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Merging past and future



The works of local artists James Kitchens and Michael Finnimore 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, in a complementary mix that comes together as the History and Prophecy show Saturday, March 31, at the Gallery at Avalon.

The "prophecy" be-longs to Kitchens, who uses bronze to portray the 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 has a background in physics. Through his work, the emotional "merging of quantum physics and metaphysics" comes to life.

A teacher at the Maitland Arts Center, Kitchens also works with internationally marketed Winter Park artist Jamali, who has been praised for his paintings and sculptures dealing with mysticism and quantum mechanics. Kitchens assists Jamali primarily with casting clay sculptures in bronze at Jamali's 25,000-square-foot gallery and self-contained studio.

The most powerful image in Kitchens' art 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 circular shapes found in nature with the rough, square edges of the computer chip.

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 the artist adds organic elements, such as leaves, to the wax. And if something unexpected happens, 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 also works for Jamali, preparing surfaces and completing finish work on paintings and frescos. But while the sculptures of Kitchens focus on the future of man in a machine-driven, artificial world, Finnimore's paintings reflect moods inspired by the past, such as 1970s culture and the Palm Springs butterfly ballot -- thus, the "history."

Like his partner, Finnimore adopts a spontaneous approach to his work, as many of the 12 or so pieces that will be shown were produced by 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. 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 rain forests and swirling shapes not necessarily meant to reflect more than just the artist's frame of mind. (One of these, depicting flowers, was recently purchased by tennis star Venus Williams.)

While Kitchens and Finnimore choose different subjects and media, they manage to group their work into a presentation that shows human beliefs and emotions in a new light.

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