Ira Kennedy Paints in Aboriginal Dreamtime!
Ira Kennedy was born in a tent in San Saba on September 25, 1941, and was delivered by Dr. Ira Stone. Dr. Stone arrived on the scene at the last moment, took good care of him and out of gratitude, his mother named him after the kind doctor. The Painting Legend, Ira Kennedy, was born!
His parents were hard-working migrant workers, and a few months after his birth, John Green Kelly, Ira’s great grandfather and husband of Sarah Jane Kelly, a full-blood Texas Cherokee, was on his deathbed. He called for Ira, who was placed in his arms, and then while holding Ira he drew his last breath and died. Ira can’t explain why, but he has always believed that something passed between them at that moment. As he came to understand in a dream-poem years later, Ira states, “We are the longing of our ancestors, we are their dream. Through us they dream themselves awake.” This, in my opinion, is what brought him to his current mental and artistic spiritual state some 73 years later.
In the animist framework of Australian Aboriginal mythology, Dreamtime is a place beyond time and space in which the past, present, and future exist wholly as one. The tribal Aborigines could enter this alternate universe through dreams or various states of altered consciousness, as well as death, Dreamtime being considered the final destination before reincarnation. Coincidentally, Ira is inspired by Australian Aboriginal Art. Ira states, “My art is not pointillism, which is small strokes, my work is dots, so it is much closer aligned with Aboriginal art.”
Ira has a sister who lives in Australia, and she has been sending him Aboriginal artwork for years. Ira missed his sister very much and was so amazed by the art that he had seen that he went to Australia to see it in person. He said it looks a lot different in person, compared to the t-shirts and coffee mugs he was viewing previously. He had an amazing experience abroad visiting Ayer’s Rock, seeing his sister and meeting local artists. Immediately upon returning from Down Under, Ira painted his famous piece, Rainscape Dreaming. The new modern, spiritual Aborigines/American Style was formed and no one can do it like Ira!
From his earliest years he has always known that he was an artist, but he now knows what art looks like for him, through his eyes, his heart, and his way of seeing the world. He says, “Artists of the past have had sudden shifts in their artistic style. Picasso’s revelation came once he saw African art and Van Gogh’s discovery of Japanese art was equally life changing. Likewise, my exposure to Australian Aboriginal art, the native arts of Mexico and the ancient rock art of the Southwest Indians came together to evoke an artistic epiphany. Although I can paint what I see, I have chosen to paint what can’t be seen. I now see my works as being mythological explorations immersed in a primal and eternal visual truth.”
“The process is to take a painting from a dull state to one of brilliance using dots to create visual shimmer, so the work is to be sensed more than viewed. The paintings are not an object for the eye alone, but an experience for the mind. Intimating, not imitating, that which is indescribable.”
Since his two solo exhibitions in New York City, to a group show, “The Art of Money”, at the Chelsea Gallery, which included many internationally known artists, including Andy Warhol, he has had his share of success. Ira’s art is held in private collections from Australia to South Korea and New York to Texas.
He started doing small sizes and slowly began going larger on canvas. He moves towards representational art. He explains, “It is hard for me to explain my art in words as it comes from the opposite side of my brain.”
Ira is a firm believer in just “getting it done”, and “don’t make excuses.” He says “just do it.” As a matter of fact, to prove he walks the walk, in 1969 he moved to The East Village of New York City with $35 and a one-way ticket, and quickly began to exhibit his art alongside World Famous Artist Andy Warhol’s pieces. He was not afraid to get out there and show the world his art. Through his NYC connections he used to receive free passes to see famous musicians and met a lot of cool musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
Ira has been to almost every type of religious service in the world, but he does not see himself as religious; he is just very spiritual. As a Native American, he just is that way and I think it adds to his artistic sensibility, mental creativity, and spiritualism greatly.
Ira’s advice to aspiring artists is, “You have to be unique. It is hard to do. Heck, it took me 68 years to create my own unique style that says who I am. My style found itself through my life’s work. Practice, learn to draw well and then paint colors and composition, but if you’re in it for the money then choose a different line of work. You have to do what makes you happy. Create work worthy of marketing and then learn how to market it.”
When I asked him what keeps him going and what’s next for him, he simply stated, “This type of style is it for me. When I am almost finished with a piece, I stop and look at it and say to myself, ‘am I crazy for doing this?’, but it looks great and I am always self satisfied. I am using thousands and thousands of dots after all.” Ira also says more importantly, “My fans keep me going and they inspire me to do more and more. I am blessed that I have a huge following with avid supporters. I paint for them and me. My wife Kathy is also very supportive and amazing in all aspects. Even my Facebook likes and comments linked to my work inspire me and keep me going.”
As far as awards are concerned, Ira isn’t much of a competitor but he has won Master Prize at the Fredericksburg Art Show and is going to be published in a book for acrylics works for American Icon.
Most of his works show gorgeous animals, including lots of large cats. His charities explain why. He has been donating pieces to an organization in Dallas that rescues big cats. He also donated pieces to Casa in Marble Falls. Casa represents and protects abused and neglected children in court. Kids who have been taken away from their parents and left in the custody of the State. He is also donating paintings to the Llano Fine Arts Guild Fundraiser. What an amazing man, if you ask me!
I asked him if he feels that he has accomplished his goals yet? He humbly states, “I feel as though I have reached my goals in life. If I died tomorrow, then I would be a happy camper. I have painted what I wanted to paint, have inspired others and created happy emotions through my art. I am happy where I am and where I am going.”
The Master started early. Ira’s earliest memory is from age 2-3, when he decided to add his touch to the decal of little bears with balloons on the inside frame of his baby bed. Within reach was his mother’s brilliant red fingernail polish. Would you believe, he added his finishing touches to the picture without getting the “paint” all over the place? Gifted from an early age, if you ask me!
While in Japan, his parents acquired numerous Japanese artifacts: scrolls, ceramics, etc., which he used at a very early age to copy for his drawings. Japanese art and comic books were his first real introductions to art.
One day, something very unusual happened to Ira. His father took him to visit a Buddhist temple. He never understood why this moment was for him alone, but once inside, he was awestruck by the beauty and serenity of the place. At five years old, this moment imprinted itself on him and shaped his spiritual beliefs. “It opened up questions about different traditions and inspired religious tolerance”, he states.
Between 1956 and 1958, Ira explains that these were the best years of his late youth. “Being an Army Brat, coming from Japan and now being stationed in Germany is a situation that can only be understood and appreciated by others who share the same fate. The high school in Baumholder where we lived was like any in the states except for the first time since Japan I was surrounded by other military kids. We were all keenly aware of the difficulties of fitting in to a new school and all newcomers were welcome. My junior year (57-58) I was president of my class, vice president of the student council, reported on the school newspaper, treasurer of the teen club, artist for the school annual and lettered in basketball, football, baseball and track.”
He later states, “After two decidedly unremarkable semesters at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now SWTSU — NOW Texas State University) I enlisted in the Navy and served my entire four years at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California as a cryptographer where I attained the rank of Second Class Petty Officer (E-5).” When I left home to join the Navy Dad said, ‘Good. Maybe it will make a man of you.’ Those words added fuel to the summering anger I frequently held against my father. Yet, he was right. I was changed by the experience. I became not just a man, but also a leader of men. I was a squad leader and Honor Man in boot camp. In radio school I graduated among the top four in the class.” Thank you for your service to our country, Ira!
From Ira’s earliest memories, art and poetry have served as his closest companions. As they serve him, he serves them, and from that he knows this: “It is only through the Arts we reach our highest potential as humans and what greater honor can there be beyond service to that calling?” He states, “My sons remember, although this voice will not last forever, I live a longer life through each of you. Look in any mirror and I am there in many subtle ways. Look into your hearts, look deeper, into your souls and I am there as well, for you are of me. My poets. My sons. I love you boys, with all my heart. Dad.”
To acquire a beautiful piece of Ira’s work, either Original Painting, Giclee Print or Poster and coffee mugs, t-shirts visit his website at:
His Facebook at:
Or visit in person:
The RIVER’S EDGE GALLERY in Kerrville Texas where his art is currently being exhibited.
Enjoy Ira’s beautiful creations for yourself!