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Art and Music and Theatre

In this week's installment of "It's All Art," Patch's art critic at-large Ken Reif discusses impressionism, inspiration and Lou Reed.

This week, we turn the tables. While Ken is out on his first "Life of Ray" celebration, his wife conducts the interview. Her subject? Ken Reif. 

Rebecca Reif: Who are you?

Ken Reif: My name is Ken Reif, I am an artist, actor in the improv group Antigravity Experiment, musician and Art Critic At Large.

Tell me about your first experience with the world of art.

I started drawing by copying the drawings from Mad Magazine and my parents sent me to a local painting studio in South Holland, where I learned the basics.

Where did you study after that?

I became very interested in art during high cchool and also was very interested in music. so i began to draw portraits of my favorite musicians.

Who did you receive encouragement from to continue on your path to art?

Mostly my friends. My parents wanted me to get involved in a career that made money.

So did you give into your parents wishes?

Well, it was a compromise. They were willing to pay for college but only if I seeked out a career in advertising illustration as apposed to a career in fine art.

Where did you attend?

The Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and Columbia College...It opened my eyes to see the world through an artist eye. to see the world in color, shape and composition.

Explain this to me.

Well, when I look at objects now I see how they relate to each other and I'm always looking at them as if they are a part of a composition, almost like I turn objects that are three-dimension into two-dimension — how a three-dimensional object would look on a 2 dimensional surface.

Who are your main influences as artist?

Monet, Van Gogh, Modigliani, the German Expressionist and especially Chuck Close.

Out of all these impressionists, you include Chuck. Why?

Van Gogh and Modigliani were not impressionist, though they were influenced by impressionists. They are more a link between impressionist and modern art, but one thing these artists have in common they are very strong painters. They use very bold colors and they're fearless in their style.

Do you consider yourself a "fearless artist"?

I strive to be. I like what Chuck Close says about inspiration. He says "inspiration is for amateurs the rest of us go to work," meaning if you're serious about your art, if you have to wait around for an inspiring thought, it may never come. I find inspiration in the work i am doing and get my new ideas from that work and the world around me.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am doing illustrations for a children's book, working on paintings for upcoming art shows and fairs. This will be my first show at the "One of a Kind" show and am working on getting my inventory completing for that project.

Are you affiliated with any art organizations?

I am a current art member of the and was past president of the board of directors at OPAL.

Where can the Patch reader go to see your art? 

At the Oak Park Art League, on Harrison in Oak Park, also the Next Picture Show in Dixon. I have two murals in Oak Park, both on the CTA Green Line embankment in Oak Park. You can also see my work at www.kenreif.com and on my Facebook page.

Tell us about your first experience with the world of music?

I have always been enamored by the sounds of any kind of guitar, be it acoustic or electric. I've had to figure out how to make those sounds come alive.

How? 

I am a firm believer that if you really want to do something you will find a way. I do not believe in nature talent, desire is the fuel that lights the fire of creativity.

OK, now tell me this, any guitar lessons?

I took a couple of years of basic guitar. then I learned most of what I know on the job training in bands...I play bass guitar mainly, some slide guitar. I currently play bass for Jimbo Delta. This band is made up of Jim Parks, who plays lead acoustic/resonator guitar and myself on bass.

You can see Jimbo Delta at Reggies, 21st and State in Chicago on the first Friday of month from 5:30-7 p.m. You can also check out www.jimbodelta.com; The Antigravity Experiment will be performing at the Open Door Repertory, Harrison Street and Ridgeland Avenue in Oak Park, on June 8th at 8pm. Jimbo Delta will also be performing at this show. 

Like the painters mentioned above, who are your musical influences?

Jimmy Hendrix Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart, Brian Eno and most recently i have gotten into Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

If you could play in any of the above musician's band, which one would you choose to play bass for?

Probably Lou Reed, because you could be the most creative as an individual, especially if you were a part of the Velvet Underground.

Tell me about your first experience in the world of acting?

My wife encouraged me to get involved in acting. I have friends who are involved in improv and were interested in forming a group. They were second city trained actors and are quite good at what they do. I am new to the world of acting and learning from them.

Finally, how do all of these art forms  relate?

Well like the name of this column "It's All Art", they all have their own compositions and it is my goal in art to make art that evokes emotion. They are all a vehicle to that end. 

This article is dedicated to the memory of my life long friend Ray.

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