Jenni Avins

Monumental: Kevin Devine, Mirth Magazine

We know what IT is and we know TIME and we know everything is really FINE. – Jack Kerouac

Kevin Devine has found existential freedom. It’s written all over his face and tattooed on one side of his ribcage: audaces fortuna iuvat, “fortune favors the bold.” It’s not only a good look for the multi-media artist, it’s a mantra. Since 2002, his work has been exhibited nationally and published globally. He is prone to declarations like, “our actions are our legacy,” but not to taking it all too seriously. Devine may be alive and kicking, but he hasn’t gotten here without spending a bit of time, as he puts it, “among the dead.”

His journey began passing through Queens on his way to JFK International Airport. A tad disillusioned with creating stylized drawings that amounted to mere illustration, Devine found himself driving by sprawling graveyards, faced with fields of monuments to lives passed. It seemed…grand.

“ The idea of a monument to a person’s life is more positive then negative,” Devine explains.
“We all must perish, and a gravestone is proof that an individual once was… and how amazing is that? It’s magic! It’s grandiose!”

So Devine began venturing to graveyards like Queens’ Cavalry Cemetery and Brooklyn’s Cypress Hills to work on “Monuments,” a series of gravestone rubbings juxtaposing the tombstones’ heavy sobriety with bright strokes of color. His original intention was to create celebratory records of somber memorials. But, spending time in graveyards has a way of changing one’s perspective.

He started to notice broken stones and inscriptions worn away. Buried bodies became an absurdity, thoughts of worm food entered his mind and, before long, the work became about something else entirely…not so much the lives that passed by, but the inevitably of all of our fates. More susceptible to Dada than depression, Devine pressed on, polishing oil pastels on rice paper, remixing effigies as he went.

The resulting rubbings are luminescent reminders that our fates are all the same. Works that initially appear to be about death end up as affirmations of vitality and life. Whether they strike the viewer as sad, funny or liberating, the message is to make the most of our mortal days.