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Retracted Reality: The Work of Jim Cantrell and the 10th Annual MVIS Juried Exhibition

Jim Cantrell, Omni, 1987. Oil (image courtesy of the artist)


The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art is excited to present two new exhibits that explore contemporary representational art. Refracted Reality: The Work of Jim Cantrell is a retrospective of over six decades of work by Kentucky-based artist Jim Cantrell. In tandem, the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society will be holding their 10th annual juried exhibition showcasing member-artists from 10 states.

Jim Cantrell was raised in Oklahoma and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska. Though his student years coincided with the rise of Abstract Expressionism as the most prominent style of American painting, Cantrell was always interested in representing people, still lifes and cityscapes.

While his work is realistic rather than abstract, his interest in depicting his subjects goes beyond the intellectual realism of Photorealism. There is an emotional interest evident in his portraits and even his still lifes that goes beyond the unsentimental paintings that can often result from too intently focusing on realism. Instead, the sometimes tilted or skewed perspectives and reflective surfaces that fill the canvases of his mature work allow the viewer a more immersive experience of the scenes he has created. In his portraits he often surrounds his subjects with objects with mirrored surfaces or mylar backgrounds that create distorted shapes and colors that are no less real than the person at the center of the composition.

Jim Cantrell, Remembrances, 1987. Oil (image courtesy of the artist)

Jim Cantrell, Models in the Artist’s Studio, 1995, Oil. (collection of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum, gift of Vennita Cantrell, daughter of the artist & gift of Sean Cantrell, son of the artist)

Cantrell’s interest in the beauty of forms is evident in the ceramic work that is also included in the exhibition. Trained as a painter, in the beginning stages of his career as a full-time artist he focused on pottery. In the 1970s, he and his wife Jeannette established the Bardstown Art Gallery that they continue to run in Bardstown, Kentucky. He embraced traditional forms in stoneware using techniques honed through trial and error.

In the same spirit of exploring traditional subjects and techniques, the Missouri Valley Impressionist Society was founded in 2011 to focus attention on modern Impressionism and representational artists in the region. The founders’ goal was to provide support for artists working in these styles by creating opportunities for exhibitions and events. The organization has now grown to 100 members in 10 states.

This year’s exhibition is juried by AKMA’s executive director, Eric Fuson. “I am excited to help support the work of regional artists,” he said. This will be the fourth time that the AKMA will host this annual exhibition. Visitors will get a chance to experience the myriad ways that contemporary painters are interpreting their own vision in the Impressionist tradition.

Refracted Reality: The Work of Jim Cantrell and the 10th Annual MVIS Juried Exhibition are on view at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph from Nov. 20, 2021, to Jan. 9, 2022.

Financial assistance provided by the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau.

–Megan Benitz, AKMA Registrar and Exhibitions Manager

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