New-to-Town Artist to Make First Thursday Debut

Kimberly McBride Channels Cultural Icons in Self-Made Films

Kimberly McBride and one of her paintings of Robert Johnson
Catherine Meagher

Don’t let artist Kimberly McBride’s mysteriously dark video personality fool you; on the outside, she’s as friendly and good-natured as they get, with a contagious laugh and a love for her art. She’ll be at Couch on July 1 to display some of her work as part of First Thursday.

Self portrait
Kimberly McBride

Although McBride has recently lived in places such as Beverly Hills and Portland, Oregon, she’s called Santa Barbara her home since April, when she moved here with her fiancé, Allen Branch. According to Branch, she’s “fallen in love with it to say the least.”

McBride does all her work at home, creating videos, paintings, drawings and photographs.

“Painting is something that was always there, but film is something I’ve always loved,” she said. “I love my video work the best.”

The videos she makes are created completely by McBride — there are no other actors, editors or designers besides McBride herself. To create a video, she chooses a cultural icon and portrays a certain aspect or event of their lives. For example, she recreates the scenario of a meeting between Andy Warhol and David Bowie as part of one of the first videos she ever made, “Andy Warhol’s Silver Factory.”

In the past two years, she has made about 300 videos. Now, she’s working on a short film, called “Meet” about Kurt Cobain and William Burroughs. In Branch’s words, she’s “channeling” these icons in her videos.

“It’s like playing rock star,” she said.

McBride’s paintings are also a huge part of her work as an artist, as is the method she uses to paint — she avoids paintbrushes and uses only her hands. Even so, her portraits are detailed and composed, with special attention to emotion conveyed through the eyes. Specifically, she has painted the artist Robert Johnson a few times, portraying his eyes differently in one to the next. Why?

“I have no idea why,” she said. “There’s something hopeless and hopeful about the eyes.”

As far as choosing which icons to portray in a video or painting, a lot of it comes down to liking the work that they’ve done; it “just has to fit,” she said. A lot of inspiration has simply come from someone telling her she looks like someone famous—for example, Tom Cruise—or from one thing she’s done that leads to another. The fact that Robert Johnson, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix all died at age 27 struck McBride as interesting; she’s created art relating to all four.

At Couch next Thursday, she plans have her videos projected on the walls around the paintings. In addition, she will be there painting, a sort of live show for those who want to see her slap color on a canvas with her bare hands.


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