Local artist’s live music paintings to be displayed during Westside ArtWalk
By Essie Lustig 07/19/2012
Kenneth “Kenny” Milton started painting palm fronds a few years ago. The unique medium did not signify Kenny’s introduction to painting, he began experimenting with art in high school, finding his voice in a class with Mr. Owens at Ventura High School. However, the palm fronds entered the consciousness of the co-founders of Green Art People — Lisbet Frey and Tim Beyer — and from there, a partnership was born. Using a small stream of light and the time restraints of an hour-long set, Milton paints the bands and artists performing at Green Art People’s Wednesday night music series. His live paintings will be on display at Stoneworks Studios during Westside ArtWalk.
The performance space nestled comfortably in the Green Art People building lends itself to an especially intimate experience between audience and participants. With its comfortable couches, rug-covered floors, and a hooded stage not much bigger than a drum riser, the space is fit to serve as the perfect milieu for someone looking to translate music into a fixed piece of visual art. The paintings, all variations on this theme, capture a certain local zeitgeist and perhaps more notably, Kenny Milton’s increasing flexibility as a painter. He paints from the time the artist appears on the stage to the time the artist finishes; that is it. As Frey noted, “There is a pride that is coming from that . . . the community recognizes that there is something special going on with being able to archive [these performances.] We’ve been getting this “hallowed ground” sort of feeling.”
A phalanx of artists has emerged from and around Green Art People. Although the partnership between artist and collective is not unusual, the amount of enthusiasm for Kenny Milton’s work is refreshing because the snapshot-style paintings are so new. He plays with dimensions and proportions and a variety of techniques, such as Renaissance-style black framing and abstract expressionist splatter printing to convey whatever he feels about the performance. John White, visual artist and member of G.A.P.’s board of directors said, “He works at night with a little stream of light, it’s the story of art school. He is raw, you want to stay out of the way. I don’t think he should take classes. He just tackles everything as it comes.”
From Milton’s depictions of local artists such as Jade Hendrix and 50 Sticks of Dynamite, the paintings suggest that something is happening at Green Art People, something that extends beyond the canvas and stage: the emergence of a community. If anything, the infusion of painting with music is, in the collaboration of Milton with Green Art People, consciousness-heightening. “The bands really like it because it’s not just another restaurant or bar that they’re playing in, the people are really attentive to the music and it’s a really different atmosphere,” said Beyer.
The live art series comes on the heels of another Green Art People project, the Local Archiving and Music Project (LAMP). Tom Beyer describes Milton’s art as a continuation of the quest to record Ventura’s musical history, much as Focus on the Masters has documented the area’s visual artists. “[There is] a lot of talent in this area. There have been musicians that have moved on or passed away, and there is sometimes no professional quality history of what they’ve done. To start an archival program, to have some kind of history of what goes on in Ventura, it’s been really successful, too.”
Frey adds, “We have the best sound in Ventura, dare I say. It’s a chance for bands to have live CDs, bands that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to be recorded.”
Milton’s four-year-old son has grown up watching his dad paint in G.A.P.’s welcoming environment, proudly exclaiming to his fellow Head Start students that he, too, is an artist. He is with his own “sculpture garden” and small gallery of paintings. Milton finds inspiration everywhere, from live music to the writing of Leonardo Da Vinci. “I was reading a book about thinking like Leonardo Da Vinci and this process is a lot like what he did. He saw things differently, figures in motion. I call it live art, motion art. That’s what visual art is, drawing things in motion.”
Westside ArtWalk takes place Saturday and Sunday, July 21 and 22. Kenneth Milton’s Green Art People exhibit will be on display at Stoneworks Studios, 300 N. Ventura Ave. For a schedule of Westside ArtWalk events, visit www.westsideartwalk.org. For an artist roster and a schedule of entertainment at Stoneworks Studios, visit www. westsideartwalk.org/stoneworks-studio-gallery. To learn more about Green Art People, visit www.greenartpeople.com