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Great State: R and B – Rhythm and Brush

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- The windows on his American West open with each stroke of a brush. Kenny McKenna his the road when inspiration strikes. He is a landscape painter who carries an easel and pallete with him. When he finds the right spot, McKenna might takes a lot of photographs too, but he waits for the right light when the impression of a place will be strongest. "This is on the backside of the Catalina Mountains near Tuscon, Arizona," he says describing as he paints.

"You have a virtual travelogue surrounding you," notes a gallery visitor. "Absolutely," he responds. "Someone has to do it. It might as well be me."

The hands he paints with didn't always handle brushes though. Kenny spent a good deal of his Oklahoma youth playing rock and roll and rhythm and blues on the piano. The gigs paid the bills. Painting, back then, was just a hobby. "But this is what I was meant to do," says McKenna.

He still uses the same type of brushes and the same tubes of oil paint that his high school teacher showed him as a beginning painter. There is a kind of music in his paining too, a rhythm to every brush stroke with a little improv thrown in. "Yes. I interpret a painting," he says. "I improvise as I go and hopefully when I stand back a few feet and it will look like something."

He came late to the occupation of painting. His gigs that once played themselves out in dark, smoke-filled rooms at night now take place in the full light of day, and in some of the most beautiful places America has to offer.

Kenny McKenna's artwork is currently on display at the Howell Gallery in NW Oklahoma City. His show is open through August 11th.