Paul Kant and one of his equine paintings. (photos provided)
NISKAYUNA Local artist Paul Kant was something of a force in the Capital Region. Known for his equine art, polo expertise and even riding a horse to Niskayuna High School, where he taught for over three decades, Kant made a name for himself not only within local art galleries but also throughout the world.
Kant died on Sept. 7 at the age of 83 after a long fight with Lewy Body Dementia. But even through such a loss, those that knew him remember his strong personality and lively spirit.
“He was unique, the epitome of ‘bigger than life,’ ” said Jim Gilbert, Kant’s stepson-in-law and the publisher of Nippertown, an online arts and culture magazine that has featured some of Kant’s artwork.
Kant was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, and spent some of his childhood years in Germany before immigrating to the United States at the age of 12. He attended Niskayuna High School, where he played soccer, the trumpet and dove into the arts.
After graduating, Kant went to Buffalo State University, which he paid for by working and selling his artwork. He then went on to receive a master’s degree in art education at the University at Albany and taught in Buffalo and Pennsylvania before finally landing back at Niskayuna High School as an art teacher, known for his high expectations for his students.
“He tolerated nothing except kindness and pleasantries,” said Laura DaPolito, Kant’s step-daughter and the community relations coordinator of Nippertown. “It’s funny to hear about him being this strict and hard-nosed teacher, but I think he was strict and hard-nosed because he was holding people to high standards.”
He retired from teaching in 1993, but his dedication to creating his own art continued, even through the final months of his life.
“He was still thinking and sketching in his last months,” said DaPolito.
A prominent feature of Kant’s art was the use of animals, particularly horses. He was an animal lover through and through, an admiration that began early in his life.
“As a small child, he had seen the animals treated badly in war and I think it taught him to honor their souls and their spirits,” DaPolito said.
When she first met him over 20 years ago, he lived with a number of dogs, cats and even a small pig inside his home. This presence continued into his sculptures and paintings.
“The majority of the work that I’ve enjoyed over the years of his have really focused on the human connection between animals and people,” DaPolito said. “He was really inspired by that connection and you can tell he had a very high regard for life.”
Kant’s artwork has been displayed at several local and national galleries, including The Laffer Gallery in Schuylerville, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady and the Lithuanian Museum of Art in Illinois. But though he was the artist, he was always more interested in how the viewer interpreted his work rather than how he meant to portray it.
“Tell me what you feel when you see this picture,” DaPolito recalled him saying as he spoke with gallery visitors.
In addition to a love for animals, Kant’s art also reflected his travels. He had been to over 70 countries throughout his life, including Argentina, Thailand and Italy.
Many of these visits were dedicated to his second specialty: polo. He had been a local player of polo since his youth and was even involved in the creation the Owl Creek Polo Club, Inc., so perhaps it’s no surprise that he participated in several international tournaments. His horses also came along for the journey — Kant had them shipped overseas to whatever tournament he was attending.
But whether he went abroad to play polo, paint or simply explore, his endeavors came through in his art.
“You can see some of that in how he represents art — you can see these worldly experiences influencing how he portrayed humans,” said DaPolito.
The most memorable part about Kant, however, was not his art, his polo ability or his traveling endeavors, but his character.
“I think how I will always remember him the most is genuinely invested in growing other people — he was invested in growing his students, in growing his grandchildren, even growing my own strength,” DaPolito said. “He had a large spirit, he had a really expansive vision of the world.”
Following his passing, fans of Kant’s art reached out, from Houston to Chicago to Cape Cod, highlighting just how influential of a creator he was.
“Hearing all these stories is very [heart]warming because that’s the one thing Paul really wanted — for his legacy to continue — and we know right now that it will continue,” said Gilbert. “His art isn’t going anywhere.”
Categories: Art, Email Newsletter, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Your Niskayuna


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