Last Friday I found Ewoks hiding in the East Atlanta Village. I came away with evidence of them foiling the evil plots of the Empire. An hour later I stumbled upon a religious artifact in Little Five Points behind Aurora Coffee, an image of a goddess with lightning bolts for eyes imprinted on a cut of wood. These recent occurrences might lead you to believe that they were remnants left over from Dragon*Con that took place earlier in the month. Fortunately, for all of us, that’s not the case.
Every Friday for the last two months local artists have been hiding art work around the city for us to take. So, instead of an annual event to celebrate “expressing yourself” where your only memories are embarrassing pictures posted on Facebook of you humping a storm trooper while intoxicated. We’ve been graced with a weekly scavenger hunt that results in taking home a piece of work by an Atlanta artist to adorn our walls.
Though he’s not the founding father of this international movement, Kenn Two Four brought this weekly game of “hide and seek” to Atlanta, appropriately named Free Art Friday. Previously known for his contributions to the local “punk” scene, playing in bands Downpour and The Power And The Glory, he also operates Wear Wolf Press with ex-band mate Ezra Morris.
The last few years have seen Kenn take his creativity in a new direction though, by him not just creating art, but also giving it away.
Purge: It seems like you came out of nowhere on to the Atlanta art scene. How’d you get your start?
Kenn: I had some friends who did t-shirt designs for bands, and I was looking at t-shirt designs that bands had in general, and I thought it was pretty much crap. What I’ve learned is that you don’t always have to be good, because what a band would want, a lot of times, is terrible. So I dabbled with that for a bit and I was okay at it.
I got lucky, though, because I had a friend who did merch for everybody, and I ended up doing some designs for Metallica and Green Day. You put that in your portfolio, and you sound bad ass. The reality of it is that some dude who works for a guy, who works for a guy, who works for Green Day said, “I’ll take those ten designs”.
Purge: After having such success with t-shirt design, what led you into the art you’re making now?
Kenn: This is going to sound shitty, but I became very disinterested in doing t-shirt design because I didn’t enjoy the aspect of making bands happy. They would come to me with zero ideas and not even be familiar with what I do. If I made 5 designs for them, they would pick the one that I spent the least amount of time on. It was frustrating.
Being someone who was trying to be creative and push myself, I wanted to figure out how I could take what I do in the t-shirt world and apply it to the real world– wanting to do stuff that was physical that people could actually have. Being a screen printer I started out doing paper cuts. I would print my designs on paper, cut them out with an X-acto knife and I would build it up into layers with the plan being that I would eventually start printing on wood.
Purge: You got “lucky” with your t-shirt designs. It sounds like your art work has been more of a gradual process. How have you been building that up?
Kenn: People started responding to my paper cuts and I was able to sell those. So I just kept going from there by setting up an Etsy store, selling pieces at Young Blood and eventually doing art shows.
Purge: I’ve noticed a lot of art doesn’t jump out at me the way yours does. What’s influenced your bold style?
Kenn: Initially, skateboard art. Also, the high contrast, blown-out look of punk rock records and comic books. Skulls have also always played a part in punk and skateboard imagery. Early on, Pushead was also a big influence on me in terms of liking art.
I’m an Athiest, but I’ve always had an interest in religion and especially religious symbols. I was raised really religious, but eventually thought it was dumb and didn’t want to be apart of it anymore. I studied it a lot though, and I was really interested in how people put so much value into the religious symbols, and if you in any way disrespect those symbols you’re going to burn in hell.
All religions have special symbols. So, for a couple of years the work I’ve been doing has been based on creating a religion that has all the same aspects of a real religion, could be just a real as any other “valid” religion because, from my view, they’re all just made up.
Purge: I’ve recently lost my faith. Can you tell me about the religion you’ve been creating? I might be interested in joining.
Kenn: Every religion is old as hell. A couple of thousand years ago something might have happened and a thousand years later people found artifacts and wrote stories about them. Then a thousand years from then people were creating religions about them. There’s so much time that passes in all of these stories. I’m writing a (religious) story, and as I develop new pieces I incorporate them into the story. So with my work, the big pieces would be artifacts found in temples and churches; the small ones people would have in their homes.
This is going to get weird, but all of the gods are blind. They don’t have eyes, but lightning bolts. They also all have a psychic connection to animals. They can’t see, but the animals can see. So they see through the animals eyes. It’s goofy, but it’s just as valid as any other religion.
Purge: You’ve recently introduced Free Art Friday to Atlanta. Thanks to you my art collection has almost doubled. How’d you get involved with it?
Kenn: I first saw it a few years ago from an artist in London named Mr. Gauky. He does a lot of posters and t-shirts for bands. He also does his own artwork, painted on wood and cut out, too. I came across his blog, and he had a post about Free Art Friday (also called We Make It, You Take It). So that kind of just stuck in my head. Being from Atlanta, I also started seeing stuff that Evereman was doing. He was putting stuff around town (for people to take), and I found some pieces at an opening at Young Blood Gallery. I thought it was a really cool concept.
I have a bunch of different motives for it though. There’s the selfish motive of it to get your name out there and let people see what you do. I’ll hide pieces outside of local businesses to encourage people to go to them. I’ve also wanted to work with other artists in a low pressure situation, not like a gallery show. Overall, I just want to encourage people to be creative, even if they’re not artists. That’s how I started doing it. I wasn’t an artist– I just started making stuff.
If you want to get involved in Free Art Friday here are the guidelines:
If you’re interested in seeing Kenn Two Four’s artwork without having to look for it on a map, here’s a listing of all of his upcoming art shows:
Saturday, October 30th. “Day Of The Dead”
Young Blood Gallery Atlanta Ga.(group show)
Friday, November 5th. With Danielle Distefano
For Beep Beep Gallery at Aurora Coffee L5P
Friday, November 19th “Supernatural Circus”
ABV Gallery Atlanta Ga.(group show)
Saturday, November 20 and Sunday 21
2010 Holiday I.C.E. Ambient Plus
Photo Credit: Tim Song