Thom Bennett Photograph
Originally from Tupelo, Mississippi, artist Kevin Gillentine is from a family that’s legendary in his hometown: as a child, his mother won first place in a talent contest, beating a young Elvis Presley. But it’s his ethereal scenes of the Louisiana and Mississippi countryside that have made a name for Gillentine himself. Demand for his evocative landscapes, shown in his eponymous Kevin Gillentine Gallery (co-owned with partner Vincent Bergeal), and in galleries in Dallas, Houston and Baton Rouge, keeps him busy year-round.
Gillentine began taking drawing classes as a child and signed up for every art class available to him in high school and college. “I went where the road took me and did what I liked to do,” he says. After college, he moved to New York to work for Izquierdo Studio, doing set and costume design for the theater and movie industries. “I was working with Oscar-winning set and costume designers on Broadway shows and films,” says Gillentine, who routinely worked seven days a week. “The basis for my real understanding of painting and my own abilities as an artist came from that. That experience was beyond graduate school,” he adds, though he did pursue graduate courses at both Memphis State and FIT.
When Gillentine moved to New Orleans in 1994, he used his training to produce hand painted furniture, fabrics and other interior design related work. He says his foray into running a gallery was accidental. Once he started filling his studio’s empty wall space with his paintings, they sold so well that he phased out the other inventory altogether. “It just took off,” he says. “It transformed into a gallery.” Today his gallery, which offers conservator and museum-quality framing and carries an extensive selection of high-end frame options, is a popular destination on Magazine Street. Art in the space includes Gillentine’s works as well as pieces by other local artists – something Gillentine would like to focus on more in the future. The gallery also offers a selection of antique art and prints.
Gillentine’s landscapes are intended to look like memories. He starts by photographing or sketching an appealing vista, then paints a large-scale, soft-focus version using oil on canvas, “It’s not invented,” he says. “I am trying to interpret it the way I remember it in my head. I’m trying to capture the feeling of that moment.” Inspired by light, color and composition, the artist holds a deep appreciation for the work of John Singer Sargent. His work, like Sargent’s, displays an incandescent quality, an adept use of chiaroscuro that conveys a sense of serenity and well-being. “Part of being a successful artist is being able to get your work seen, and part of that is making work that people feel good about having in their home,” he says. “I want my art to be uplifting.”
find his work
Kevin Gillentine Gallery, 3917 Magazine Street, 891-0509, kevingillentine.com