Treasured Local Artist Jac Kephart Is Celebrated Globally

 Photography by  Cat Mayer

Photography by Cat Mayer

He once drew inspiration from the planet Mars. His work is featured in private and corporate art collections as far as Japan and England. He has shown and sold paintings in galleries across the United States. He travels to New York once a year, just to see what’s going on in the art world. While Jac Kephart’s 50-years-and-counting career as a painter and mixed media artist has taken him and his work to faraway places, Grand Junction is where it all started and Grand Junction has always been home. 

    As a fine art student at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University), Kephart earned the Artist of the Year award in 1958 and 1959. Through connections at the school and the Art Center, where he served for many years on the board, Kephart gained recognition and earned his first local gallery shows. Throughout his career, Kephart has shown his gratitude for both institutions by donating original works. Most recently, CMU received a series of mixed media paintings inspired by Buzz Aldrin’s writings on colonizing Mars, which are displayed in Wubben Hall and Science Center. 

    Traditional-leaning local tastes, the growing acceptance of abstract work, and his internal struggle over artistic passions mark the evolution of Kephart’s expansive career. “Oil painting, watercolor, pastel … I do them all,” he says, a humble understatement of his capabilities. From still-life settings that could be mistaken for photographs, to exacting traditional landscapes, to transcendent abstracts — the variety in Kephart’s body of work is rare, and his execution is masterful.

     For years Kephart was a painter only by night. By day he and his wife, Pat, ran Jac’s Flowers in Grand Junction, where he won awards for his floral designs. “It was a way to support my art habit until I got established in galleries across the country,” he says. “Also, that starving artist thing never appealed to me.” 

    After decades of making traditional art that devolved into a “depressing chore,” Kephart returned to his first love of the art world  —  abstract painting, incorporating metals and tar. He was unsure how galleries would receive the change, but it proved to be a positive move for the artist’s soul and wallet. The Breckenridge Gallery even showed his traditional work alongside his abstracts, which Kephart says is uncharacteristic of high-end galleries. 

Jac Kephart-018Web.jpg

    Kephart credits Pat, his spouse of more than half a century, as his biggest inspiration and influence. “You try and be unusual in everything you do as far as subject matter, and how you paint, so that you cut your amount of competition down. I bounce ideas off of her. In fact, she’s better for that than anybody else I’ve known, even other artists,” says Kephart. “She’s a super interior designer and has a great eye for telling me what I’m doing wrong!” 

    The couple’s home is a gallery and a work of art itself. They drew the plans themselves 35 years ago and traded a painting to an architect friend to make the blueprints. Pat has chosen beautiful finishes and has elegantly arranged pieces of their art collection in every room. Their home will be open to the public during a ticketed event this spring, as part of a local collector showcase organized by the Art Center.

    Kephart continues to paint, travel, and garden with Pat, and he contributes to the growing local arts community whenever he can. He intentionally does not maintain a website, in deference to the galleries that feature his work. He is currently showing at the Matthews Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico (thematthewsgallery.com), and at Breckenridge Gallery in Breckenridge, Colorado (breckenridgegallery.com). Kephart’s work can be seen periodically in local shows, as well as in the permanent collection of the Western Colorado Center for the Arts.