Pinkney Herbert '72
Pinkney Herbert ’72 on imbalance, improvisation, and art as an aphrodisiac.
The Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture at the University of Tennessee - Knoxville mounted a 30-year survey of the art of Pinkney Herbert in November. "Distilled: The Narrative Transformed" will travel around the country, exhibiting Pinkney's journey from figurativism to abstractionism.
The following are excerpts from an interview with Pinkney conducted in February 2014:
“In kindergarten there was a girl named Katie who I had a crush on. She came by and paused in front of a tempera painting I was doing. She looked at it, and I liked her, so I gave the painting to her. She smiled and kind of lit up and I thought, Oh my God, there’s some power here.
“I remember painting as much as I could at Episcopal and took as many classes from Mr. Lisanick as I could. I was really blown away when we had field trips to Washington. Going to the Corcoran Gallery was very moving, and the National Gallery was great.
“We had an art cabinet in our kitchen when my two daughters were growing up. They would come down for breakfast, and before they even ate anything they would pull out markers and pens and paint and just make work. It was like brushing their teeth. It was second nature.
“I’d let them use power tools in my studio. It would scare the living daylights out of my wife. But they had to learn. Nail guns… They were careful. Nothing happened.
“A lot of great work comes out of a sense of anxiety or a sense of need, and that creates an edge.
“As artists I think it’s important to have a sense of imbalance so that we can try to put things into focus or back into balance. A sense of duality creates a sense of tension, and every great work of art has a sense of tension to it.
“I’m not out to make pretty pictures. I always promised myself I wasn’t going to look over my shoulder, I wasn’t going to pander or make work just in order to sell. I’ve never wanted to give my audience something that’s easy.
“You don’t have to be an artist or an art historian or a rocket scientist or an art lover to respond to my work. You can just be who you are. I really appreciate and welcome all kinds of interpretations. The conversation is what we’re trying to have here. That’s what art is about. Making connections.
“I’ve had some dry spells. I’ve had those moments, and that’s when I like to change medium. I’ll do sculpture, work three-dimensionally. I’m not very good at it, but it’s a different behavior. You’ve got to change your behavior. Sometimes I’ll practice some yoga, or I’ll put on a different kind of music.
“I still love the Woody Allen saying, ‘Eighty percent of success is just showing up.’ We all make excuses. If all you do in the studio is sit and look, that’s productive, that’s good. Just look.”
to see a selection of Pinkney's art.
Pinkney Herbert received his B.A. from Rhodes College and his M.F.A. from the University of Memphis. He maintains studios in Memphis and New York, and he is the founder and director of the alternative gallery Marshall Arts. He has also taught painting and drawing at a variety of schools and universities, including the University of Memphis. Learn more at www.pinkneyherbert.com.