Exhibition Dates: June 28 – JULY 7, 2016
Opening Reception: July 1, 7 - 10pm
PORTRAITS OF THE BELOVED AMERICAN SNEAKER: CONVERSE
“Shoes speak volumes about who we are,” says KJ Shows. “After time they develop a character all their own.” Shows knows shoes. For nearly a decade she has been working on an art project titled “Portrait of an Artist,” in which she contacts artists from around the world and asks for their shoes to paint. Over one hundred have sent her pairs, and the resulting still lifes pay homage to contemporary artists while revealing surprising, intimate sides to their characters. CONVERSE NATION is a departure from this project, although shoes and the personalities they embody is still the focus. In celebration of the Fourth of July, Shows presents portraits of the beloved American sneaker: Converse low tops, high tops, vintage, All Stars, Chuck Taylors, Jack Purcells, and more.
“I am trying to convey that these shoes are so familiar to all of us,” Shows says. “Most of the people I know have at least one pair in their closet. Even if they are old and beat up you don’t want to give them up, that would almost be like losing a good friend. What I’m looking for are the personal stories each pair of shoes has to tell.” These large-scale oil paintings showcase sneakers posed in different ways: carefully set side by side, or resting with laces in a “just kicked off” tangle. Some pairs seem fresh and new, others comfortably worn. Highlighted against minimal white backgrounds, the Converse reveal touches of unexpected color that Shows incorporates to bring a nuanced realism to her playful, vibrant portraits.
Growing up in Texas, Shows first learned how to mix colors from her painter grandmother. She now lives and works in Kennebunk, Maine, and continues to mix her own paints using the same seven base colors that she discovered as a child. This memory of early art lessons may well explain the fresh energy and youth that her paintings exude.
The artist sums up CONVERSE NATION best: “Fireworks, BBQs, apple pie, and a good old-fashioned classic American Converse sneaker.”