T t's 7:30 a.m., and Warren Kimble is hard at work painting a lighthouse against an optimist's best blue sky. Like Kimble, the water is calm. If he gets tired, Kimble can always climb onto the swing that hangs from one of the rafters of the 1810 barn where he works and pump the tension away. If he gets bored, he can play with some of his favorite things: marionettes, model trains, and antique beach pails. But the 64-year-old Kimble, one of America's best-known folk artists, rarely gets tired - or bored. "Life's too short for that," he says, beaming and sipping his morning tea.
And indeed they do, marching through Kimble's handsome kitchen and dining room, touching Kimble-designed pieces of furniture as they go, appraising the Noah's Ark-bedecked sideboard, gawking at the original paintings of whimsical cats and cows displayed against Kimble-designed wallpaper. It's a veritable love fest as the women take notes: "An tiqued island with Holstein cow in kitchen," writes one. "Blue-painted sideboard with Kimble barn dishes on display," writes another. Back at home, they plan to transform their kitchens into something resembling his.
But don't expect to see a Kimble painting on display at any of the nation's leading art galleries, even those that cater exclusively to American art or folk art. While it's clear that Americans love Kimble, the work of the artist who made the Holstein cow decorated with a black splotch in the shape of Vermont famous is considered too schlocky, patriotic, and "accessible" in the fine-art world and too refined in the folk-art world, where formal training is anathema.