Artist of the Week: Paul Kenneth

Paul Kenneth is a painter who lives and works in Chicago.  Paul recently received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is in our upcoming show Mugs at the LVL3 project space at the Merchandise Mart.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.  My name is Paul Kenneth and I am a painter. I was born in Minnesota in 1985. I was named by my siblings in honor of Paul Bunyan. I graduated with my BFA from SAIC in 2010. I know how to wield an ax. I once touched a shark. I love doing jigsaw puzzles. I am really into werewolves. I think of myself more as an entertainer than an artist.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say?  It is like sneaking into a rated R movie by yourself as an adolescent and sitting in the front row while eating a large extra butter popcorn and quenching your thirst with a large soda. Secretly enjoyable.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?  Lake Placid, Tremors, Anaconda, Arachnophobia, Deep Blue Sea and other vhs creature features. Google Images, pulp art, evolution, my childhood, mutations, horror movies, medicine, my cats, boredom, creepy crawlers, genetics, big league chew, body horror and black holes.

When or where did your interest in art begin?  When I was in preschool I would draw constantly. One day I drew a robot holding a beautiful bouquet of balloons. I could not put my finger on it, but something was missing from this picture. After a few moments of deep thought I picked up the peach colored Crayola crayon. As I began to draw a penis on the robot I realized that this is what I should do with my life. The drawing hangs in my mother’s bathroom to this day.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work?  A smile or a fit of anger.

How has your work developed within the past year?  After graduating in December I spent a lot of time looking for a job while contemplating my art practice and trying to determine how the two were to fit together. I came to realize that I do not make art because I believe it will somehow lead to a career or put food on my table. I make art out of desperation because it is my lifeblood. After this revelation I stopped worrying about what people thought of my paintings. I embraced my own ridiculousness. In order to test myself and prove that I would no longer allow outside opinions to influence my art, I decided to paint the most incredibly kitsch subject matter I could imagine. After painting my first sad kitten I knew I could never turn back.

What artists are you interested in right now? John Currin, Dana Schutz, Egon Schiele, Laura Owens, Peter Doig, Fairfield Porter, John Delorean, Lucien Freud, Rembrant, Lisa Yuskavage, Andreas Fischer, Alex Katz, Manet, Anna Bjerger, Fernando Botero, Adam Scott, Vuillard, Jenny Saville, Angel Otero, Luc Tuymans, Jose Lerma, Kiki Smith, Marlene Dumas, Allison Schulnik, David Cronenberg, Ron Mueck, Alice Tippit, and Alberto Vargas.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? I would be a doctor/paleontologist/astronomer.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Andreas Fischer’s solo show titled Ghost Town at the Hyde Park Art CenterAllison Schulnik’s solo show titled Home for Hobo Too at Tony Wight Gallery.  The Constellations painting show at the MCA.  Angel Otero’s solo show titled Touch With Your Eyes at the Chicago Cultural Center.

If you had one wish what would it be? Pizza for every meal of every day with the occasional trip to Red Lobster and Old Country Buffet.

Any current or upcoming shows we should know about? I am going to be in a huge group show at Ebersmoore Gallery this December called Ah Wilderness! which will be incredible.  I am also in the Mugs show that opens this weekend.