Sunday, February 15, 2009

the art of dj kennedy


today i'd like to introduce you to a good friend and an outstanding artist, dj kennedy. i met dj in the early 90s, when i was an assistant buyer for neiman marcus in dallas (a fascinating experience worth its own post), and we went bonkers over his exquisite line of handcrafted writing instruments. collectors went nuts over it too, and his sales went through the roof right away. so i got to know dj and julie, his business manager/mate at the time, very quickly as we were working together on a near-daily basis to satisfy the demand for his resplendent pieces. we all clicked instantly and had the good fortune to see each other often long after i left the company.

although i got to know dj through his pen craftsmanship, this doesn't even begin to describe the range of art he creates. he is not an artist who clocks in and out of his studio each day. he lives it and breathes it; art is his life, his skin, his way of being. not much is off limits in his creative exploration. but you won't find dj's name all over the place in a google search. he doesn't advertise his work on the internet, i imagine because he's busy doing other stuff: working on a commissioned pen, crafting a pair of earrings, writing poetry, creating accessories for a friend's clothing line, experimenting with precious metals i've never heard of, inventing things and theories, painting art cars, playing in trombone festivals, sketching people, scavenging and using every last piece of found material, discovering new uses and ideas for everything that crosses his path and mind.

somehow he has kept up with our address changes through the years. i've lost count of the postcards and letters we've sent back and forth, and every once in a while the wind is knocked out of me when i find one of his precious pieces of art peeking out of the mailbox.



these are two dj pens i'm proud to call my own - the #261 garnet ballpoint and one of his baby ballpoints that is worn as a necklace. my lousy photography doesn't do justice to these beauties. fortunately i kept one of the many promotional mailers we did at neiman marcus featuring his work. i believe this one is from 1996.




here's a snippet of one of the many articles written on his work during his pen boom in the mid 90s. now those pens are traded and sold as collectibles. i'll never let go of mine - no way, no how. these are heirlooms.



a few days ago these gorgeous earrings appeared in my mailbox and i shot upstairs to show my husband. when something from dj arrives we inspect every angle of whatever he's sent - if we don't, then for sure we miss something. look closely and you'll see stampings in the metal - these say "aimo" (my nickname to many people), "artsyville 2009", "titanium", "niobium, ew" and there's probably something else i haven't noticed yet. what a beautiful gift. in almost every piece of jewelry he creates, some thought or remembrance is etched in the metal.


over the last fifteen years i've received letters on the backs of beer cartons, financial statements from the county hospital, thirty year old court documents, little debbie snack cake boxes, pieces of shopping bags (with the handles), shoe boxes, and anything else that holds ink. his artistic style has had an immeasurable impact on my own, particularly his stream of consciousness writing and the way he hops from topic to topic. one moment he contemplates the meaning of the universe and the next he groans about an overdose on pringles. being exposed to the freedom of his thought process through the years has helped me to unlock my own way of creative expression.











dj in his studio about 10 years ago.


here we are on the set of channel 5 in phoenix around the same time - he was doing a series of early morning TV shows in the area. i was just along for the ride. actually, he and julie were staying with me so i think i WAS the ride - otherwise i would have never been up that early.


a portrait he did of me after one of those morning shows. dj often draws people in public and then gives the sketches to them. he is one of those exceptional people who shares his art and life with nearly everyone he meets; i feel so lucky to know him. and he didn't mind in the least when i asked him if i could share these photos and memories with you.

speaking of exceptional people, my fabulous roommate from the 'half' made a delightful surprise appearance in the commentary - the only person who could have made that half post whole!

32 comments:

steve said...

Wow, what a great person to know, and an extraordinary artist. Thanks for sharing his work with us Aimee - you're fortunate to have kept in touch with such an inspiration!

heather smith jones said...

dj seems like on of those people that turns everything into art; everything is food for creativity.
how interesting to meet him through your eyes and i can see how you are kindred thinkers.

today seems to be a thoughtful sunday, i hope you're having a nice one aimee!

anna maria said...

You are a lucky girl!

Ricë said...

fabulous! you did a great job, both of capturing him and of making me dream of getting to meet him some day. thank you.

Bella Sinclair said...

Wow, what an inspirational post. Can I exhale now? This man is a creative genius! I can feel his frenetic need for creativity and expression. What an incredible person to know. And to have kept in touch with him -- and kept all his amazing correspondence -- is priceless. You ARE one lucky girl!

And how COOL that your half roommate left a comment!

Esti said...

thanks for sharing his art. I like those earrings and that bunch of letters just look stunning.This is very inspiring, aimee.
:)

peggy said...

I am completely over-the-top inspired by this post!! It is so important to maintain those friendships from the past. You are so fortunate to have so much wonderful correspondence to reinforce that. And I would bet good money that dj considers himself so very lucky to have your wonderful friendship!

Anairam said...

What an amazing artist! I love it when someone is so passionate that everything (s)he touches turns into an artwork. I sometimes feel sad about the hundreds of thousands of hugely creative people out there whose work I will never experience - but on the other hand, through other bloggers I am getting to see some of it, at least!

L'Atelier said...

How amazing, thanks for telling us about dj. He seems truly inspirational. I love letters and you have a true tresure on your hand with those- not to speak about the pens and earring...
oh and yes tell about your time as a buyer for n.m.
xo
happy monday

joanne said...

WOW...i can see why a package in the mail inspires so much excitement...every photo you have shared here is a feast to look at...it must be so amazing to study every detail in person...and those earrings are just amazing...

i love it when someone lives their art so completely...and shares it so generously...thank you to you...and to dj... for sharing, and for inspiring...

jess gonacha said...

WOW, what a special relationship to have in your life! He seems like an extraordinary person! (As do you, by the way. We have to meet in person one day!)

see you there! said...

Amazing work. I know you must treasure the pieces you own. Those earrings are fabulous.

Darla

T.L. Holmes said...

The inspiration one can glean from his work...wow. Love the photos and commentary! I can't wait to move to a big(-ger) city...even if it's only Indy!

Katrina said...

what a lovely post. i love that you said he lives art...

Gracia said...

What a great collection of letters and drawings sent... thanks for sharing this, Aimee.

Megan Coyle said...

Wow, his work is wonderful. That's so fantastic that you know such a creative person!

~Valentina~ said...

Thanks for sharing this! Those pictures looks like big treasures :) So nice to have creative and inspiring people around, right?

cindy : quaint said...

thank you for the introduction. dj is truly authentic and his work seems as though it was created in another place and time. the pens are wonderful and receiving his correspondence must feel like christmas each time.

Nina Crittenden said...

I am constantly amazed by all the fabulous, creatives out there-- thanks for introducing us to your friend! His work is amazing!

Lisa said...

Wow- very cool story! I am honored to know DJ...met him at my current place of work SKIF- over 4 years ago- on my very first day...In fact, that very first day at Skif, he drew my portrait!!! I am also lucky to have just gotten my first pair of his earring last week!
Lisa

Cestandrea said...

What a wonderful person! Thanks for presenting him to us and say hello to him from me:) Everthing about your post is inspiring, and I love love love the pens, never saw anything like it! They are poetry!

yoon see said...

beautiful portrait of yours. I really feel the artsy mood here!

painted fish studio said...

thanks so much for sharing dj with us! how fabulous that you know such a creative and giving person.

vineeta said...

WOWOWOWOW. My god, what talent & its a privilege to know such people. people who live their art & share it freely. I'm terrifically inspired. right now I just feel like chucking my job & just doing my art.

jennifernew42@mac.com said...

Does he keep a journal? Loks llike I may be doing a second journal book...

Scotti said...

It's really amazing to see this after knowing DJ 25 years ago growing up in a little river town in Southern Illinois. I spent many days hanging around DJ because he was a very fascinating guy, and I loved seeing the numerous creations around his studio.

I regret not keeping in touch with DJ, but I was just a dumb teenager back then and didn't recognize his uniqueness until it was much too late in life. I had heard about his booming pen designs, and would love to find some of the art he created for me back then.

george said...

Was he ever in southern Illinois? I have a caricature drawing of myself that a DJ Kennedy drew in ink. I was in a bar and I think he just drew it and handed it to me. It is dated April 1985 numbered and signed, both cursive and printed. It looks like the pic displayed here/

Unknown said...

Hello, I have recently inherited a Neiman Marcus DJ Kennedy fountain pen and i have been told it may be worth a great deal of money. If there is anyone out there that can help me to assess the value of this pen I would greatly appreciate it. Please email me with any information.
TonyBocchini@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Hello, I have recently inherited a Neiman Marcus DJ Kennedy Fountain Pen. I have been told this pen may be worth a great deal of money. If there is anyone out there that can help me to assess the value of this pen i would greatly appreciate it. The pen says 1994 #21. Please email me if you have any information.
TonyBocchini@gmail.com

Ted Stahl said...

Aimee,

What a cool page you have here! I just "liked" your Facebook page too. I stumbled across this tonight because I was searching to see if there was any information about D.J. Kennedy out in the wild Internet. I knew him and Julie K. back in the early 90s. I did some promotional work for them while I was designing rave fliers and such. He was such an inspiration and the two of them were awesome. I miss them!

They both graced our wedding and D.J. did one of his typically brilliant paintings of us at the reception. I have a number of pieces that he and Julie made including a much-treasured clipboard, a couple of his pens, a business card holder and a wickedly gorgeous wind chime.

Some people pass through your lives, but when wonderful artists do, they leave behind ARTifacts. ;)

Peace.

Ted Stahl

Blue DaDa said...

I knew DJ around 1975 in Chicago, and he had an incredible spirit...he even rescued a "Street" persoon and gave him the job of his turban wearing butler. Any chance you could put me in touch? academyman@lycos.com

Thanks,
John Dixon

doit said...

greetings earthlings
i still live !!!!!!!!!!!!!
and continue to CREATE !!!!!!!!!!
DRAWINGS PAINTINGS AND PENS