AF: I am intrigued as to when your interest within the arts began and how this interest blossomed?
KH: I have always been living inside of my own head, inside of my own imagination. Even as a child, the outlet of expression was very valuable to me. I used to draw patterns with rulers, loved finger painting and remember always looking forward to art class.
As grew older, I began to find my own taste in music and began exploring the world of punk rock, hip hop and the early days of dance music. I started DJing at 19 and the underground music culture of the Midwest in the early to mid-90s took a hold of me that has never loosened. I knew I had found a big part of myself in that community. Soon after I started DJing, my girlfriend brought home some chalk pastels and paper. On that very day I hi jacked her art supplies and started drawing. The original inspiration for that series titled Muvment was the crowd on the dance floor from the vantage point of the DJ. It was impossible to see anything but the form of each person. That series depicts the universal human condition and the androgyny of the spirit. Since then, I have been painting and making music side by side.
AF: That’s great! I stopped by your studio and saw some of your new work. Can you tell me more about the two large pieces with your grandparents?
KH: I have been doing paintings of angels lately. A friend of mine died over the summer. She was one of my models and we knew each other for quite some time. When she passed I decided to do a tribute painting of her with her angel’s wings. As I started the painting, I began thinking about my grandmother who passed last summer. We were very close and our relationship was something we both cherished. I decided to do a tribute to Mimi, my beloved departed grandmother. My original intention was to do my paternal grandmother in the other painting, but I changed my mind and decided to make an angel for my paternal grandfather next to my grandmother. In the process of making these 2 paintings, I again realized how isolated I have been from my family, and how these paintings created a feeling of comfort for me. As we chase these dreams, there is most certainly a price to be paid. That price quite often for many of us means sacrificing time with family.
AF: Where is your family and how did you end up in NY?
KH: My family is mostly spread across Ohio and Michigan. I was born in Lansing, MI and moved to Dayton, OH at the age of 8.
When I was 19 I met photographer Mario Sorrenti @ Lollapalooza in Cincinnati. He invited me to be in an ad campaign he was doing for Stussy. Him and his assistant at the time, Frank B, came to Dayton and stayed with me for 3 weeks. Mario informed me that I was a New Yorker and I didn’t realize it since I hadn’t been there yet. They invited me to visit in the summer of ’95. It was on that trip that I realized I must find my way to the city. Mario was right. I was a New Yorker.
In the spring of 1998 I was called to a lawyer’s office in downtown Dayton. I was asked to come there to be informed of the interest a person who preferred to remain anonymous. That person knew that I didn’t go to college. They wanted me to pick course of study to pursue anywhere in the United States. My addiction to NYC made the choice a no brainer. On that day I began the mental transition of moving to the greatest city in the world. My plan was to study Music Business at NYU. I must admit I have gotten that education.
AF: You seem like a very spiritual person. How do you express and incorporate that in to your art?
KH: I am a Tibetan Buddhist and have been practicing since January 10th 2007. When I found my teacher, it was no different than being reconnected with an old friend. I felt at home. The ideology and the emphasis placed on experiencing the practice personally resonated with me in a way I was not accustomed to. Dzogchen practice is experiential. The general idea is that these practices, when done under the specific instruction of a realized teacher, can deliver transformative results, but do not take anyone’s word for it. Experience transformation through the practice itself and see the results in your own life. I was drawn to the personal responsibility that is required to really take a look at myself and be a witness to the way I live my life, and to take an active role in every facet of my life. The philosophy of unconditional love and compassion put into words and practice took a hold of me and every facet in my life, including my art. The goal is to reach enlightenment through these ordained and secret practices, but not for our own selfish wants for eternal life, but instead to become enlightened to better assist every being in creation to reach the same glorious pinnacle, acknowledging the true nature of our being, which is interconnectedness between all beings, the planet, and the cosmos and beyond. Non-duality. The oneness. One of the first ways we are taught to foster this love and compassion for other beings is to look at all beings without exception as previously being our mother in another life, and to love all beings with the same unconditional love a mother shows its child. These simple yet powerful practices begin tearing down the walls we put up between ourselves and our actions, and make it harder and harder to turn a blind eye to things like eating meat, just caring only for the people and animals directly connected to you, and generally speaking, call the practitioner to a personal responsibility for ourselves and our world. Thematically in my painting, as my practice deepened, the appearance of `mantras seeped into the work. Leading the viewer to seek out the parts that were obstructed. I began doing paintings of the masters of my tradition that were very inspired and for the most part, channeled. As the practice grew like a seed in my being, the branches of the teachings popped out with more clarity and more vision throughout my work. My spirituality has reinforced the ideology of only creating when inspired and never forcing it. Honoring that special relationship with the creation process retains the fragile balance that the best work is born out of.
AF: Which artists have influenced your work?
KH: Music has been a huge influence on my work. The punk rock DIY ethos has been a part of me since I discovered it @ summer camp in the summer of 1988. The combination of skateboarding, hip hop and punk rock shaped my attitude about taking life into my own hands. Unapologetic dedication to the craft. We would listen to Public Enemy next to Black Flag and The Circle Jerks. This music taught me to be anti-establishment and also taught me to embrace myself and my uniqueness. That I was different and that was ok.
The visual artists that have influenced me the most are Picasso, Basquiat, Harring, Klimt, DeKoonig, Pollock, Clemente and Mario Sorrenti. Graffiti in general has also been a huge influence.
AF: Great influences! What keeps you busy when you are not in the studio?
I have found over the years that as artists we all have to share time between being creative individuals and then finding the time to present our creations to the world. If you are the greatest artist in the world but no one knows it, then guess what? You are that starving artist. I think that every artist dreams of the day when they no longer are responsible for handling the tedious, time consuming and stressful details of being a successful person. I have learned through experience and observation that you can wait for your whole life for that person to show up. Maybe they will. More than likely, they won’t. So figure out how to do it yourself. I’m far from perfect, but I am a doer. I try things. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they fail. I always learn. I always grow. I always find ways to progress through all of the experiences. When creativity is honored and not forced, and as an artist you know the difference, it becomes obvious when the flow is happening. When it is not flowing, I use that down time to develop my projects happening outside of my being, and how to bring the art that I have been creating to the world in the purest form.
I’m adding this to the influence question:
Spiritual paintings and thangka paintings specifically have been a big influence as well. I do modern interpretations replete with adornments and allusions to the past masters, traditions and ceremonial elements. Including these details and presenting them in a context, delivery and contemporary artist vernacular that allow the imagery to be digested in a way that connects with the viewer to the now and also to the rich history of these spiritual icons.
AF: Are there any elements within your work that you think people miss or don’t notice?
KH: I paint as a form of expression. Like all mediums, with time, the ability to articulate a certain feeling, effect, look, etc., becomes more fluid. The vocabulary broadens. The detail deepens. That being said, I still believe that the most effective and moving work is the art that requires no explanation from a critic or curator. I often intentionally hide powerful secret mantras and prayers in my work that are obstructed. The fact that the words cannot be read does not take away from the power and magnitude of the words. These are details that some may not notice directly, but the viewer is most certainly affected by the vibration of the words. I do this because these mantras connect the witness to the tradition that goes back to the 8th century. A tradition based in unconditional love and compassion, and further, an ultimate goal of enlightenment, but enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, and to bring all sentient beings to the ultimate truth through personal realization. Liberation with the intent of guiding all beings like a Shepard, to that same place.
AF: Do you have any shows coming up?
KH: So at this point my only upcoming show is the one on Dec 13th @ UTBNYC Gallery @ 60 Broadway in Brooklyn. Myself, Jordan Betten and Matt Jones.
I will be assisting Juan Atkins with his efforts planning the Detroit Electronic Music Festival 4th of July Weekend 2014.
The Future is Now will happen again in 2014 in September.
More details to follow as they arise.
Check out his website to see more work: KIMYON HUGGINS
INTERVIEW BY JAMIE MARTINEZ