Welcome to the ArtWalk Ventura 2015 Artist Spotlight series, where we highlight some of the many talented artists and performers being featured this year. Today, we highligh Justin Leo Kennedy upon his return to Ventura via Arizona State. Justin is both a musician and a visual artist, bringing an experimental depth into what he produces.
His work has been heard at Italy’s Festival dei Due Mondi, Disneyland, Phoenix Art Museum, Mesa Arts Center, Art Share L.A., and Naru Arts Center in Seoul, Korea. While still retaining his punk rock values, Justin incorporates elements of experimentalism, expressionism, Mongolian folk music, romanticism, and music for interactive media to his style.
Justin took a few moments to sit down with us before ArtWalk to discuss his strong.mng project which will be featured at the WAV on Saturday night. It's a homecoming of sorts, as Justin grew up in Ventura.
Here are his words:
You grew up in Ventura - share with us your journey as a musician from Southern California to Arizona and back?
I started off playing drum set in rock and punk bands when I lived in Ventura. I wasn’t too interested in college until my parents informed me I could major in music. Everything changed for me when I met Miguel del Aguila. He inspired me to learn the craft of composition and see as much of the world as possible. I’ve been extremely fortunate to live in various parts of the U.S. and overtone sing in a couple other countries. Seeing ArtWalk 2014 motivated me to apply to sing in it this year.
How did you come to be a Musician?
It’s a weird story. I was playing a game of paintball with friends. As they chased after me, I sang the Bill Conti theme from Rocky while in a fit of laughter. When we returned to the house, my friend started slowly playing through Eye of the Tiger on his guitar. I was so excited by this I suggested we start a band. Then, I worked at my Aunt’s restaurant for five or six months and bought a drum kit with the money I saved.
You have multi-media event, strong.mng, planned at WAV, will you share your inspiration?
The shortest, most succinct answer is: Mongolian wrestling, Mongolian overtone singing, the internet, and the embodiment of strength. I am also greatly inspired by my collaborators, Amelia Boon and Wenwen Dong, as well as my Arizona-based tech crew: Althea Pergakis, Gino Ceresia, and Chris Dastan.
How do you define your creative process?
I find the creative process is different for every piece. Osvaldo Golijov once said, “Every piece needs to arrive unto itself.” I really agree with that statement.
In your eyes, what does ArtWalk Ventura bring to the community?
ArtWalk Ventura is a phenomenal platform for artists to gain visibility in Ventura, which—in my experience—can be a challenge during other times of year. I believe ArtWalk plays a vital role in helping Ventura maintain a sense of identity. My heart is particularly warmed by venues on Ventura Avenue because I spent a good part of my childhood there.
What are your favorite memories from the past years of ArtWalk?
My mother was a photographer in the region during the 90s and early 2000s, although she’s moved away now. She regularly participated in ArtWalk. When I was fifteen, I began writing poetry and my mom displayed my poems side-by-side with her photos in ArtWalk 2002. It was a big deal to a fifteen-year-old.
What are you looking forward to this year?
I believe Dina Pielaet has a PODS Gallery this year, which she’s told me a little bit about. I don’t want to speak on her behalf, but I am really curious about her work because she seems like an interesting artist.
What do you look for in that "perfect performance"?
It can be good to strive for perfection, but I think the real art, more often than not, lies within our mistakes. I try to concentrate on the mistakes more than the perfect because the perfect does not require my attention.
If you weren't a musician, what type of artist would you be?
Is “sound designer” a valid answer or a cop-out? If it is a cop-out, then I’d want to be in theatre.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
strong.mng is currently my greatest passion but I am also excited about projects with the Laptop Orchestra of Arizona State (LORKAS), of which I am Co-Director. We just recorded a bunch of our music and will be linking it on our website www.lorkas.org in the next few months.
How else are you involved in the Ventura/805 community?
I try to keep up with the Ventura music scene as much as I can. I am a big fan of The Seaside Band, which is a local group. In fact, I stumbled into ArtWalk 2014 because I was walking to a gig to hear them play. These days, I live in Arizona, but I come back Ventura to visit people I care about as often as I can.
Where do you want your work to take you in the next year? And beyond?
My dream is to study overtone singing with a master in Mongolia. It’d also be fun to perform in Inner Mongolia, which—for those who may not know—is not actually part of Mongolia, but China.
Justin Kennedy performs live at Working Artists Ventura tomorrow night. More information ishere.