Born and raised in New Orleans, Aidi Kansas honed her chops here in Houston. After graduating from the University of Houston, she launched her art career, inspired in part by her grandfather, a Costa Rican-born merchant seaman who also dabbled in painting. Kansas’ artistic expression focuses on presenting pet portaiture in vibrant colors and graphic imagery, bringing to life the personalities and character of these beloved creatures.
H: What spurred your passion for pet portraiture? AK: I have always loved animals, but for different reasons I never got to keep a pet for long as a kid. About the time I was graduating from U of H, I got my first puppy as an adult – my Jack Russell terrier, Bobo. A few months later, I took a trip to New York and happened to see the Chuck Close exhibit at the MOMA. I enjoyed his take on faces and portraits, and I guess I was thinking about Bobo back in Houston. So, as soon as I came home, I locked myself in my studio and started trying to take that inspiration and, using my own voice, paint a proper tribute to Bobo.
H: When you first started painting, you nicknamed your work “Puppy Pop Art.” Your technique is reminiscent of pop art, but the fact that you paint animals gives it an unexpected twist. How did your style develop? AK: I really don’t use “Puppy Pop Art” anymore. It works as a description because I think my painting style and sense of humor have always fit the pop art movement, but I think people should know my work rather than a brand name. Originally, I focused on using color to capture the emotional essence of that unique relationship between pet and owner. As I did more portraits, I started to experiment more with the natural design elements that are part of each dog’s face and the negative space within the portrait. I think that has brought a new element to the work, and the paintings are more interesting as a result.
H: Where did you first show your work? AK: Martha and Jack Meier, of the Jack Meier Gallery on Bissonnet in Houston, gave me my first big break on the gallery scene. Martha thought my work was refreshing and original, even though it was very different from everything else they carried.
H: Each dog’s true personality emanates from your paintings. Is it difficult to see through the animal? AK: It takes a little background work to get the personality to come out. The best source is always the pet’s owner. I like to hear a few stories from the owner to give me some insight into the subject’s personality. By using vibrant colors and staying away from the dull white, black and brown of reality, I think I capture that pet/owner relationship. Having a pet is great because you can enjoy all the fun red, orange, yellow times without having to worry so much about the more serious grey and brown times that are part of any deep human relationship.
H: Do you spend some time getting acquainted before starting the working process? AK: At the beginning, I would go visit the pet before starting a painting. That’s just not possible anymore, so I spend some quality time on the phone with the pet’s owner, just trying to get to know them and their pet. Then the owner will send me some pictures. The best ones to work from are interesting face shots – but something that’s consistent with the pet’s character.
H: How long on average does one portrait take to complete? AK: Depending on what else I have going on, it can take about a week.
H: Do you work on several at a time or do you prefer to focus on one? AK: I usually work on several at a time, because I feel that letting a painting rest and going back to refine it is all part of the painting process.
H: Do you feel that you take yourself and your art very seriously or are you able to have fun with all of this? AK: In general, I try not to take things too seriously. Animals are about fun and joyful love. But, once I get started, I take painting pretty seriously, especially when I get started on a commission. The fun is seeing the reaction of the recipient or the tears when they’ve seen their pet painted in an endearing and commemorative light, especially those that have lost their loved ones. It is truly a rewarding experience.
H: Are you planning to bring your work to Houston any time soon? AK: I plan to be part of the Astroworld Series of Dog Shows in Houston, from July 15-18. H
Aidi Kansas is now exhibiting at Sterling Gallery, 308 Royal St., New Orleans and can be reached at www.aidikansas.com, email@example.com, (504) 482-5859.
Photography by Debbie Porter
Yes, he truly is as nice and sincere as he seemed on television. If you don’t recognize our cover model this month, you were obviously not a loyal fan of ABC’s reality program, “The Bachelor.” Friendswood native Matt Hickl captivated fans of the show up until the final episode, where he finished close, but no rose petal, coming home out, but not down.
In the final episode, he wasn’t selected and was sent home with nothing more than some fond memories. “The experience was all that I’ll take from this. I did not get paid (to be on the show), and I didn’t get paid for work at the same time.” Memories, and putting Friendswood on the map.
This friendly Friendswood High School grad has seen his share of near misses. After graduating from Texas A&M at Kingsville with a finance degree, he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. (His dad played pro football for the New York Giants.)
In pole vaulting, he jumped 18 1/2 feet. “Just five or six inches below the qualifying standard to go to the Olympic trials in 2000,” recalls Hickl. So, he went to the Seattle Seahawks on a free agent contract, played four pre-season games and got cut. This sent him to the NFL Europe where he got injured and missed the tryout with the New Orleans Saints.
Although the Houston Chronicle reported Hickl to be an actor and a model, he says he’s neither. “I’m not an actor, I’m a pharmaceutical rep. I’ve done modeling on the side, like through Christmas holidays and over the summer as a way to make money while I was in school. I still continue to model after five, or if they have something I can do.”
Proud mom, Carol Reagin, was thrilled to see her son on TV and a little apprehensive about her own appearance. (The show brings the bachelorette to town to meet the family.) “We were on camera for eight hours to get eight minutes,” she says.
The family found out Hickl didn’t win the girl at the same time that we all did, and Channel 13 was there to catch their reactions. I guess mothers do know best: Reagin said she had a gut feeling about what was going to happen. “I studied his screen shots and his body language, and I knew,” she recalls.
“I didn’t realize how many people watch the show and follow it,” says Hickl. “Obviously, my friends and family were really supportive throughout this whole thing.
“The real pleasant surprise has been all the support I’ve had from people in Houston and the surrounding areas. Total strangers have offered their sympathy and their support, and that’s been really awesome. It helped me deal with a situation that was pretty tough for me. You can imagine going through something like this (getting dumped on national television) and then coming home and not being able to say a word about it. And then, now that it’s over and everyone knows what has happened, people have been so supportive. And that goes for my friends and family, but also complete strangers. To me that just speaks to the character and the quality of the good people that I’ve grown up around and that I’ve had the privilege to work with.”
Since the show, Hickl’s mom has been getting e-mails at work with pictures of prospective dates. When asked if she had a message for Houston readers, she says, “No, I can’t give you his phone number!” H
hair and makeup by gigi vega, styling by carlos dumas stafford, wardrobe from crazy ranch designs, photographed at bay area equestrian center, thanks to larry howard
The one thing that excites any woman you meet? Shoes. So, some of Houston’s top artists got together to design some real show stoppers. Then, they auctioned them off in support of Women Helping Women, an organization that trains women for the work force.
The Blue Bird Circle has been selling Easter Baskets for more than 50 years.
I used to have to walk many blocks from Times Square in NYC to the nearest Club Monaco. Then, I labored down Collins Ave. in Miami for more fashion essentials. And no trip to Vegas was ever complete without a peek inside the Aladdin?s mall. My prayers were answered and my feet were saved when the Galleria IV welcomed Club Monaco over a year ago. Known for fashion forward essentials and wardrobe assistance, this store has been my personal mainstay for casual attire for many years.