Tim Kennedy / Perry Four
 
The overarching theme for me as a painter is that of intimacy discovered in domestic life. The setting for most of my paintings is our 1920 Arts and Crafts bungalow in Bloomington, Indiana. Lately I have been casting my net a little wider to include paintings that take in the few blocks near our home as their subject. Of necessity I have had to embrace an attitude that is more social in its intent than I normally consider. 
 
Our house stands in section four of Perry Township in Monroe County.  Most people have heard of townships without being aware of what they actually are. In America, townships are a unit of land measurement that are part of the system of survey and settlement instituted by the Land Ordnance of 1785. States admitted to the Union after Ohio (including Indiana) adopted this model. Townships consist of squares of land measuring six miles by six miles. These were further subdivided into one square mile sections of 640 acres. For it’s day, the survey township was a very rational and forward thinking system. For example, section 16 of any township was always intended to hold a schoolhouse.
 
Survey townships have less reality for us today in a country where communities tend to be swallowed by urban sprawl, but the system is still evident in the straight edges of county boundaries and the arrow straight roads that are a common feature of mid-western life. Our Enlightenment founders tossed this matrix over the country without much regard for the specifics of geography. This defining fact of the land is as revealing in its strangeness as any that makes up our national character. The alarming juxtapositions of commercial strips and residential areas typical of American towns may be accidental but they are not an accident. There is a reason that the sun rises and sets directly along the axis of the street running beside our house.
 
The heart of our neighborhood is tied to the creation of the Indiana Seminary – the original incarnation of Indiana University. The land surrounding the Seminary was surveyed and sold to finance the school. Its original location is a few blocks from our house where a down at the heels Kroger grocery presently stands. The University moved to the east side of town after a fire in the 1880’s, but the streets surrounding Seminary “square” still hold names such as Dodds and Wylie after prominent citizens and University Presidents from the early nineteenth century. The area around our house must have been platted fairly late; a friend’s elderly neighbor has a memory of the land across the street from our house being pasture as late as the 1920’s.
 
The social aspect embedded in the paintings can be manifested in the most literal ways. I set up to paint on the street and end up meeting my neighbors. I discover that former students live within a block or two of me. Neighbors that I meet while painting agree to sit for a portrait on their porch. I find out bits of neighborhood history – that a storefront church I had assumed was abandoned actually has a tiny congregation. It had been a neighborhood grocery store in the 1930s and that its owner felt called to preach. The building is up for sale and the family next door is concerned that it will revert to a commercial property. I am out in all types of weather – hot and cold – forced to choose from always beautiful, always fleeting, dying bits of light. 
 
Tim Kennedy
Bloomington / December 2008
 
 
 

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