Unlocking Kaang’s Artistry: Shrooms, Imagination, and Unveiling Reality

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Kaang’s first unique and immersive art exhibit titled “Unlock Key”. Observing the natural flow of the room, I had questions about the inspiration, and purpose, as well as challenged some perspectives. My thoughts led me to the point of inaugurating a Creator Spotlight that features in-depth conversation peering into the minds of artists and creatives. No stranger to the spotlight, Kaang is a visionary who continues to prove that he’s etching his lane and has zero intentions to play things small or safe. We sat down to delve a bit into his inspiration, self-care modalities, and the creative process behind this captivating showcase.

Duchess-Simone: Can you tell us some inspiration behind the theme of this Unlock Key exhibit, and where you got the name from?

Kaang: So what we are sitting in right now is … I don’t have inspiration behind the theme, I have a reason for the theme, though. And my reason for the theme is, I personally had got tired of walking into the gallery and seeing art on walls, and then like that was it. And I personally also took a nice journey on mushrooms for a while, like a legit stint of time, and I painted a lot during that shit. And I learned a lot of shit from my lessons and my mistakes. So my whole theme of the joint was the whole world is on masterclass thought right now. And I’m more like, “Do you own your own style, though?” So it was about creating a theme that will show off different styles and allow anybody styles to feel at home amongst everyone else’s. And the moss on the wall was like the excuse to just make all the art different, because the theme of the moss, allows each piece of art to be like how the moss grows in the wild… anywhere. And we call the ‘Unlock Key’ because when you create something or you build or make something, I’m pretty sure as you make a tea, you make mistakes or mismeasurements. But it’s the new like… It’s a new discovery that you can now build and possibly take further into your future to do something with, lucrative or whatever, just expand yourself with. And that was the unlock part of it. You made mistakes, to learn new things, and these mistakes now become actions and styles. I’m pretty sure everyone in this room who I chose to be in this done did their mistakes, and still making mistakes and finding new styles from it. 

DS; When looking for artists to exhibit in this show, what were some of the criteria you were looking for? Not only is this a display of your art, but you were 100 percent in full curation mode when putting this event together. What qualified each artist?

K: Honestly, except for one person the playa Godsaid, whose wall art is on the wall with him and his son, I’ve seen all these other artists actually live or did a photo shoot with them or something. I actually have worked in some form of creative fashion with all of them. And my one criterion was the mushroom for the mushroom garden. Like that was my main criterion. My reason for selection in all honesty, I believe you pick people who are also picking themselves. You curate something, you want people to come out and see it. You have to also choose people who have people who support them and come out and see what they do. 

So a lot of dope motherfuckers out here, it’s a lot of people doing some fly shit. But when you’re looking to do a curation that involves humans moving through it, you can’t do it with people who have nobody to bring and that’s just facts. So I was greatful that most of these artists even showed up for the show, and the ones who did all brought people. So my selection process was definitely about who would bring people out who actually promote it to be seen. Because a lot of people like to be all about art and that’s cool, but I realized that so many people buy art, nobody fucking know about business or know about trying to market or change a market point. We all want to make things and create things, but a lot of people really do suck at the salesman part in figuring out how to display what they have.

DS: I’m glad you actually brought up the business of art. I noticed walking around here, there are hella red stickers on the wall! How does it feel to go from ideation to implementation, to seeing pieces go out the door?

K: It’s like that first time you walk in the house with a quarter pound, and you like “bruh, I’m about to break this bitch down. I got enough to smoke and enough to motherfuckin’ pass out and figure this shit out”. That was my reason for mentioning what I mentioned before about art and business. I was very greatful to everybody in here. And the prices people put it was beyond respectable because I’ve seen what they stuff sold for and also saw that, like, they were willing to allow the gallery to receive a percentage. And artists won’t step out of the way often to actually make a sell. They’ll be hell-bent on what they did to determine the price. I can’t tell people like the accountant and the financial part of it, but I can tell the way I guess would be human marketing and department. 

One thing I realize is people love to be able to take something home. So depending on what size it is, not everybody drives large things, which becomes obstacles to get home. This is just a fact. Somebody could want it but have nowhere for it. And as artists a lot of us like to just state that you can create some shit, and people gonna give you what you want for it. The truth is no disrespect to nobody, I don’t care for who you is; I don’t think anyone should blow the rent to try to take something home. You know, it’s a rough decision. Some people put months into some of this stuff. You know what I mean, you can’t get that time back in dollar figure. But if you think like I think, you’re happy to see your art is on someone’s…living on the wall compared to living piling up in a corner, getting dragged space to space, to go home somewhere. 

Seeing the red stickers on the wall, that shit’s fire! To be honest with you, I don’t know shit about curating! This shit ain’t come with no damn blueprint book, that’s for damn sure! I had an idea and a theme. And I always like making sure I bring my theme so that the people walking in, can fall into the theme, and then the art can just be there to be seen. And seeing the red dots on the wall to me, that’s sauce. I was hype, because opening night I think six little ones left. And I’m like, oh, that’s fucking awesome! Art being sold is a sign that art can be sold, and that to me is important because without motion, it is stagnant. It do look dark. It do feel like “Oh shit, this shit may not work”. The price becomes irrelevant because now it’s “I’ve sold art”. I’ve met so many people in the last year, literally, who have asked me this fucking question of “How do you sell art?” So to be able to open that doorway, to me, that is something I really want to be able to get into; being able to create actual bread and not just the opportunity.. because opportunity is cool, but people need money to make more art or to further where they want to take themselves, and that all helps in making them being creative.

DS: So for those who don’t know, can you shed a bit of light on what type of art you do, and how long have you been making your art? What inspires your creativity?

K: I’ve been drawing on shit I shouldn’t been drawing on since the Mustang in 1990. Something my uncle says, I drew all over the back of his white leather seats on a ride from Reading. I guess that’s the first thing I ever decided to art on with a blue pen. I fucked up a Fox Body Mustang… this is the story I was told..  And then we did music and I fell in love with the actual creating and playing of an instrument. And when it came to visual art, our brother Rob Moon would always be like “Don’t make what you already seen try to do something that’s from your brain. And if you do something that’s already seen? well, you gotta fucking do it amazing.” Then Murph was like, “Yo, y’all should try painting” because I was fucking with markers. And there’s so much money in buying markers, bruh! It’ so many marker tones and colors. Paint to me, it was just like, I can grab these colors, I can flip any shade tone I want out of one color, I can say white and another color, and do whatever I damn near want far as the image is concerned. I’m grateful for that. It allows me to work at a speed that I bang with. The thing I get asked “Is that acrylic”? Oil has a different base dry and different color tone, and apparently, there’s expectations on what acrylic could do. People be like “I got $20 paint” and I just say this is a $4 liquitex. If a n*gga in the middle of the jungle can paint some shit that nobody has ever seen out of berries and straws, and its the hardest thing you’ve ever seen, and its on a wall for 20 thousand years, what is necessary for all these fancy requirements to create something comparing to what someone did with the bare minimum?

I cashed in my creative card and my active artist card. I’m taking on building, because see, builders get paid for estimates and for showing their face. You don’t get a builder to come nowhere if you don’t take care of something prior to their arrival. The people who do blueprints for buildings and all that. They don’t do jack shit but you can’t get them to show up to their site just because you would like for them to be there. I like that. Our goal is to turn HiFi into a production hub where this is what we can do for artists. Some artists have ideas and nobody can execute the carpentry part. When you’re doing a full room or a full layout, a lot of people stray away from criticism or open thought. You stifle creation when you kill somebody’s energeticness from wanting to share with you. You may not like their ideas, but you can’t stifle their want to share their input because that just fucks up what you’re doing.

DS: Unless they’re trying to fuck up what you’re doing…

K: That’s true! But only you know that, technically. But you have to be understanding of humans.

DS: Speaking of humans, I’ve happened to notice there are vivid humanistic themes in your work… Female reproductive organs to be specific. Explain this motif.

K: Oh, that’s easy! Whenever I do one of those jawns, if I’m not present, someone will think it’s a woman’s painting. It’s a weird and sensitive situation because apparently dudes don’t know anything about this. They don’t know what it is, they don’t know how it’s broken down. I’m working on a shirt right now with labels on it, so people can learn, and I don’t have to hear this anymore. That’s become my new reason, but in the beginning it was moreso… I like wild things, and I know art is a field where so many people have chosen what they are gonna use and show. I thought If I’m going to do something, I want to shock someone from the door, and then be like “But I like this”.

DS: Do you have a for instance?

K: I painted this jawn called space orgasm, and it didn’t really look like one, it was just trippy and swirly. This one dude just stared at it for about 45 minutes, and said “Man this is nice”. It was just a vagina in space, and it was just creamed and warped. He was just appreciative of the art, and that’s why I’m also in here now doing this for people, and have the art on the wall that I have now. Because I’m willing to go and walk in somebody’s building whenever they’re back in the gallery, and the shock is over.

Their acceptance is different. People fuck with sexual topics because it breaks ice fast, and it warms up the room quick, and the nerves, or the prude, or the freak… It opens people minds more to be where they are.

DS: What does your self-care look like?

K: Dedication to 2-3 hair washes per week, fingernail filing, and clippers, gotta do the whole face washing in the morning. Dove dandruff, hydration shine, shampoo and conditioner. Spray it with argan oil and blow dry it. my hair loves it! Dudes: groom yourself! Your smells be coming from your hairs! Do yourself a favor and groom!! 

DS: I was writing about misconceptions about self-care, and people think it’s mostly for women and you’re showing that’s not true! I appreciate that you validating that.

DS: Do you think the artist that you are today would make the younger Kaang proud?

K: We working on that. That ain’t gone be at peace until i’m doing a nine-second pass at a drag strip in a big block Chevy with like twin turbos on an old school car going fast as fuck. 

D: I don’t think any of that was English, so I’m just going to say ok!

K: The younger me won’t be at peace until I’m drag racing cars three days out of the week and the rest of the three days doing other shit I love. And I already do stuff I love, and I’m greatful for that. The icing on the cake would be me being able to go racing on the weekend, that’s what I’ll be doing for sure for sure. That shits fun. I’m an adrenaline junkie. A lot of people say I’m mad calm, mad chill. But that’s because the shit that actually drives my adrenaline is not happening right now. Shock factors of pussy and all that, that shit is fun for me. It’s gon make you uncomfortable, that’s shits fire for me. But younger me, I still feel like I am younger me. Ironically as that sounds. I don’t feel as though I’ve ever lost my imagination, I never can. That’s a mushroom thing too because mushrooms pull memory and will definitely lapse your thoughts and pull back things you haven’t seen in forever. Younger me and the current me is the same person. The only me that will be different is the older me, because that old n*gga gon be a thot. Grandpop and an old thot on a Harley picking up his grandkids. It’s nothing you can tell an old man. I’ll say “I’m older than you, leave me alone”.

DS: What advice do you have for people who want to be an artist, or for those who lost their imagination?

K: First you have to figure out why you lost your imagination. Second, wanting to be something is cool, “are you going to be it?” is like a different thought development. It’s fun, its amazing, but the action applied to the effort… What you gonna do? I can give you an example of my brother Juice who has a painting by the door. He wasn’t painting and tagging a year ago. He literally decided he was going to learn something and fuck with it. I never heard him say I’m trying to do this so I can make some bread. if you want to be an artist, I’m not going to tell you not to make your bread, but I will say you need to understand who you want to sell your art to. We look at people and say, “How did they sell that for that price?” It’s different when someone grows up in a different ecosystem of paper, of money so to say. If everybody around y’all drives a Benz and you decided to make art, well, yea your price point is going start at $2500 because that’s what the supporting cast around you can afford. But if you in these neighborhoods, in the hood, these people already have bills thats late. They can love your art to death, but it may not be time for them to make that purchase. Especially when you tell them $900, and then give them a piece of art that they can see through.

When you only want to put two and three bases, you want $700-$800 and the shit only took you four hours to make. No disrespect to what you created, but the price is on the actual time effort. Because I build cars, I understand time and money differently. I still create to build, yes, but the price is based on a graduated thing to build, instead of by the hour. If it takes you 48 hours to paint something, what do you charge somebody per hour to do that? What can someone afford to pay for 48 hours it took you do complete it. When people go to create art or make music and put time into it, they think someone owes them. Nobody owes you shit for what you learning. now if you crafty and you smart, then you’ll figure out how to get paid for it. I learned to develop that skill on someone’s dollar. 

If you want to be an artist these are the types of things you need to think about. But you gotta be willing to accept challenges, critiques, and dislikes, starting over, redoing it again. Don’t be ashamed to fuck up, if you make a mistake, oh well, you know what I mean? I’ve gotten to points where I am about to be finished a painting, and my dumb ass is still trying to paint it at 1:30 in the morning avoiding sleep. Now I’ve made a 30-minute mistake, and have to deal with in the morning. Instead of being a smart logistic person saying “Turn your brain off and hit this when you have time”. People we push ourselves, to say “I want get this jawn done so I can get this bread tomorrow”. Truthfully, its a great mentality to have professionally. Realistically that shit will smoke you and fuck you over at times. Somebody who wants to be an artist, go figure out who the fuck you are first, and then walk back around and figure out if “I should be doing this”. Because nobody wants to hear about who not supporting you. People who are getting shit done don’t have time to hear about what’s not getting done.

DS: what’s next for you? 

K: I’m also in the talks of using this building again next year. This room is going to be black. I’m going to paint a pussy from the top of the ceiling, to the bottom of the floor. I’m combining the zen garden. I like the mushroom exhibit, and I like the moss. Is it a theme for a continuation show? nah. The next one will be featuring my art, yet it’ll be a sexual exhibit. So anyone who’s contributing, I want their form of sexuality however they want to share it. And that will be the next show. Black like zen garden meets sexuality, I have no name for it yet though. In between time, I’m going to hang pussies up around the city. I feel like that’s going to be fun. I’m going to use plaster, paint, small canvases so I can hang them quick. I’m also going to record doing them, so nobody can take credit for it. We’ll have the footage of us hanging them up, visual is worth a million dollars in court. somebody can try their best to say “Those my pussies” and it won’t work. My goal is for somebody to walk through the intersection and be so disgruntled, and someone on the other way of the same thing see and say “That’s so beautiful”. I want to put a camera in each one. 

D: It would be funny to etch a phrase like “coochie’s always watching” or something like that.

K: Or “we watching”. I like that! I know a part of art is also leaving impressions. That’s getting harder and harder to do. Because so many people have a generic format about what they make. What I appreciate about this room is that it’s random. That’s a photo, but it’s a photo of the person who took it. that’s a picture, but the dude made the box that had his friend dance in the middle of the 360, and projected 360 laser images off of it, and then captured that picture. The gentleman, Mark, he’s wild. He threw cardboard on wood frames, and then just did that to it. That’s what I was talking about: style. personally, what’s next for me? showing more and more style. giving people more and more reasons to think who made that, or what’s that? Giving people reasons to investigate.

Unlock Key is showing until December 30, 2023. Learn more about the exhibit at Imperfect Gallery and follow Kaang’s work @Kaanggrooviin

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