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Selective Focus: Matt Kania


Matt Kania is an artist who has won awards for his plein air paintings that capture the light, the feeling and the experience of being in a place. His work brings life to scenes that most of us would walk past without noticing.

MK: I am a professional oil painter and an original printmaker. With most of my artistry coming in recent years in the form of plein air painting (that’s French for ‘in open air’ or ‘on location’).

I have been direct painting – mostly en plein air – for 10 years and love how this form of artistry connects me to the surrounding world. It is thrilling to create something on a canvas that in one way conveys about how I felt to be in a particular place or situation. The act of painting enriches my joy for being alive and helps me to be fully cognizant of my environment.

Art making education has come through the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), Duluth Art Institute (DAI), Grand Marais Art Colony (GMAC), and the Highpoint Center for Printmaking (Minneapolis).

Born in the heart of Chicago and later raised in the farm country of Illinois, at an early age I was instilled with a deep appreciation for both urban environments and wide open spaces. In fact, to this day, I feel equally at home in a fast paced city and in the quiet of a far removed wilderness. As a result, my imagery tends to be eclectic. The commonality in my work is a reflection of the view that “all experiences are equal.”

Here are a few paintings that capture why I love to paint.

Happy Duluth Day, oil on canvas, 11×14
This painting received a Third Place Award at the July 2016 Duluth Plein Air – Paint Du Nord festival. I love this passageway across the inner harbor of Duluth. There are four green metal fish sculptures that protect the infamous “Blue Bridge across the Minnesota Slip.” Each one is unique in character and they make me smile every time I walk across the bridge. This was painted on location, en plein air.

Open House, oil on canvas, 14×11
Winter is a fabulous time to paint outdoors. Seriously. Here are some colorful canoes at rest and on display in mid-winter – at Camp Menogyn on Bearskin Lake in the BWCA. It’s an open air storage house called York Factory. I love the margin between the outside and inside worlds that this painting shows.

Friday Night, oil on canvas, 9×12
What better to do on a Friday Night in Grand Marais than to wash your car! … and to paint a nocturne. Yep, painted on location at night. This painting was an advancing entry in the 2014 Red Suspender Invitational – a part of the Grand Marais Plein Air event.

North Breakwater Light, oil on canvas, 12×9″
The colors and atmosphere of a summer morning – at Duluth’s north breakwater light.
I can paint this lighthouse a thousand times; the effects of light and season render many different views. And not always what you might expect.

This is a studio painting – no plein air here. It’s about the joy of baking bread – at Great Harvest, my favorite bread shop in Duluth. This painting received an Honorable Mention Award at the 2017 Fine Arts Exhibition, a premier annual showing of Minnesota artists at the Minnesota State Fair. And the subject is part of a broader collection of paintings that I’m working on about artists and artisans, and their labors of love.

My work is collected both publicly and privately. Locally, my work can be found at:

Lizzards Art Gallery and Framing – Duluth
Waters of Superior Gallery – Duluth
Yellow Bird Fine Art – Grand Marais

See the latest on my art at: mattkania.com

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