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Innocence & Music is Life: Ahmad Austin Exhibition Recap

Ahmad Austin’s gloriously vivid palette knife painting have filled Kentuck’s two gallery spaces for the month of February. Our Teer Gallery displays his energetic and colorful paintings of musicians, while our Museum Gallery is filled with bold, emotional representations of young black children. Each exhibition resonates differently, but both fully represent the artist’s lively palette knife technique, as well as his emotional connection to each subject.

“When I am painting it’s as if time doesn’t exist.”

Music is Life, located in the Teer Gallery, bursts with movement and playfulness. While creating, Ahmad listens to jazz and certainly captures the essence and passion of the music in paint. Ahmad’s musicians bend and sway on the canvas, orchestrating their own silent performance to each viewer. Not only do Ahmad’s energetic colors and textures draw the viewer’s attention, but the titles of the work, like Ketchup and Fries (above left), give the viewer feel for Ahmad’s good sense of humor and laid back character. However, Ahmad’s easy-going nature does not prevent him from exploring emotionally heavy subjects.

“I’m very easy going, maybe a little too much, I think some of the emotions I hold back come out in my painting.”

Across our campus, Ahmad’s Museum Gallery exhibition, Innocence, is aptly named. Diving into emotionally charged work, Ahmad has created a stunning grouping of portraits inspired by the young children that he has taught in the Birmingham area for over 20 years. Walking into the exhibition, each viewer finds themselves face-to-face with expressive portraits, full of texture, color, and emotion. These paintings wonderfully display each child’s innocence and exude a calming energy. His thick palette knife techniques balance beautifully with the intimate view of the child in each piece.

“I’ve been teaching for a long time, and I realized that a lot of our kids go through a lot of things, see a lot of things that we probably wouldn’t be able to relate to. Beyond all that, there’s a lot of innocence, and I just find it captivating.”

Passionate about teaching, Ahmad not only continues to teach high schoolers in Birmingham, but he also teaches palette knife workshops throughout the year. When he is not creating his own work, he finds joy in teaching his technique to a new generation of emerging young artists.

Image from Ahmad's workshop at Kentuck Art Center

A respected artist in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Ahmad has been internationally recognized. His work can be found across the United States, as well as in Italy and Ireland. Ahmad has exhibited at Lowe Mill, The Little Green Store, Thomas Andrew Art, and the Kentuck Festival of the Arts.

Art Night Artist Talk:

Music Is Life and Innocence will be on view at Kentuck in Downtown Northport until February 27, 2022. We encourage you to see this show in person! Interested in purchasing a piece from the show? Call Kentuck at 205-758-1257 or email Please click on an image for a closer look.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Innocence Available Works:

Music Is Life Available Works:

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