Forget MySpace and check out MyFace, or, rather, the art that gifted face paint artist/illusionist James Kuhn does, displayed on both his Flickr page and his Face Paint In Motion YouTube channel. The self-described "Artist, Face paint illusionist, Drag Queen, Performance Artist, and full time Christian" has been uploading videos of his face paint art, such as the Rocky Horror "Sweet Transvestite" themed clip above which he posted two days ago, or the brilliant Golden Girls clip (below) that he produced and uploaded six months ago.
Ever the perfectionist, Kuhn said of the Golden Girls piece at the time, "I planned on painting Sophia on my forehead! but ran out of room... I need a bigger head! I am not too happy with this one, I should have searched for better pics to use as my models. The ones I pulled up were too small and Bea was in black and white. I should not try such a big project on a weeknight! Better for Saturdays when I can play all day long and am usually more rested. I gotta get some new glasses too."
On the Three Oaks, Michigan artist's YouTube channel, which is subtitled BibleArtWork, Kuhn has an impressive 234 different videos of various face paint illusions uploaded, usually with a cool accompanying soundtrack, ranging from Bettie Page Pin Up Girl to Miss Piggy & Kermit to Dracula and many, many more.
Of course, this being Halloween, Kuhn's work seems to get even more attention than usual -- something he doesn't mind. The special Halloween face he did in honor of today's holiday was originally done last Halloween but with the greeting text added this week. However, though it was once the artist's favorite holiday of the year, Kuhn says he no longer loves Halloween like he used to. Yesterday I caught up with the profilic Michigan artist to discuss Halloween, his art, his inspiration, his religious beliefs, and his experience trying out for America's Got Talent. That Amoeblog interview follows below.
Amoeblog: How do you get most of your ideas for face art subjects?
James Kuhn: Everything inspires me! Popular culture and television, icons, art history, nostalgia. My imagination knows no bounds!
Amoeblog: How long have you been doing your art and how did you get started doing it?
James Kuhn: I started body painting when I attended Burning Man in Nevada, mostly painting other people, and discovered how fun the face paint makeup is to work with. It goes on just like paint, with an artist's brush and water. I was bored one day when I got snowed in with 12 inches of snow and started playing with my makeup kit to amuse myself. I ended up doing a project where I painted my face every day for a year -- 365 face paint transformations -- and posted them on my flickr website. I accidentally discovered that the face paintings made great videos when I had my camera set on the wrong setting and made a video.
Amoeblog: It seems like you spend a lot of time on your art. How long do you typically spend on your face art and do you always do it solo?
James Kuhn: I spend around 3 to 5 hours a day doing my faces and videos. I do everything myself. No help at all. I handhold the camera for all my shots. If you are an artist you view the world differently than a non-artist. I spend my day looking and gathering ideas. I get inspired at the grocery store or Walmart! Basically I am thinking about art 24/7.
Amoeblog: What kind of reactions have you gotten from your work?
James Kuhn: My fans kept me going with their support and wonderful comments. I have gotten worldwide press and so many opportunities for travel with my faces.
Amoeblog: How much of a struggle (if at all) has it been in getting people to "get" what you do?
James Kuhn: Many people do not 'get' me at all and never will! Other people seem to get more out of what I do than I even intend. Mostly I play and amuse myself. I want people to enjoy and expand their idea of what art is. I believe for something to be art it must create in the viewer a form of passion, whether it be joy or anger, even the creeps! Or perhaps it can inspire. My experience at Burning Man changed the reasons that I as an artist make art. Too many artists today are motivated by selling instead of making art for the creation experience.
Amoeblog: You describe yourself in part as "Performance artist." Exactly what does that entail?
James Kuhn: I like to take my art out into the streets and interact with people. I love to walk in parades and go to street festivals with my paint on. When I make my videos I try to get my head into whatever character I am painting and make it into a total transformation.
Amoeblog: You also describe yourself as both "Drag Queen" and a "full time Christian," which to some might seem like conflicting identities. And your YouTube channel is subtitled "BibleArtWork." So how would you describe your religious beliefs and how central are they to your life?
James Kuhn: I believe that any talent that I possess comes directly from God. God created me to be an artist and art is sacred to me. When I use my gifts I truly believe that I honor God by not wasting them. I do paint biblical and Christian art (www.bibleartwork.com) and my paintings are in the collections of quite a few churches. But I say that whatever theme I choose for my art, it is "Christian art" because I am a Christian. I did drag for many years in Chicago and found it to be a very creative way to combine my talents and I love to entertain. I have always put on shows of one sort or another. When I was a child I had a puppet theatre in the basement. My YouTube channel is my stage right now.
Amoeblog: How was the experience of trying out for the TV show America's Got Talent?
James Kuhn: I got quite far with that show. I auditioned in Chicago and got through two bunches of producers. I was flown out to L.A. and I did my thing in front of the celebrity judges and a huge audience. They did not understand what I was trying to do there; I guess I was a mere speck in that big venue. I really was surprised when they did not air the footage they shot of me on the show. Oh well.
Amoeblog: What do you think of Halloween?
James Kuhn: As a child it was always my very favorite day. I would dream about it all year. I used to enter lots of big contests every year and win cash when I lived in Chicago after college. But it really takes the joy out of the day when you have to get competitive with everyone. It brought out a dark side of me that I don't like. I don't get dressed up for Halloween anymore. It really is amateur night. In the old days people worked hard on their outfits and really got into it. Very few people make their own costumes anymore. Store bought costumes and rentals bore me.
Amoeblog: What is your ultimate life goal with your art?
James Kuhn: I would like to establish myself as not just a face painter or novelty act but as a true creative force and breath of fresh air in the legitimate art world.