History and Prophecy

Merging past and future

Two locals use distinct styles to cast human nature

From The Orlando Weekly, March 22, 2001

Opposites attract, at least in History and Prophecy, the new art show March 31 at the Gallery at Avalon.  Local artists James Kitchens and Michael Finnimore choose different subjects and media but manage to group their work into a presentation that shows human beliefs and emotions in a new light.

The “prophecy” belongs to Kitchens, who uses bronze to bring to life spiritual struggles of man in a post-industrial world. He creates shapes and realistic human faces while fusing them with an abstract mood intended to reconcile science with nature. This seems to come naturally to him as he holds a degree in philosophy and also has a background in physics. Through his bronze work, the emotional “merging of quantum physics and metaphysics” comes to life.

This is Kitchens’ first Orlando show in about two years, and by his own admission, probably his best. A teacher at the Maitland Arts Center, Kitchens also works with Winter Park artist Jamali, as does Finnimore. Kitchens began his relationship with internationally-renowned Jamali about a year ago when he applied for a position at the artist’s studio. Kitchens assists Jamali primarily with casting clay sculptures in bronze. Jamali runs Art and Peace, Inc., a 25,000-square-foot gallery and self-contained studio, and has been praised for his paintings and sculptures dealing with mysticism and quantum mechanics. Finnimore, who has worked with the artist slightly longer, prepares surfaces and does finishing work for paintings and frescos.

It was this working relationship plus a mutual respect for each other’s work that brought Kitchens and Finnimore together. But Kitchens’ work is quite different from Finnimore’s, and that is what makes the exhibit unique. While the sculptures of Kitchens focus on the future of man in a machine-driven, artificial world, Finnimore’s paintings reflect moods inspired by specific moments in the past, such as 1970s culture and the Palm Springs butterfly ballot.

The most powerful image in Kitchens’ work and the one element that binds it together is the eye. All of the dozen works that will be displayed contain an eye or a circular figure, such as a person’s aura, as the focal point.  One bronze and steel piece, appropriately titled Eye in Mind, juxtaposes the natural circular shapes found in nature with the rough, square edges of the computer chip. Another features a prominent human spine, representing the raw and physical, leading up to the head, or crown chakra, in which is carved a meditation symbol. It’s Kitchens’ way of “putting an Eastern view on the Christian sense of separation of man and nature.”

The process used to create the pieces is just as insightful as the end product. Kitchens carves most of his work in clay, then pours the wax mold from which the bronze work is produced. But instead of being content with a normal mold, the artist adds organic elements, such as leaves, to the wax. And if accidents happen during the process, that too becomes part of the art.

Kitchens says he strives for “the art of the controlled accident. Let everything go crazy but within control.” Finnimore adopts a similar approach to many of his paintings, as many of the dozen that will be shown were produced in a spontaneous manner, such as acrylic paint being thrown on the canvas or panel. But several, most notably Where Were You When, which depicts elements of the Kennedy assassination, are detailed and well planned. The viewer sees the Dallas motorcade as a dual image, with the shadowy face of Oswald floating above.

A black and white piece depicting a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire suggests the horrors of the Vietnam War, while a little girl looks on amused, not understanding the tragedy of the moment. Others, such as a piece on Patty Hearst, show Finnimore drifting more toward a blending of media. The painting shows a scene from a surveillance camera, and the work itself is mounted in the corner as if it were a true camera image.

Not all Finnimore’s work is complex, as some are simple images of rainforests and swirling shapes not necessarily meant to reflect more than just the artist’s frame of mind at the time. (One of these, depicting flowers, was released purchased by tennis star Venus Williams.)

The works of the two artists are different in both medium and subject. However, they are bound together by their ability to reflect human nature. Kitchens focuses on the future of man and his battle to preserve a natural spirituality in a computerized age, while Finnimore interprets moods and feelings associated with historical events and times. The future meets the past, all within the mind of man.