Keith Kavanaugh

Encaustic Landscape Painting by Keith Kavanaugh

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My work is often small in size, but rich in texture, muted colors, weathered surface, scratched and scraped areas, and translucent layers of beeswax. Organic by definition.

My inspiration is the tension between our shared external world and our private internal world. I’m interested in the memory of being in a place, at a time, under certain conditions and I convey that feeling in my work rather than represent the place itself. I think of it as improvisation with landscape as a reference point.

Creating these paintings strengthens my connection to the world around us. My belief is that the natural world is everything there is, ultimately, and representing it in pigment helps remind me I'm part of it, not an observer of it. As Pollack said "I am nature."

I began using beeswax many years ago mostly because it’s a natural, unprocessed medium. It's translucent, it has body, it's reworkable, it's sculptural, it allows – and requires – me to work quickly. Being a jazz musician for many years, I approach it like an improvised solo, by getting out of the way and being in the moment. I build up many thin layers of pigmented wax and medium to evoke the larger feeling of a place and time when viewed at a distance, but abstract and interesting when viewed up close. Like nature.

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Missouri artist Keith Kavanaugh sees a connection between the spontaneity of jazz and the act of painting. Working in the ancient medium of encaustic, each landscape is an improvisation on his memory of a place in time. While they may look traditional at first glance, a closer inspection reveals the rich surface and translucent layers unique to melted beeswax. Influenced by the Tonalists, Kavanaugh works with a palette of muted colors to reconstruct the ambiguous memories of places he frequents.

As a working jazz musician for 30 years, Kavanaugh is intimately familiar with the the process of improvising and the Zen state of mind cultivated to create something in the moment. In an aural medium one can often “hear” colors in various sound sources or harmonies, while in a visual medium it’s not unusual to “see” rhythmic patterns or dissonant layers of color. Kavanaugh explores this intersection of the mediums through quick application of paint to panel, not knowing where it may take him but enjoying the journey just the same.

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  • 2019 Rolling Hills Presbyterian Church, Overland Park, Kan. (group)
  • 2018 Vivilore Restaurant and Gallery, Independence, Mo. (group)
  • 2017 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2017 Main Street Coffee House, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2016 Sheridan Dental, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2016 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2016 Contours Salon, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2015 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2014 Margaret Harwell Museum, Poplar Bluff, Mo. (solo)
  • 2014 Roeland Park City Hall Art Gallery, Roeland Park, Kan. (duo)
  • 2013 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2012 Tavern of Fine Arts Center, St. Louis, Mo. (group)
  • 2012 Bowlus Fine Arts Center, Iola, Ks. (solo)
  • 2012 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (duo)
  • 2011 ARTichokes, Leawood, Kan. (group)
  • 2011 Leopold Gallery, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2011 Primary Colors Gallery, Independence, Mo. (solo)
  • 2010 Garment District Boutique, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2010 ARTichokes, Leawood, Kan. (group)
  • 2009 WestPatrons Gallery, Overland Park, Kan. (solo)
  • 2008 ARTichokes, Leawood, Kan. (group)
  • 2008 Shirley Stiles Gallery, Westwood, Kan. (solo)
  • 2007 The Late Show Gallery, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2007 Kansas City, Kan. Public Library, West Wyandotte branch (solo)
  • 2007 Bulldog Restaurant, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2007 Steve Nuss Ltd, Westwood, Kan. (duo)
  • 2006-2007 The Cross Gallery , Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2006 The Late Show Gallery, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2006 Kansas City, Kan. Public Library, Main branch (solo)
  • 2006 Kansas City, Kan. Public Library, Mr. & Mrs. F.L. Schlagle branch (solo)
  • 2005 The Late Show Gallery, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2003-2010 The Late Show Gallery, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2000-2013 Hobbs Building Open Studios, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2004 Muddy's Coffeehouse, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2001 Cultures Without Borders, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 2001 Muddy's Coffeehouse, Kansas City, Mo. (solo)
  • 2000 The Grand Nude, Kansas City, Mo. (group)
  • 1991 Art in the Woods, Overland Park, Kan. (group; Phillip Pearlstein, juror)


  • Margaret Harwell Art Museum, Poplar Bluff, Mo.
  • Stowers Institute, Kansas City, Mo.
  • H&R Block Art Collection, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Sprint Corporation Art Collection, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Heartland Spine and Specialty Hospital, Overland Park, Kan.
  • Private collections



  • 1996-present Owner, BauWau Design (web design & development, graphic design)
  • 1987-present Musician, freelance drummer in jazz idiom


  • 1990 B.S., Art and Design, Park College, Parkville, Mo.
  • 1989-1990 Course work, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Mo.
  • 1987 B.M., Jazz Performance, Berklee College of Music, Boston, Mass.
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