With a paintbrush in hand, and her sharp poetic wit punctuating her finished paintings, Beverly Kemp tackles politics, deliverance, and Parkinson’s with a ferocious sense of humor and motion. “Where is the law, the code, regulation, decree, clause or motion that keeps a government from sticking its nose up a woman’s womb,” reads the description to her painting, No Justus, which features exaggerated justices and architecture posed “holier than thou” over a topless and disheveled lady liberty.
Beverly started a versatile career as an artist at 2 years old, fashioning paper dolls out of magazine scraps. Her passion for art peaked while on a field trip to see “Trading at Westport Landing,” the Kansas City Mural by Thomas Hart Benton. A few years later, she personally met the artist while he was putting the finishing touches his mural “Frankie and Johnnie”. She stood in awe of the flapper era characters when Benton handed her a brush and told her to fill in Frankie’s red dress. “People need a little encouragement – that’s how they get into it…to know what to do with their thoughts. It’s more than teaching someone, it’s engaging them.” Beverly has now taught over a thousand students of all ages after receiving her Masters of Art at the University of Texas.
“I try to finish a painting before I start something else. I’ll finish 99%, let it sit for a while, and add odds and ends afterward.” Her creative inspiration is limitless: “Even when I pick up a piece of string I want to do something with it,” Beverly chimes. “I try to capture movement in my painting. I want to see emotion in paintings. Like Van Gogh. I try to build up paint on the canvas to show dimensions.” Beverly is now working on a few different paintings – an homage to the Bastrop Fires (a series of wildfires outside of Austin, TX that destroyed millions of acres of houses and trees), and paintings reminiscent of childhood in Missouri including one entitled “Sex, Lies, & the Big Bad Wolf.”
“Sometimes I think I’ve had it all my life. I’ve always been clumsy and awkward,” Beverly says of her Parkinson’s diagnosis. “It keeps me stationary. Otherwise I’d be out grocery shopping, but I’m aware of my stumbling along. When I paint, I slow down; if I’m feeling weak, I paint more. Sometimes during the day, I have more focus and control.” But Beverly’s work is just as powerful, and to her the disease is “a whisper in the background.”
This post is part of an ongoing blog series “Artists and Parkinson’s.” As an artist with Parkinson’s, I was motivated to connect with other artists who have Parkinson’s and find out about their body of work, how the disease has affected them and what accommodations they have made as a result.
To raise awareness of PD and money for research, I created a line of distinctive tulip jewelry. The tulip is a symbol for PD. For the entire month of April, I am donating 10% of all jewelry sales to be split between the American Parkinson Disease Association and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.