Artist Profile: Alex Kuno

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Alex Kuno’s cover to The Growler #35, The Wine Issue

Grapes. As simple as these small globular berries are on the outside, the historical nature of the juices inside run much deeper.

For Greek and Roman civilization, wine was more than just a fermented drink—it was godly. Dionysus (the Greek god of wine) and Bacchus (the Roman equivalent) are associated with grape harvesting, winemaking, drunkenness, and ecstasy.

No matter which mythology, early cult images of the divinity depict a mature male, bearded and robed, holding a fennel staff, usually accompanied in drunken revelry by a troop of satyrs (woodland creatures resembling goats) and wild female devotees (called maenads).

The Growler went in search of an artist who could encapsulate that legendary revelry in a surreal Bacchanalian vineyard scene for our wine issue.

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Alex Kuno in his studio // Photo courtesy of Alex Kuno

Enter Alex Kuno.

The Lowertown mixed-media artist has done illustrations for children’s books, magazines, album covers, and various other projects for the past seven years. But his own “little fantasy world” as he puts it, has been developing for the past 10 years. The Miscreants of Tiny Town, is a series of ominous fairytales filled with satire, macabre, and anxieties of the real world.

“It’s meant to creep people out on a certain level,” Kuno says. “But as apocalyptic as my work gets, there’s always a thread of hope and optimism running through my narratives. The world feels really uncertain nowadays, and I think if my work has any ‘message’ is that it might be healthier as a society to acknowledge that uncertainty and embrace the fact that no one has ever had any idea what’s going on and that we truly are all just trying to figure out this whole ‘Life’ thing at the same time.”

As mythical as his creatures and environments may be, his work draws from a kaleidoscope of inspirations.

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Art by Alex Kuno // Image courtesy of Alex Kuno

“I grew up obsessing over Northern Renaissance artists—Bruegel, Durer, Cranach—so they’re always in the back of my mind,” Kuno explains. “But I’m also really fascinated with comedy and comedians. ‘Monty Python,’ ‘Mr. Show,’ and ‘Kids in the Hall’ really influenced me creatively as a kid. Dan Harmon and Louis CK are constant current inspirations.”

In his spare time, Kuno watches YouTube tutorials, cooks and tries new foods, and enjoys traveling. But truth be told, he’s addicted to art.

“I try to paint and draw as much as I can—not just because of deadlines, but because I genuinely like doing it,” Kuno reflects. “If I don’t have a show or project to cram for, I’ll make one up for myself and try to learn a new medium or learn about drawing tools I haven’t tried, or I’ll research other styles of artwork.”

As for the future, in early September, Kuno and other various U.S. artists will display their creations at New York’s One Mile Gallery for the exhibit, “Monsters in America,” where each artist focuses on a legendary beast, ancient spirit, or alien creature. The work doesn’t stop there, though. “All September long I’m going to be hunkered down making a huge new pile of work for the upcoming October Saint Paul Art Crawl,” says Kuno. “I’ll have a bunch of new work and prints at special prices and other weird little surprises.”

See the gallery below for more of Kuno’s work and check out his website for more.

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