Artist Warren Kimble ’57 Inspires Joy

Posted in:

Posted on:

April 5, 2024, 10 a.m.
Warren Kimble's artistic impact extends across the globe, with his paintings sought after by collectors internationally.
photo of older man at top, painting of folk art cow and house in middle, words Folk Art at bottom

by Linda Dickerson Hartsock, Strategic Initiatives Advisor

Warren Kimble's artistic impact extends across the globe, with his paintings sought after by collectors internationally. His works have graced prestigious galleries in New York and Boston, as well as being featured in solo exhibitions at Syracuse University and a notable three-year showcase at Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

Residing and creating in the picturesque town of Brandon, located in western Vermont, Warren and his wife and business partner, Lorraine, also have a commitment to civic engagement that has been unwavering, spearheading initiatives such as the establishment of an artist's guild, creative spaces and galleries, and an art-led revitalization of downtown Brandon in collaboration with fellow artists and community leaders.

Trained initially as a fine artist at Syracuse University, Kimble's early work reflected a more traditional approach to painting and drawing. His time at Syracuse was a pivotal period in his artistic journey. As he likes to say, he was plucked by the university from his working-class hometown in New Jersey in 1953 without having taken an entrance exam. For that, he is most grateful. “They took a chance,” he says. Warren is a first gen college graduate.

As a student he was exposed to artistic styles and techniques that would later shape his distinctive imagery. Under the guidance of accomplished faculty members, Kimble honed his skills and experimented with different mediums, laying the foundation for his successful career as a folk artist. After graduation in 1957, he spent 21 years as an art teacher, moving to Vermont around 1970 to teach at Castleton State College, before becoming “discovered” on the rural Vermont scene around the age of 50. At that point he was exhibiting his work at local arts and crafts shows and festivals and had developed his iconic motif with its distinct and recognizable style.

During that time, he became widely known for incorporating elements of folk art and Americana into his work, drawing inspiration from his rural surroundings in Vermont. He developed his signature aesthetic that blends folk art motifs with nostalgic Americana themes, often featuring rural landscapes, farm animals, and everyday objects. His work expanded to include furniture and home décor, often made from found objects. His highly distinctive style became synonymous with Kimble’s name and garnered widespread acclaim and recognition.

Kimble also achieved celebrity status as one the most prolific art entrepreneurs of the past four decades. He collaborated with more than 50 companies to license his work, commercializing into a variety of mediums and formats, including prints, calendars, ceramics, wallpaper, and home goods. Despite his success, Kimble remained humble and grounded in his community, and his work remained rooted in his deep appreciation for traditional American culture and a sense of warmth and nostalgia. His prolific work, timeless pieces and iconic images over that era ensured his place as one of the most celebrated folk artists of his generation.

While Kimble is known as a contemporary folk artist, over the past two decades he branched out into other styles, most notably a mixed-media series titled “Widows of War,” which debuted at Vermont’s Shelburne Museum. While listening to news about the Iraq war, Kimble was looking at a dressmaker’s mannequin he had recently purchased at an antique shop and had placed in front of a window in his room at the Vermont studio center. That form seemed to represent “the mothers, wives, daughters who have lost a loved one and are waiting by their windows wondering what to do,” he says.

From that followed a series of bright, vibrant abstract paintings called, “Let the Sun Shine” reflecting his optimism and hope. He remains a prolific artist working in his Brandon studios and experimenting in many mediums, including wood, sculptural objects, found objects and large canvas, using unusual techniques and colors. His most recent work includes experimenting with broom painting, manipulating, and moving paint using just one common kitchen item -- a long-handled broom -- and playing with line, shape, movement, space, and composition. His recent works are dynamic and abstract imagery that blend rich, often earthy tones, with sometimes shimmering effects.

At 89, he is still a prolific artist and approaches each day with joyful creativity and humility, spreading his enthusiasm to the rest of Brandon’s art community and throughout the State of Vermont.

His studios and galleries are full of Syracuse University memorabilia that capture his memories as a proud SU student and alum. As a student, he was a cheerleader, sports enthusiast, and student leader, serving in many roles in student organizations and activities. He became the head football cheerleader for the university, back when Jim Brown, one of the greatest running backs of all time, commanded the field. He remains one of Syracuse’s most enthusiast alumni. He proudly flies an Otto flag in front of his Main Street home in Brandon, cheerfully noting that everyone knows where he lives, not just because of his art gallery next door, but because of his visible Orange pride. Of his many accomplishments, he is especially proud of his prestigious George Arents Pioneer Medal presented by Syracuse University in 2002 – the highest honor bestowed by the university on a distinguished graduate.

Despite his public notoriety, Kimble remains incredibly humble and committed to his craft and his community. In fact, he could be considered Brandon’s head cheerleader. He is proud of The Brandon Artists Guild, a vibrant group of Vermont artists and artisans, co-founded 25 years ago by Kimble and local arts and community leaders. He loves to retell the story of how the group went viral in 2003 with the advent of “The Really Really Pig Show.” Forty life-sized fiberglass pigs were designed and decorated by Guild artists, town members and students from area schools. Kimble’s enthusiasm – and that of Guild members -- was contagious and soon the entire community became involved. The pigs were unveiled at Brandon’s traditional Memorial Day parade and displayed all summer throughout the village. They were then auctioned off to benefit the arts in Brandon. The first event of its kind in Vermont, the Pig Show attracted thousands of visitors and helped establish Brandon as an exciting and quirky arts destination. Funds raised from the project enabled the Guild to purchase and renovate a historic downtown building as a gallery that has become a well-known stop for Vermont art enthusiasts.

The group leveraged the success of the Pig Show to create a popular series of other community-wide art projects based on birdhouses, then rocking chairs, artist palettes, cats, and dogs, and finally, clocks, with “Art Makes Brandon Tick.” This year, in celebration of the Guild’s 25th anniversary, Kimble is embarking on a “piglet” project – engaging 70 volunteer artists to decorate smaller scale “piglet” wood boards, which will be on display through Brandon this summer. He is enthusiastically leading the piglet charge, cheerfully noting that by now the original pigs have had babies and celebrating a next generation of creative play and adventure. He recently organized a 25th anniversary celebration for the Guild to celebrate how it has grown into a vibrant community of artists and artisans, united by a shared passion for creativity and collaboration.

Through his timeless and iconic work, and his sense of joy, he inspires all to pause, reflect, and rediscover the beauty that surrounds us – in everyday moments and objects, in familiar landscapes, and in the shared experiences that bind people together as community.

He looks forward to returning to Syracuse on April 10, 2024 to share his remarkable journey, which reminds us of the profound impact that one artist can have on the world. Reflecting on his perspective, experiences, and artistic growth, he is keener than ever to share his remarkable folk wisdom.

Back to posts

Previous Next