other out so that they may prosper—you just don’t see that as much nowadays,” he said.
With orange sunsets in the back drop and bluish-green grass at the base, Kissinger wants his viewers to take a different take towards the barns, which may typically be viewed as things that are about to disintegrate into the ground.
“To a traditional passerby, he or she might think, ‘Oh, here’s this old barn that no longer serves a purpose’, but the purpose is to pause and take a second glance as to what purpose these barns use to have on culture, on society,” Kissinger said.
According to Kissinger, most of the barns were used during the Great Depression, when people worked together to help each other out during hardship.
“What’s sad is that people don’t understand the significance that these barns have on our culture,” Kissinger said. “Being from a Midwestern farm town, you can learn to appreciate the role they played.”
Kissinger thinks that it is unfortunate that a majority of the younger generation cannot perceive these barns as more than a storage space for tools and supplies. To an elder, he or she can see much further than the missing planks and chipping paint.
“If someone who is my age looks at the barn, they’ll probably just want someone to tear it down so that something new can go up,” Kissinger said. “But, to someone my grandparent’s age, they might see their childhood, their parents’ profession, or maybe it will just make them think of home.”
Upon graduation, Kissinger doesn’t intend on staying in Albion; rather, he plans on branching out towards Europe. He thinks that grad school and various artistic gigs are what he needs to get the upper hand in becoming a full-time artist.
“I need to find a medium between how I see things and the way the rest of the world does,” Kissinger said. “If I can do that, then I think the time I’m spending here is worth it.”