Plein air paintings often capture more than the outward appearance of the landscape. For Mitch Kolbe, the series of paintings he created over the past 20 years of his family’s farm in North Carolina are a record of his life and heritage.
“Reading your editorial about plein air paintings [“Paintings That Record Sights, Sounds & Situations,” PleinAir, November 2012], got me digging through some old paintings I’d done of our family’s farm in North Carolina,” writes Florida artist Mitch Kolbe. “I wanted to send you photographs of some of those paintings. One depicts the old family farmhouse, built in 1925 on what was originally a 10-acre chicken farm. My father purchased the farm with money he sent home during World War II. After the war, he abandoned the idea of raising chickens and converted the property to a pony farm.
“The Tack Shed,” by Mitch Kolbe, 1993, oil, 7 x 10 in.
“Another painting is one I did of the tack shed in 1993. Originally, the building was a trading post. Another painting I did that same year is of the ‘biddy house,’ a name my mother gave to the henhouse. The building was completely round so the baby chicks couldn’t crowd one another in a corner and get trampled or suffocate weaker ones. It measures about 10 feet in diameter. In all my travels I have never seen another one like this but imagine it must have been common back in the day. As kids, we used to use it as a clubhouse. This painting recalls the smell of chickens, if you know what I mean.”
“The Biddy House,” by Mitch Kolbe, oil, 4 1/2 x 6 1/4 in.
“The Homestead,” by Mitch Kolbe, 2001, oil, 8 x 10 in.
Kolbe goes on, “The rest of the paintings record the history of my family, including the homestead in which my grandparents and great-grandparents lived, where I was born, and where my father died. My mother couldn’t afford to keep the farm going after my dad passed away, so the property was sold to a man who said he would keep the land intact. Of course he flipped it, and the new owners built a brick office complex on the property. Progress, I’m told. I’m grateful to have my paintings of what no longer exists.” For more information, visit www.mitchkolbe.com.