From his youth in Reno / Tahoe – to his Bohemian years in San Francisco – his music studies in Massachusetts – his journey from Central park to a gallery in SoHo – And back to Sacramento California. Kenny Rego has written the score of his life – Allowing his experiences and talents to blend into one beautiful composition.
Ryan: I know you’ve traveled a lot. Can you give us the basic timeline?
Kenny: I moved to Tahoe full time at 18 – then moved to San Francisco at 20 and lived there for a couple years and in 1992 left for the East Coast -ended up living in Massachusetts for a couple years and studied Afro-Cuban percussion and ethnomusicology at Berklee school of music.
Then I moved to New York and opened up a little gallery in SoHo. The year I got there the rents were really cheap and I was doing pretty decent. Then I moved back to San Francisco – then Phoenix – then Tucson. In 1997 I landed in Sacramento and that’s when I decided I wanted to get back to my art. I shut everything down and became a full time artist and craftsman. Ever since 1997 my whole goal has been to earn a living through creativeness.
Were you doing artwork at an early age?
Yeah. I’ve been on stage ever since I was 10 years old. My dad owned a bar and I would go up and play with all the bands.
And when I was 16-17 years old I was a total Dead Head. All my paintings were Dead orientated. My whole thing was drawing pictures of steal your faces and skeletons and that was my art – skeletons – skeletons – skeletons. And I would just sell the paintings at the dead shows. Or trade them for a veggie burrito or Sierra Nevada.
How long did you follow the dead?
Probably 1987 to 1991. I wasn’t following them across the country – only when they had a show in Oregon, Washington, Arizona or anywhere on the western side of the US.
In 1990 I was living in San Francisco and making a living selling tattoo flashes. I was staying on upper Haight St. and living the whole bohemian dead head life style. I was loving life – it was a great time. It was affordable I had a kick ass studio for about $600 a month. It was awesome.
So, you’re an artist and musician. The toughest part about having multiple interests is time management. Do you struggle to balance art and music?
It can be tough. That’s why I dedicated the entire year (2016) to my paintings. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that. I put all my bands aside and just painted. 2017 is going to be a different story for me. The goal is balance this year between both interest – art and music. I’m going to spend an equal amount of time on each one.
Let’s talk about your Time wave zero series: Why is it called time wave zero?
I called it time wave zero because I painted it in 2012. And at the time there was a lot of talk about the celestial calendar or stars setting back to zero. Everybody thought it was the end of the world – But no, it’s just another beginning. So, Time wave Zero – Set back to Zero.
Angles and demons is an amazing painting from this series. I can’t help but see wings or birds in it. Can you describe the inspiration?
I painted it using natural one stroke bush movements. It’s very organic. That’s what I call it.
It’s a war of the gods – a huge calamity. You can look at is as if you were above the battle field or on the battlefield and a part of it – angles and demons flowing through it.
What was the inspiration behind the Armageddon series?
I have an artist friend named Lonnie Gonzales whom I’ve done a few paintings with. He’s the first artist I met in Sacramento at a gallery in Fair Oaks. He’s a decoupage artist and when I did this series he recommended that I try it in his style and do decoupage. So that’s what I did.
Wow, these are really detailed. It must have taken awhile.
Yes it did. That’s why I only have three in the series. They take a long time. The idea is to blend it together so you can’t tell where each medium starts or stops. You want it all to become one.
The painting from the sacred light series – does it have a title? And what does it represent? (Cover Image)
It’s my version of the crucifixion.
My first thought was Dali at the circus – a surreal performance.
You could easily categorize me as a surrealist painter. Ninety percent of my work is surreal. From 1997–2000 It was the only style I worked in.
Do you go into your paintings with a specific inspiration?
Yes. I go into it with a specific texture, look, medium, feel and style already in mind.
Do you have a pre-painting ritual that helps you get into your creative state of mind?
I use the 30 – 45 minute set up process to get into the right state. Getting the paints opened – the mixing of the paints – getting the pallets together and knowing that I’ve allowed enough painting time so I won’t have to stop early and waste materials. I won’t start a painting unless I have six hours minimum to work. And I rarely step away from a painting.
You go start to finish in one sitting?
Yes -on at least 50% of my work. I’ve worked strait through the night into a second day just to finish – drinking coffee and painting. I get a little neurotic or compulsive and just have to finish it.
You’re newest series is more abstract than surreal. How would you describe it?
The new series is about subtraction. I do a painting and let it dry. Then, I go over it with a wash of fresh paint. The final piece is created by scraping off the overlay and revealing the under painting.
You’ve been living in Sacramento for 20 years. What do you see for the future of art in Sacramento?
I think Sacramento is going to become an art Mecca. You have Gabriel Sanford who is out networking beyond belief. You got Shaun Burner who’s made a great name for himself doing murals and Tim Collom who’s doing well. Artists are making it in Sacramento. Art in Sacramento nearly died around 2008. Galleries were closing the real-estate market was crashed. It was a tough time – things got really lean. And now all these local artists and groups are bringing it back.