Charles Kinney (1906–1991)
Charles Kinney, nicknamed Charley, was a member of one of Kentucky’s most famous folk-artist families. Charley and his brother Noah, also an artist, lived their entire lives together on the family’s tobacco farm in Toller Hollow, Kentucky. He seldom attended school and when he did, preferred drawing to studying. A birth defect affected Charley’s respiratory system and limited his ability to work at hard labor. He spent his childhood close to the land, absorbing the local folklore and becoming a skilled hunter and trapper. Although Charley had sold carved animals and clay figures to local souvenir shops, he began painting seriously only in 1970. Over the next twenty years he executed several hundred watercolors on paper and cardboard. His paintings reflect his strong connection to nature as well as the legends and superstitions he had learned as a child. Animals, religious stories, spirits, and ‘haints’ (haunts) occupy the world of his art. He often added words written in phonetic script. The Kinney brothers were also celebrated for their talents as musicians. Charley played the fiddle while Noah played guitar. Charley’s life-sized puppets danced while he played his music and told folk tales.