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Major Exhibit of Lee Kannally paintings Opens Nov. 23rd at Oracle State Park

By Val Bembenek, FOSP Member

An extensive exhibit of work by self-taught cowboy artist Lee Kannally, who began painting after returning from World War I, will open on Saturday, Nov 23, at the Kannally ranch house at Oracle State Park.

Among the colorful, impressionistic-style paintings: mounted cowboys driving a herd of cattle across a dusty landscape, single riders on leaping horses, and three stylistic depictions of a guitar-playing cowboy with ballerina dancers.

Many of the nearly 30 oils by Leonard L. “Lee” Kannally (1888-1971) are on public display for the first time in decades. Twenty-three are on loan from Oracle Historical Society and the remainder are owned by Friends of Oracle State Paark. All are in their original “rustic” frames.

Saturday activities, which are free with park admission, include guided tours of the ranch house at 10AM and 2PM; live soft bluegrass music from 1-2 and 3-4PM with “David Liers and the Creosote Ring”; and cowboy chili and corn bread lunch for free-will donation. A long-lost black and white home-movie video of Kannally family members at home will be shown throughout the day, and a book of letters Lee Kannally wrote to family members while he was overseas during the war will be on display for reading.

Kannally suffered nerve damage due to gas poisoning while stationed in Siberia. According to one historic account, “he did most of his painting while kneeling next to his bed while the canvas was laid flat. This minimized the involuntary movements” that were the effects of his war injuries. He painted for therapy and for his own pleasure and neither gave a title to, signed, or dated his pieces. An expert horseman and roper, his often whimsical canvasses feature a mix of cowboys, horses, steers, campfires, and dancers.

The exhibit will remain on display through April at the park, which is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 8AM to 5PM.

Visitors are invited to write comments in a special notebook on the art, and those who knew the Kannallys are encouraged to put down any memories of Lee during the years he was painting or of the family, who established the cattle ranch in the early 1900s.

Information about other weekend activities is available by visiting www.azstateprks.com/Parks/ORAC or calling the park at 520-896-2425. The park is open seasonally on a limited basis: October through April, Saturdays and Sundays and weekdays by reservation. The park entrance is just off Mt. Lemmon Rd., in Oracle; park admission is $7 per vehicle.

Painting by Lee Kannally. Courtesy of Oracle Historical Society.