As Kenneth Falana gears up for his retrospective exhibition “Six Decades” at the Anderson Brickler Gallery, he reflects back on his childhood passion for art.
A young Falana gazed in wonder at the massive paintings and sculptures adorning the Ringling Museum of Art near his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. The now-internationally recognized printmaker and collage artist was inspired to begin drawing by these masterworks.
Growing up during segregation, art instruction was not available in Falana’s primary school education. Once he graduated from high school, he attended a community college that also lacked an art program.
He chose to study his second love, biology. Working on a farm to help support his family, Falana was familiar with the growth and flowering of plants and his fascination with landscapes and botany placed him at the top of his class. In his junior year however, Falana transferred to Florida A& M University to study art education and never looked back.
“When I switched from biology to art, those professors opened up a window for me and what I wanted to do,” says Falana. “Before I always looked into the building through the window, but with them I learned how to step through the door and begin creating what I felt inside.”
The decision led Falana to his decades-long career as a scholar, artist and professor. With an MFA from University of Wisconsin-Madison, he earned Professor Emeritus status in printmaking at FAMU before retiring in 2011. Though that was seven years ago, Falana continues to produce new works, not feeling one bit of his 78 years.
“I’m up at three and four o’clock in the morning working,” says Falana. “I can’t stop. It’s almost like something is driving me now to work on more than one piece at a time.”
Always voracious for new information, Falana’s studies in modern art, abstract expressionism and surrealism are all present in his printmaking and silkscreen techniques.His love for investigation has led him to innovate his own technique, silkscreen construction collage.
The process involves painting color inks on large sheets of paper, then cutting and juxtaposing them together to create large-scale abstractions.
He discovered this process by happy accident one night after silkscreening 20 prints that he found unsatisfactory. Taking his scissors, Falana cut up the prints and found interesting patterns emerging in the foreground as he rearranged the pieces. In his early work he would use found images to collage, but now makes his own color gradations and materials for each piece.
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