October 23, 2009

The Multifaceted Face of James Kuhn

"Lately, when i look in the mirror, i don't know the person looking back at me. Thats not me! Could i really look like that now? My eyes are the only part of me that hasn't changed. In my face transformations series, my face is covered with paint, but i can actually see myself again. My eyes are looking out at me through a psychological mask. I become my dream self, my fantasies come alive in flesh."
On a snow day in his town of Three Oaks, Michigan, James Kuhn decided to fight the boredom of being stuck indoors by painting his face. His love for painting flesh immediately inspired him to further explore the creative possibilities of face painting. He committed himself to face painting everyday for a full year in what he calls his 365 Transformations series. Now well into his second round of "self-portraits," the his artistic efforts have gained him popularity around the world, with appearances on several talk shows, including this Japanese TV show.
"I never run out of ideas. I drive a bus for the elderly and handicapped for 10 hours a day, so I'm always looking at myself in the rear-view mirror,"
After work, the evenings are Kuhn's time to express himself through the fantasy self-portrait he imagines during the day. Posting over 200 videos and 400 portraits, the sheer volume of Kuhn's creative output is astonishing and he never runs out of ideas. His face transformations include, among many others, Flipper, a bald eagle, a grasshopper, and a hippopotamus.  He has developed a technique of painting up to four faces, using all parts of his face, to show his favorite characters at once (see The Simpsons, Harry Potter, and Wizard of Oz). In a surreal feat of trompe-l'œil, he's even painted the profile of his face on the front of his face, using the eye to peer straight at the camera and out the corner of his eye simultaneously. Finding time outside of painting his face, Kuhn also creates biblical-themed religious art.

At one time a nudist, at age 47, Kuhn is now a born-again Christian. He is openly gay and still remembered in Chicago as the popular drag queen, Junie Moon. Junie Moon walked in many LGBT parades and appeared on a Jenny Jones TV special. Kuhn doesn't have any problems reconciling these two aspects of his character.
I totally believe God created me with a homosexual orientation, it was not EVER a choice, at least for me. Orientation is from God, your behavior is your own choice. Just cuz you are gay dosent mean you have to be a slut! I choose to behave myself! I didnt always though! Jesus changes people!...Christian crossdressers and drag queens for Jesus!
You might consider Kuhn an 'outsider artist,' but the limitations of such a term in light of artistic practice makes me mistrust what I imagine an "inside artist" would be. Kuhn is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, and cites Leon Golub, Alice Neel, David Hockney, and Yacob Agam as influences. But the striking style and unusual technique of his religious "paint mosaics" certainly invoke the art brut aesthetic assciated with creating art without a motive beyond to create.

James Kuhn is a self-professed TV junkie and many of his face paintings are informed by his pop cultural interests. There is an insularity to his daily video output, accentuated by his painted face and isolation on camera. And yet he has become known the world over for his sublime self-explorations. And his face paintings have only gotten more technically lavish and imaginative, with the majority of his second year of "transformations" yet to come. see: caterpillar//gremlin//rangda//pitbull//lionfish//elvira//


YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/bibleartwork
Flickr Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawhawjames
His Blog: http://hawhawjames.livejournal.com/
His Religious Art: http://www.myspace.com/jameskuhngallery


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