Dean Kube


I create contemporary abstract portraits as an expression of collaborative self-reflection and in homage to the beautiful uncertainty of life. As I paint, my subjects share their vulnerability through their energy and physicality, and as I observe and visually render this I am able to examine and express my own. I paint these invisible yet palpable energies using intentionally unfamiliar tools and emotive gestures that honor this co-sharing of self-reflection between painter, subject, and viewer. In turn, my paintings depict both unique individuals and the dynamism of personhood.
Constructing this collaborative self-reflection across three perspectives requires that I nourish a personal connection with my subjects. I use paint as a conduit to channel and capture this connection and to create a bridge to the viewer. By approaching my subjects from a place of self-reflective observation and reverence I am able to closely examine the unnamable— the honest, raw, unabashed, and precarious aspects of living. I then invite viewers to bring their own life experiences and histories into these visual narratives. I believe the beauty of my practice comes from the individual interpretation that develops within the minds of those viewing and experiencing what I create.
Each painting begins from a place of ecstatic uncertainty and a desire to work through the unknown and to follow the guidance of the energy I perceive in a person or moment. It is life’s ambiguity that is my greatest source of inspiration: mistakes, bumps, and blemishes are what makes life rich with texture and experience. I paint with acrylic on birch because I want to work with tools that feel unfamiliar to me. This unfamiliarity fosters an unsystematic painting approach that can better capture energy in an honest and expressive way. From traditional paintbrushes and acrylic paint, to printmaking rollers and charcoal; using a wide array of materials and tools in this manner allows for mishaps and missteps to naturally occur in my process. This takes my original vision to places I could never preplan for. It is in this experimentation that I find my work truly begins to reveal itself and the energy of my subject can begin to resonate and take shape. I believe there is power in embracing the struggle that working with paint presents. By working through each painting in layers and embracing uncertainty, my process mirrors the struggles of every day life and further nourishes the narrative of the painting. This engages viewers in the immediacy of the work and it offers them permission to create a personal sense of meaning within the piece. These infinitely colorful interpretations of my work replenish my personal energy and self-reflection and in turn propel my creative process. The cyclical nature of this process and the intimacy garnered across these fields of self-reflection are how I find and make meaning of the fleeting moments and malleable energies in the world.

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