Number 94: Alex Kuno
Years spent living in MN: 34
Alex Kuno's prolific series The Miscreants of Tiny Town features children, but they are hardly the saccharine representations of youth we so often see. Kuno has less in common with Disney, and more with the Grimm Brothers, Edward Gorey, and other macabre storytellers. His paintings exist in a cruel world, filled with hungry wolves, bloodthirsty bullies, shocking violence, and homes trapped under ice. But perhaps it is not too different than the one we grew up in (youth can be brutal sometimes, no?). And although his children sometimes are put through the ringer, many turn out to be world-weary survivors.
[jump] Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:
I'll eat up any cheap, slapped-together TV documentary about 2012 and/or the coming apocalypse with a spoon
Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:
The first time I saw an Otto Dix painting in person as a kid
Turning down John Waters' advances while I lived in New York
Just being a part of the Minneapolis art community is energizing enough to keep me working
What was your last big project?
I recently received a CSA grant, so I've been slaving away on 50 original paintings for that, while working on some commissions, as well as some new pieces for an upcoming show in Chicago. It kind of feels like RIGHT NOW is my "last big project."
What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?
I've got a show coming up at the Morpho Gallery in Chicago opening on November 5, and I'll be having some pieces up at "Our Favorite Things" (Fox Tax's Holiday Show), at the end of November.
Creative/career high point (so far)?:
It's hard to say, because each show has felt like a new career high point in one form or another, but last summer was probably the most intense. I was putting work together for three different shows at Fox Tax, SooVAC, and Rosalux galleries simultaneously, while working full-time at a terrible day job and living in a cramped apartment. I used my bathroom to saw wood (literally, not a euphemism), and at one point I think I fell asleep in the bathtub for a little bit. Anyway, everything wound up working out, and I developed some much needed time management skills in the process. I don't want to have to stress-sleep in a bathtub again, that is what I'm saying.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?
Money's always going to be an issue, and I'm learning to accept that as I go on. And as long as my 'delete' key doesn't fall apart, I can crank out a mediocre artist's statement if I have enough time. But every time someone comes up off the street or at a show and asks me something like: "So, what's it all, like, mean? Were you abused as a child or something?" I immediately turn into a defensive, sputtering idiot. But beyond all of that, I think the hardest thing for me has been trying to figure out a way to balance the time I spend dreaming about all the horrible images I want to make against the time I spend worrying about the horrible day-to-day routines of life more efficiently.
How has the local scene changed since you began your career?
I feel like I've been identified as a "Minneapolis Artist" since I started the Miscreants of Tiny Town series a few years ago, so I'll take "local scene" to mean the "Minneapolis scene as I know it." And even then, my experience with it is a lot more limited than I'd like it to be, since all I do these days is work in the studio and never go anywhere. Anyway, it feels like more attention from around the country is being focused on Minneapolis's cultural accomplishments every month. And not because its members are necessarily trying to branch out into other regions of the country, but because they're deepening their roots and improving their ideas and skills here. There's something really unique and encouraging about that.
What is your favorite childhood story/fairytale?
As I've gotten older, I've found myself being much more interested in the other sides of the stories I've been taught to appreciate as a kid, and that's played a big role in the work I do now. I mean, it's much more fascinating for me knowing that Cinderella's step sisters had their eyes gouged out by crows, or finding out that Carrie Fisher was actually, totally coked-out of her mind while Empire Strikes Back was being filmed (it helps that whole Princess Leia-making-out-with-her-brother scene make a lot more sense).
What were your favorite television shows as a child?
Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Twin Peaks.
Which character in your work do you identify with most? Or do you identify with any?
I try to build my set pieces, landscapes, and characters in much the same way I used to play with Lego or G.I. Joe as a kid. I know this will sound a little sociopathic, but even though I take the emotions of these characters seriously, they're still essentially playthings. If I'm working on the face of one particular character and accidentally smudge what was a calm smile into a hateful grimace, that one clumsy mistake can wind up guiding the direction of the entire piece, or even set off ideas for a whole new series.
Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.
Past creatives, so far: