Article by Missy Wilkinson
Kevin Thayer’s artwork takes its cues from Margaret Keane’s “big eyes” paintings, street art and the French Quarter’s unique characters, swirling these images with spray paint and watercolors for a hallucinogenic energy that echoes New Orleans’ own. Shortly after releasing his third annual Mardi Gras poster, the Bywater resident discussed his background, his process and his inspiration.
How do you describe your art?
I call it new pop art. It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll. It’s modern, but it’s not beholden to Wittgenstein or Warhol or whatever. My stuff is street art- and illustration-influenced. People don’t need to know color theory or academic things to appreciate it.
Give us a brief biographical sketch.
I’m from Fox Lake, Wisconsin, originally and moved to upstate New York when I was 10. I was a studio art major at Bard College, moved to Sacramento in 1999 and started doing abstract expressionism, then moved back to upstate New York to be a residential instructor for Bard, and moved to New Orleans to be a storyboard artist in 2005, two months before Hurricane Katrina.
Where might people have seen your art?
I’ve been doing gig posters for d.b.a. since 2004, and from 2000 to 2005 I did a lot of street art: stencils and slaps, which are stickers. I was at galleries on Royal Street, but I left because I’m doing commissions. Right now, I’m part of a three-person show that’s up through February at Artisan Bar & Cafe (2514 St. Claude Ave.).
How does New Orleans inform your work?
In the French Quarter, I think of lights, the energy that can’t be defined. This is kind of what New Orleans means to me. I see these random interesting characters — your Amzie Adams, guys on the street or in brass bands — and I use the tools of color and markings to express their energy.
What’s the story behind your Mardi Gras posters?
Three years ago, I painted “Let Them Eat King Cake,” one of my big-eye doll faces of Marie Antoinette with a king cake on her wig. I put it up and it sold the same day, so last year, I was like, “I should do a poster.” This year, I’m doing a poster with a dog and a cat in it. I’ll walk around and sell it at Barkus.
What inspires you?
A bunch of things, including Margaret Keane. I’ve been doing “big eye” paintings since 2000, but it’s also very anime-inspired. Blythe dolls from Japan are also great reference materials for my paintings.
What appeals to you about the big-eye dolls?
They’re expressing an emotion that isn’t distinct. The viewer makes up the narrative that’s happening in the painting. They bring their creativity and connect it to what I do.
Talk about your process.
(My pieces are made of) collage medium, spray paint, marker… I’ll spray paint random marks on super-thin pieces of paper and draw on them, then lay them on the canvas as an abstract formation. I like the unstable randomness — it takes things in directions you can’t anticipate. I always use this as an underpainting, and I lay down a translucent subject on top. I want it to feel like there’s all this energy that can’t be contained in these subjects — it’s radiating out.
Where can people go to find out more about your work?
My Instagram (instagram.com/thayerfineart/) or Facebook page (facebook.com/kthayerart).
What does the future hold for you?
Doing more commissioned pieces. I would like to eventually have my own studio gallery on Royal Street.
That’s the article! somehow they forgot to mention the solo show at Kawaii Nola 4826 Magazine st. which has a bunch of my dollface work, but hey it’s all good!