White Hall Native is Potpourri 2018’s Featured Artist in auction, exhibition
By Shannon Frazeur
Known often for cityscapes and architectural landmarks of Little Rock, painter John Kushmaul has been a part of the central Arkansas art scene for more than 20 years. In Pine Bluff, he’s lending his eye for capturing scenes and structures as the featured artist for the Arts & Science Center’s Potpourri 2018 Exhibition and Art Auction.
Kushmaul, who grew up in White Hall, served as juror for the 2018 Pine Bluff Art League Annual Juried Exhibition, held at ASC in September.
His 20 pieces in the ASC auction include recognizable buildings from Pine Bluff and Jefferson County — such as downtown landmarks the Saenger Theatre and the Hotel Pines, and the Mammoth Orange burger stand in Redfield. He also explored less traveled or identifiable spots in the county. Train tracks and other roadways feature prominently in several other paintings.
Kushmaul’s years in Jefferson County are reflected in his art, particularly the outdoors. His pieces often involve “trying to capture the temperature of the place,” he said. “It always seemed like when we moved to Pine Bluff it had a very specific temperature in the summertime.”
“Since I work with photography a lot, I try to focus in on moments like that and part of the moment is just the climate. And there’s a bit of culture to that too. So yeah, it’s still an influence, stretching back three decades and a half.”
His paintings have a dream-like quality but are mostly representational, based on photos he often takes himself.
“I try to keep it open for experimenting around,” he says.
Kushmaul works out of a small studio above the venerable Vino’s Brew Pub in downtown Little Rock; he’s had the space for 20 years. He also lives nearby, so scenes from the capital city’s downtown are naturally seen in many of his works.
Architecture is a favorite subject of his pieces. He likes varieties including buildings from the late 19th century to mid 20th century, buildings in decay, and buildings under construction.
“I did a bunch on the construction of the Broadway bridge down by the river; it kind of combines nature and architecture. I do a lot of people at work, but without the people, for the most part. I do sometimes paint pictures of people but they tend to not be commercially what I do.”
He was born in Selma, Ala.; his father was in the Air Force. His parents were both from Arkansas, and he had grandparents in White Hall. His family lived in Fayetteville, Ark., Louisiana, and Waldron, Ark., before then settling near White Hall when Kushmaul was in middle school. He graduated from White Hall High School in 1990.
Right after graduating from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in art, he “lucked into” a job in broadcast news. After four years, he quit to paint full time for about 14 years. He returned to TV seven years ago, and currently works at KARK-TV as an assignment editor.
Kushmaul has been showing at Gallery 26 in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood for the last 20 years; he had a show there last summer and was part of the gallery’s recent holiday show. Other Little Rock locations where his works can be seen include the CALS Butler Center Galleries in the River Market, Stephano's Fine Art Gallery, and Boulevard Bread Company’s Main Street location.
Keep up with Kushmaul’s work via his Instagram page.
ASC’s biennial fundraising event takes place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and proceeds from Saturday’s auction help support the Center’s free arts and STEAM programming.