By Sujata Dand
On the day Danielle Kimzey’s son was born, she woke up at 6 a.m. with labor pains. The early morning light caught her eye. The slow-rising sun was gently slipping in through her shaded window at her home in Little Forest Hills.
“The light was so cool,” Kimzey (pictured at right with her children) remembers. “And, I also knew that I was going to give birth that day.”
That moment unfolds in her painting, “Waking Up in a Tiny House,” which will be on display at Galleri Urbane in Downtown Dallas beginning this Saturday as part of Kimzey’s first solo exhibition. The show is titled Viewfinder and features a fragmented glance into the everyday world of the artist and mother of three young children through a series of new paintings.
“I tried really hard to create art that showcases what I see as the quiet, overlooked moments that make up my day-to-day life,” Kimzey explains.
The SMU graduate grew up in North Dallas. She credits her love of art and all things creative to the influential women in her life: her mother, who was a photographer, and her grandmothers.
It was a seventh-grade art teacher who saw her drawing in the halls of her school who encouraged her to take an art class. That’s where she discovered her own talent.
“He challenged me,” Kimzey recalls. “I owe so much to him. He makes his students develop their language as an artist.”
After graduating from SMU with a BFA in Studio Art, she spent most of her 20s wandering on a tour of self-discovery. She had lost her mother to breast cancer during college and she felt lost without her biggest supporter. She traveled to Costa Rica and painted murals. She was a tour guide in Paris. Eventually, she made her way back to Dallas where she taught an art class at a private school. Feeling personal pressure to be someone “more conventionally successful,” she studied for the LSAT thinking that she could be a lawyer and help people.
“I was in the room taking the LSAT and while everyone was taking the test, I was doodling. I realized this wasn’t for me,” Kimzey laughs.
Instead, Kimzey applied to graduate school in art. At the University of Iowa, she found her voice and developed her personal style. Soon after, she and her husband writer Blake Kimzey moved to Southern California for his graduate studies.
“The light is so interesting there. Its hazy at times,” she recalls. “We lived in an area where the buildings were like structural grids. The color would reflect off different panels.”
She liked the way it looked. And, it further inspired her style: a mix between sharp structure, intangible light, layered colors and movement (pictured at right). Kimzey starts with images from moments she’s experienced like sitting under a beach umbrella, waking up from surgery, reading under the covers or watching her children draw.
She explores these moments through the physical process of painting.
“I dissect and analyze these moments from many directions through varying lenses, flipping time around and in on itself, and discover structures or patterns which I break apart until chaos and order intersect and harmonize and a greater significance unfolds,” Kimzey explains.
Two years ago, a couple of Kimzey’s paintings were featured in a group show at the Galleri Urbane. When her third child was six weeks old, the curator approached her about doing her first solo show. Despite having a newborn, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, Kimzey couldn’t say no.
“I was like so excited and so thrilled and I thought we can do this,” she said. “My husband was so supportive. He basically said anything you need, we can make it happen.”
The first step was to turn their garage into her studio so she could paint at home. Then came the work.
“It’s interesting trying to juggle everything. Everything builds one step at a time. If you look too far ahead, you get overwhelmed. So, I had to break it down into little moments knowing eventually I will create something.”
And, she did — a magical showcase of 11 paintings inspired by her family.
“I get really overwhelmed with memories. The fact that they are growing so fast. How do I capture this?! I will be out in the studio painting about something special about being with the kids. I really miss them, but I want to be out here and painting.”
Kimzey says she couldn’t be happier at this time in her life. “There’s often a misconception that the best art work is by people that are all in. For me and my husband, we care about being together and our family as our first priority. We know through personal experience how fragile life can be. That might make us less successful, but we feel like we are very successful because we have each other and we know that’s not something that everybody gets.”
A public opening reception for Viewfinder is on Saturday, May 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and a conversation with the artist will take place at 5:30 p.m.