Former Parkite Kevin Kehoe finds solace in painting
July 29, 2016
The past three years and eight months have been magical for former Park City resident Kevin Kehoe.
After a 30-year career in advertising, Kehoe, who now lives in Heber, returned to his first love — oil painting.
A few weeks ago, the new Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City selected Kehoe's "Western Therapy" series as its inaugural exhibit for the grand opening.
"The official ribbon cutting was a few days ago and it was an amazing celebration and opening of an entire complex that includes the Shakespeare Theatre and the Beverly Taylor Sorensen Center for the Arts," Kehoe said during a Park Record interview. "They've created something down there that can only be described as world class, stunning and breathtaking architecture."
Kehoe, who lived in Park City from 1993 to 1996, said there are currently 12 paintings in the "Western Therapy" series.
"It's a series of landscape paintings, but I've put in a human element in each of the paintings to show how we use the West now," he said. "I tapped into a real truth that I have felt about Utah and the Southwest and the West in general for a long time."
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While Kehoe loves cowboys and traditional Western art, he wanted to capture something different.
"There is something real, spiritual and important about the area that people have validated for me over time," Kehoe said. "I was striving to capture and narrate the many forms of activities, whether it's riding a motorcycle through Escalante, reading a book in the middle of a meadow in the High Uintas or taking a drive, a hike or playing guitar while sitting on a rock at sunset."
Other paintings were inspired by Guardsman Pass and the foothills of the Uintas in the Heber Valley. There is also a painting of his daughter playing a cello in a field in Midway.
"While the activities are different for everyone, it's true when they're out there, they understand their smallness in the world," he said. "That is good medicine for the soul. They hit the reset button in their own lives and put themselves in perspective to see their own problems, trials and tribulations in the right scale. The series is a celebration of all that."
Kehoe, who is represented by Modern West Fine Art in Salt Lake City, said his advertising career prepared him for his new adventure as an artist.
"It was, as you could imagine, a wild roller-coaster ride with great highs and low lows and served as an unbelievable boot camp for life as a painter," he said. "It helped me develop the discipline to go and paint every day alone. It helped me develop tenacity and skills in strategy and presentation."
Throughout his three-decade career, Kehoe kept thinking about painting, which he did before advertising took over.
"I didn't pick up a brush throughout my career in advertising, because it was like survival of the fittest," he said. "I suppose I could have painted on the weekends, but I'm not really a dabbler. I have to be all in."
That led to a lot of frustration as he visited galleries with his wife Julie.
"Every time we would walk out, I would tell her that I really needed to paint," Kehoe said. "She heard that looped broken record about a million times in every city we visited."
After living in San Francisco, Seattle and New York, the Kehoes moved back to Heber, and that's when he decided to pick up the brush.
"I found myself at a fork in the road, deciding whether or not to open a small agency or really do what I always wanted to do," Kehoe said. "I did some soul searching for a couple of weeks and then told Julie that I needed to paint."
Kehoe bought a studio and then reality hit.
"Was it difficult at first? Yes, it was," he said. "It was actually terrifying."
As he stood at the easel contemplating what to do for his first painting, Kehoe decided to do something manageable.
"I had missed a friend's wedding three years prior and still felt bad about that," he said. "So, I decided to do a portrait of their dog without them knowing and just sent it to them."
The couple loved it.
"They have since lost that dog, so that painting is extra special right now," Kehoe said.
In addition to "Western Therapy," Kehoe has painted another series, "Chelsea Light," which is an interior study of post-War New York gallery-district studio interiors.
"I focused on the hallways and stairways, the passages that you take to go from gallery to gallery, because they are so weathered and beautiful," he said. "They are common spaces with uncommon light coming into them."
Kehoe poured 100 hours into each of the paintings, and it paid off.
They all sold, and one made it into an international jury exhibit at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia.
"It was one of 60 pieces selected out of the 3,000 works that were submitted for the show," he said.
After the show closed, Kehoe's work was accepted into another Principle Gallery exhibit in Charleston, South Carolina.
"As that piece was being purchased, a collector stepped up and commissioned me to do a painting for her," he said. "That will be the next piece I paint."
For more information about Kevin Kehoe and his art, visit http://www.kkpainter.com.
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