May 6 – July 9 — BRANDON — The small town of Brandon, Vermont, takes the spotlight again, with a multifaceted art exhibit showcasing its best known octogenarian. Warren Kimble, at age 87, remembered everywhere as “the contemporary folk artist,” selects a venue dear to his heart to stage what he calls his “last hurrah” until he retires once again.
In 1999 an empty five-and-dime store at 7 Center Street was taken over by artists, forming the Brandon Artists Guild (BAG). Today the BAG, thriving more than ever despite the pandemic, presents Warren Kimble: Artful Assemblages, from May 6 through July 9, accompanied by a rash of events, in joyful honor of the popular aging artist. Expect tours, special talks, interviews by the artist, demonstrations, and charity raffles.
Many are familiar with the Kimble folk art imagery. Less well known, however, are other distinguished collections, beginning in 2004, as the artist explored new, forward-thinking themes. Kimble branched out with installations, such as “Widows of War” (2008), at Vermont’s Shelburne Museum, in reaction to the Iraq War, and, later, his “Cosmos” series relating to the Earth and the Universe.
The current contemporary offshoot with a folk art flavor, Artful Assemblages, was engendered by Kimble’s early years as an antiques expert with deep knowledge of handcrafted toys, furniture parts, discarded factory molds, obsolete kitchen implements, and the like. Ongoing, he continues to cherry-pick the perfect vintage leftover items at auctions and antique shops.
Using a 15-year accumulation of such pieces, Kimble’s creations can be seen as shrines to the beauty of old-time wood-turning, hand-carving, and the valued skills of bygone days. Fragments are combined and grouped in three-dimensional tableaus, found objects taking the place of actors. There’s a connection to theater and set design, relating to the artist’s love of Broadway. Also, Kimble is admittedly influenced by Louise Nevelson’s wooden constructions and Joseph Cornell’s box art.
Over time, transformation takes place in his studio, where individual oddities are joined to form artful compositions, often with serious presence and power.
First an art educator at Castleton State College, Kimble simultaneously, with his wife Lorraine, operated antiques businesses in the 1970s and ‘80s. A solo art show in Woodstock, Vermont, resulted in a successful partnership with Wild Apple Graphics, creating high quality reproductions of Kimble’s iconic folk art, and, eventually, a myriad of commercial products with other licensing partners. Meanwhile the artist’s original artworks were being collected worldwide, and still are to this day.
Both locally and throughout Vermont, Kimble has been an art community leader. He helped to mastermind the highly successful street-art fundraisers, begun by the BAG in 2003, imitated by other towns. As a Vermont Arts Council board member, he created the state-wide Palettes of Vermont fundraiser, and then sparked similar charity events at other area non-profits. A tribute to his devotion and dedication to Vermont, in 2013 Kimble was given the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Throughout a long life as an artist, educator, entrepreneur, and leader, Warren Kimble has given much of himself to his hometown Brandon and to the state of Vermont, with his ebullient spirit, high energy, and old-fashioned rollicking fun.