In praise of Ohio artists

Tim Keny, who has owned Keny Galleries in German Village with twin brother James since 1980, tells an anecdote about John Singer Sargent to make a point about an upcoming exhibit. According to Keny, when someone asked the famous watercolor artist how long it took him to create a painting, Sargent supposedly said, “Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes of actual time, but it’s taken a lifetime to be able to do it in 25 or 30 minutes.”

The exhibit at Keny Galleries is A Cultural Legacy: 200 Years of Ohio Art, which will be displayed from Oct. 10 through Nov. 3. “To have the ties to bring in the kind of objects that we’re going to have has really taken every bit of the 28 years that we have of experience and developing credibility,” he says. 

"Atlas Building" by the late 
Columbus artist William Hawkins

The exhibit, which includes works from Ohio-born artists spanning 1775 to 1975, includes such big names as Elijah Pierce, Alice Schille, George Bellows, James Thurber, Milton Caniff and Roy Lichtenstein.

James Keny says that since opening the gallery, they have been amazed by the cultural heritage of the state and the number of artists from Ohio. “We felt a lot of people in this area really didn’t realize that, and that they would be fascinated to know more about the history of the state and some of the incredible achievements,” he says.

When James assisted the Ohio Historical Society and Ohio Arts Council with a show celebrating the state’s bicentennial in 2003, the focus largely was on paintings. With this exhibit, he wanted to include other mediums, such as drawings, photography, sculpture, ceramic, textiles and furniture.

The Kenys also wanted to encompass the various cultures found in Ohio, from Native Americans to the Amish, as well as African-Americans and Eastern Europeans, among others. “Many of them, when they moved here, brought the traditions and craftsmanship from their native countries,” Tim says. “So there’s an amazing wealth of ability that’s been demonstrated.”

Though the Keny brothers have been working on collecting the items for the exhibit for six months – as well as their whole careers – “We’re still tweaking it,” James says, “and we will until probably five minutes before the show.”

- Josie Rubio
  Columbus Monthly, October 2008


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