Profile: Reginald K (Kevin) Gee (1964-)

Reginald K (Kevin) Gee is a contemporary artist who for the past three decades has created hundreds of paintings, including the brown paper bag series (1995-2002). Gee broke into the art world at an outdoor exhibition in 1986 at Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center, now known as the Marcus Center. In 2013, the David Barnett Gallery held a 25-year retrospective of Gee’s paintings.

Early life

Reginald K Gee was born in 1964 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and spent most of his childhood on the northwest side in the Havenwoods neighborhood. Gee is of African and Native-American (Blackfoot/Choctaw) descent. The youngest of three siblings. Gee’s parents were from Mississippi, where his mother’s family worked as sharecroppers. Gee’s father, Hamilton R. Gee, was a World War II veteran who came to Milwaukee in the 1950s to work for International Harvester. Gee’s mother, Ethel L. Gardner Gee, was a seamstress who retired from American Motors Corporation. Early in life, Gee exhibited his artistic talent at Byron Kilbourn Elementary School.

Art career

Gee’s professional art debut occurred in February 1988 during an exhibition at the Dean Jensen Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Gee’s subject matter includes jazz musicians, surreal landscapes, seascapes, romance, fantasy and social commentary.  During the early 1990s, Gee’s art was shown at the Baltimore Folk & Visionary Art Show, the New York Outsider Art Fair and the National Black Fine Art Show at the Puck Building in New York City. In 2002, two of Gee’s paintings, “The Honest Crowd” and “Inspiration” were selected for the 2002 Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition, “In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” Another Gee painting, “Nationwide Tobacco Ban, © 1998,” was chosen for a campaign against smoking sponsored by the American Lung Association.

In an August 11, 1999 interview with the Milwaukee Journal’s art critic, James Auer, “The Visual Arts, “Artist listens to his life’s calling,” Gee speaks about his occasional anxiety attacks since childhood and the spiritual prophecy that had him move to San Francisco, start a ministry among the homeless and pursue the art career he started in Milwaukee. According to Contemporary American folk art: the Balsley Collection: “His paintings are figurative, abstract, surreal and narrative; they express, through the use of uninhibited color, the artist’s views of contemporary society.” In this book, Gee is quoted as saying, “A good piece of art is like a splendid city. It will continually offer and you hardly receive the entirety.” Upscale Magazine featured Gee in its April 2010 issue, “A Man Apart. Reginald Gee Draws Inspiration From The Human Experience.”

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