I discovered the California artist, Kenton Nelson after I began writing Main Street. Though he paints figures and landscape, it is his architecture bathed in light that calls to me. Often when I wander around downtown Rocky Mount, I think of his beautiful work and know he would see what I see. Nelson traces his interest in painting back to his great uncle, Roberto Montenegro, renowned Mexican muralist and Modernist. The style of Nelson’s paintings has their origins in American Scene painting, Regionalism, and the work of the WPA artists of the 1930′s.
The moment I read…..the objective in his paintings is to idealize the ordinary, I knew he was for me. I understand that my romantic notions about the buildings along Main Street, the historic districts filled with significant architecture, my dream of a boutique hotel in the Masonic Building on Church Street, Machaven with its doors open to the community again, Stonewall Manor with a new roof and a full-time Director…..I know I’m missing lots and lots of money and the practicalities of preservation, but like Kenton Nelson, it can’t hurt to idealize the ordinary. Those of you who keep me company on Main Street are believers too. You love driving through the Mill Village checking on the progress of things. Love the American flags, the rocking chairs, having a great meal at The Prime Smokehouse, you even love arguing about the Community Center and the politics of it all, because that’s what people do when they care about a place and want what’s best. Let the paintings of Kenton Nelson ignite your imagination about what seems ordinary, but in fact, here in Rocky Mount, is extraordinary.