Arkansas Sketchbook

"Listening for the Fall" By Kendall Stallings
“Listening for the Fall”
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Kendall Stallings (2012)

The men in suits don’t belong outside. Trim and fastidious of dress (except when they aren’t—when their collars have been loosened), they are the sort who, rather than camping or canoeing, seem better settled in high-rise boardrooms or downtown office settings. It should come as no surprise, then, that for upward of 20 years, these men were fixtures in the commercial works painted by Russellville-born artist Kendall Stallings as he worked for an architectural rendering firm in Dallas. It wasn’t until computers staged their coup on the industry, making painters in his position gradually and effectively outmoded, that Stallings’ works began to feature his subjects in less-familiar settings.

Although he first painted his subjects because of the aesthetic appeal they offered, with the folds in their clothing and stark contrasts between the dark and light, and later the impact they made when inserted into landscapes, they’ve gradually taken on different meanings over time—continually shifting metaphors. The subjects have come to reflect what Stallings feels as he shuttles between his property in rural Arkansas and his home in Dallas, how we interact with the world, and the role we play in it. And even if he’s a bit reluctant to say what’s going on in the paintings—invoking Matisse’s quote about how an artist ought to begin by removing his tongue—Stallings will say, “When I come to Arkansas, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go back to Dallas—it’s just so beautiful [here],” he says. “The landscape is just knocked out—I’ll always consider Arkansas my home. And then when I come back to Dallas, there are things that I think I would miss if I were to move back to Arkansas.”

“[It’s just] me wrestling with my own mind and where I’m going to end up and what this all means.”

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