The Painting Hour

I set out to paint outdoors every day in July, a kind of stunt no doubt, but also a little like taking vitamins or praying while in foreign lands.

What I did in the Big Month of July, 2015 (it turned out to have 37 days!) cannot rightly be called painting, for that art takes much more commitment and care than I was born to give.

Still, I can find no better word for it in our English language, so I will call it painting for the time being.

Blessed be the hour of painting. It is an hour that stretches from 60 to 90 minutes, not the numbers on the face of pulsing clocks. Teachers at Centre know the pleasure and urgency of this hour. The teaching hour and the painting hour are the same thing.

The painting hour is not feather light and colorless. It has the weight of a portable easel carried down lanes and in buses and subways. The easel raises the canvas to the height of our looking, ever looking eyes. The painting hour is filled with the primary colors, too, with some brushes and some water. It must be folded and unfolded.

The thirty-one paintings in this collection plead with us that nothing should last longer than they have done. No play, no concert, no poem, no speech. They are in love with the morning and the afternoon, the rising and the setting sun.

For this reason, I have used the Chinese characters 月(moon) and日(sun) to glorify them. This painting spree, like education itself, solves no conceivable problem. Nothing more than the days holds these works together.

– Ken Keffer, December 15, 2015

What does it mean to see a play or view an exhibit? This exhibition examined 1) the relationship of time while creating art, and 2) time from the perspective of engaging in a work of art.

Let’s first consider time and art engagement from the audience perspective. A performance or exhibit is not a single moment in time. Rather, it’s a collection of created moments of produced art that is experienced based on how we, as engaged participants, choose to experience it while also being influenced by other external conditions. On the one hand, while we engage with the exhibit or performance, time outside of that experience no longer exists and our single moment of connectedness flows sans measure of time depending on how long we remain engaged. Time freezes and our temporal experience with the show continues through this prolonged momentary connection. On the other hand, like the proverbial tree falling in the forest and whether it makes a sound if no one is around, art on walls and music on paper does not necessarily exist as art if there is no audience to connect and synthesize with it. While visual art may be regarded as static – not active, and performing art as dynamic or in motion, perhaps it is actually we, the engaged viewers, who put upon art a sense of time. Maybe in this respect, we are static, in relationship to a work of art if we do not engage in the performance or exhibit, or dynamic if we do.

In terms of time in relationship to the creation of art, let’s start by thinking about how we, as human beings, tend to chronicle our experiences. If we take a trip, perhaps we capture moments that have meaning to us via a camera. Or we save excursion postcards or restaurant menus. Following a performance, we save the program, have it autographed or purchase a souvenir t-shirt or recording. Some people catalogue their experiences by collecting spoons. Some simply preserve an experience in thought and memory.

We tend to anticipate moments in time, that we experience or are about to experience, that will be memorable and that we will want to relive, re-experience or remember in the future. We also seem to have a desire to share these moments with others. Hinging upon that present moment or experience, how do we actually live it and enjoy it if we are also anticipating the future need to recall that which is happening right now?

Centre College professor of modern languages, artist, and Renaissance man Ken Keffer decided to examine these concepts and take them deeper. His exhibit, The Painting Hour, includes over thirty paintings he created to capture particular moments of time. In doing so, he realized that time on the one hand stood still while simultaneously becoming elongated as he spent upwards to 90 minutes per piece to prepare for and produce a future recollection or memory. Each painting is an exercise of this process to: anticipate a scenic shot; physically and emotionally be in the moment while producing an impression; writing a single thought onto the back of the canvas; and subsequently recalling an anecdote as a memory of that reproduced moment. For all the time he puts into planning location, preparing tools and having a concept, when the first brushstroke finally hits canvas, time freezes and the uncontrollable chaos of his surrounding environment takes over throughout the duration of that single moment.

For us, as viewer, there becomes an emotional understanding of what Keffer experienced, a sense of empathy as we experience his reflective present, and a new interconnectedness based on that particular past moment in time and the new, current moment in time. This installation, as a single collective of work, chronicles, in a clear and beautiful way, these moments in time with its own narrative of the human condition to observe, absorb, express and reflect upon perceived beauty: past, present and future.

Similar to attending a concert recital or play, we as viewer of this installation become an active participant, presently engaged in sharing a previously created moment while creating a new context. Thus, we keep art alive and its dynamic ability to suspend time while also remaining relevant throughout time.

C. Kenneth Keffer Jr.

H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of French and German
Chair of the German, Chinese, and Japanese Program

About his paintings, Dr. Keffer says: “While in high school, I sold oil portraits copied from photographs. In college, I took drawing classes at UNC-Wilmington with the artist Claude Howell. His pastel finely drawn seascapes of net-riggers and sailors recall Thomas Hart Benton’s work. After teaching as a Fulbright fellow in Germany in 1986-87 I decided never to paint from a photograph again. Since 1987 I have only painted outdoors, never spending more than an hour or an hour and a half on a painting. I have sold my paintings in Altanta, Ga and at the Speckled Egg Gallery in Danville. Most of them I have given away to friends and students.”

Ken Keffer is a professor of modern languages at Centre College, where he has taught since 1979. He has held the Stodghill Professorship in Modern Languages since its inception in 2004.

Keffer received Centre’s “Rookie of the Year Award” in his first year at Centre and in 1988 and in 2010 received the David Hughes Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Keffer has spent 5 years in Europe serving as the teacher and director of Centre’s residential study-abroad programs in Strasbourg and in London. He was a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Germany for a year and has pursued advanced research at locations in France, Germany, and Spain. Keffer has published scholarly articles in French and English and an award winning book (Mellen, 2001) on Montaigne’s Essays. This book was translated and published in French under the title Montaigne For Ever in 2005 (Editions Champion).

Since 2002 Keffer has devoted his “Art of Walking” courses to the study of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. In the summer of 2012 he began reading Martin Heidegger’sBeing and Time in German, French, and English, the topic of future writing and research.

Keffer holds a B.A. in French and English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in romance languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2010, Keffer was named the 2010 Kentucky Professor the Year by The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Guard Tower: July 1, 2015, between 9 and 10:30 AM
Church in Drelsdorf: July 4, 2015, between 12:15 and 1:20 PM
Reichstag: July 7, 2015, between 9:30 and 11 AM
Berliner Dom: July 9. 2015, between 9 and 11 AM
San Frediano in Florence: July 10, 2015, between 4:30 and 5:45 PM
Duomo in Florence: July 11, 2015, between 9:30 and 11 AM
Ponte Vecchio: July 12, 2015, between 9:30 and 11 AM
Santa Maria Novella: July 12, 2015. between 5:15 and 6:30 PM
Charlottenburg Palace: July 15, 2015, between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM
Brandenburg Gate: July 15, 2015, between 8:45 and 10:15 AM
Hauptbahnhof, Berlin: July 17, 2015, between 9 and 11 AM
Boleslawiec, Poland: July 18, 2015, between 12:15 and 1:45 PM
Potsdamer Platz: July 19, 2015, between 10 and 11:15 AM
Berlin Skyline: July 20, 2015, between 9 and 10:15 AM
Schillerhaus, Marbach: July 21, 2015, between 7 and 8:30 AM
Schiller Heights, Marbach: July 22, 2015, between 5 and 6 PM
Torgasse, Marbach: July 23, 2015, between 2:30 and 4 PM
Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin: July 25, 2015, between 2 and 3:30 PM
Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam: July 26, 2015, between 12:30 and 2 PM
Anhalter Bahnhof, Berlin: July 27. 2015, between 4:30 and 6 PM
Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, Berlin: July 28, 2015, between 9 and 10:15 AM
Palace and Church, Höchst: July 29, 2015, between 2 and 3:15 PM
Palace Tower, Höchst: July 30, 2015, between 9:30 AM and 12 PM
Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin: July 31, 2015, between 5 and 6:30 PM
Vienna Stadtpark: August 1, 2015, between 3:30 and 5 PM
Arrival in Windischgarsten: August 2, 2015, between 3 and 4 PM
Second day in Windischgarsten: August 3, 2015, between 3 and 4 PM
Third day in Windischgarsten: August 4, 2015, between 1 and 2 PM
Fourth day in Windischgarsten: August 5, 2015, between 3 and 4 PM
Fifth day in Windischgarsten: August 6, 2015, between 1 and 2 PM

January – April 2016

This exhibit has closed.