Opening of two new exhibitions at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art | Events

There is an immediate sense of vulnerability and intimacy with two new exhibitions at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art.

On the ground floor, the space is filled with large paintings of faces and intimate environments, while the lower level features a variety of mediums and perspectives.

The wide variety of art comprises “Returning | Belonging: Works by Benjamin Parks and Kathy Liao” and the 48th Annual Membership Exhibition. Both will open with a reception beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday, January 14 at the museum at 2818 Frederick Ave.

Placing his work on the ground floor in Savannah, Missouri, native Benjamin Parks takes five years of paintings, capturing the essence of nine of his family members.

“It’s all about family relationships and religion and the complications that come with that, separation and love,” he said.

Each painting is the result of a photo session he did with his relatives, some of whom have strained relations with him. From there, he picked the photo that best matched his kinship with them and worked tirelessly to translate it onto a large canvas.

“I’m going to take 50-100 pictures… Then I’ll wait for them to have what I feel like real expression in their eyes because I really focus on the eyes in each painting, where they’re not nervous or not smiling. That’s where it’s just kind of like meditative resignation,” he said.

Some pieces are works in progress, with grid and word codes that can be seen in the background. Parks said it gave her reflection and grace, even when it came to her family’s most fractured relationships. He hopes this will provide the subjects of his work with a similar peace.

“I hope it’s impactful and I hope it helps them understand, for example, how much they mean to me, how much our relationship matters. And I hope it’s a way of connect and reconcile. That’s at best. At worst, I hope they’re just enjoying being a big painting on a museum wall. I mean, I think that’s kind of cool,” a said Parks.

Parks is joined by Liao, an acclaimed artist born in Taipei, Taiwan, who was recently named an Artist iNC Program Specialist with the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City. An Associate Professor of Art and Director of Painting and Printmaking at Missouri Western State University, her work complements and contrasts Parks as she captures the complex feelings and experiences of immigrant families.

On the lower level, hundreds of pieces ranging from sculptures to paintings to photos line the walls as part of the museum’s member exhibit. They offer a variety of insights into the lives and experiences of museum members.

“There are so many different backgrounds here. There are so many different places and people who are part of this community,” said Jill Carlson, Marketing Manager of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art. “When you are here at the Albrecht-Kemper, you are part of this family. It’s dynamic. It’s diverse. We all belong here on the walls of this museum.

The exhibition not only serves its members to show what they have been working on, but also to see what media others are focusing on and how they have progressed in their activities.

“We get a few more in slightly different media. For example, in pastel, we have a pastel course in progress. We also have a colored pencil class that’s been going on all last year,” Carlson said. “So I think people have been, especially some of our members, they’ve been inspired by these courses to improve their skills and then share them in the membership lounge.”

Containing over 150 pieces by approximately 80 artists, the art will be judged in a variety of categories, with awards being presented at 6 p.m. on the day of the reception. Both receptions are free and open to the public.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the exhibits, call 816-233-7003.

Julia P. Cluff