Unique forms of entertainment wow fair crowds
WILLMAR -- Wearing paint-splattered jeans and a red bandana to cover his mouth and nose, artist Todd Kenyon, aka the Cosmo Kid, blends shapes and colors to create an original, one-of-a-kind painting.
But unlike a conventional painter, he doesn't use watercolors or brushes. Instead, he uses spray paint. And it doesn't take him years, weeks or even days to finish a painting -- it takes him about five minutes.
Over the last three days, Kenyon and his paintings have been featured entertainment at the Kandiyohi County Fair in Willmar. Before a show begins, he passes around his portfolio to the crowd. If people see something they like, they can purchase a painting and ask the Cosmo Kid to re-create a version of it, right before their eyes, in mere minutes.
"It's outrageous," said Jeremy Torgerson, of Willmar, who purchased two of Kenyon's paintings at the fair Friday. "I've never seen anything like this before."
Kenyon started honing his spray painting skills 14 years ago, when he met a spray paint artist who inspired him to try it.
"I fell in love," he said. "A light bulb just went off in my head."
It took Kenyon about three years, he said, to really become good at spray paint art. Now, he travels across the country, performing at events ranging from county fairs to birthday parties to company picnics. He's gotten so good at it that sometimes he even lights the paint on fire for an added effect.
But when Kenyon's on stage in front of a crowd, furiously reaching for the next can of spray paint or his tiny palette knife, he doesn't think about the painting, or even the spray paint fumes, he said. He just gets lost in the music and waits to see where the art takes him.
"If I just let everything go, things turn out every time," he said. "The music really helps me. Most of what I do is on the spot."
Although much of the art he makes is based on versions of paintings found in his portfolio, each finished painting is original, he said.
"Even if I duplicate something, it never turns out the same," Kenyon said. "Every one is unique and completely one-of-a-kind."
He said he knows only of about 300 other spray paint artists in the world, and of those, only about 100 artists travel to show off their work. But for him, traveling and meeting new people is one of the best parts of doing what he does.
"I get stir crazy if I sit in one place too long," he said. "I love the traveling."
Kenyon said he doesn't have a word or phrase to describe his art, because "there's no medium for it." He's been trying to think of an adequate description, though.
"I've been thinking about it," he said. "But I haven't come up with anything that would do (my art) any justice."
Those who have witnessed him create his art would agree: There's no easy way to describe it.
"It is amazing," said Marisa Burgmeier, of North Bend, Ore., who was visiting family Friday at the Kandiyohi County Fair. "How he does it -- I don't even know how to explain it. It's crazy."
The Cosmo Kid will perform four shows today at the fair beginning at 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m. The shows are free, and a painting costs $25. For more information on his work, visit www.cosmokid.com.
Ventriloquist James Wedgwood
The Cosmo Kid wasn't the only entertainment act drawing crowds Friday at the Kandiyohi County Fair. At two different shows on the Heritage Square Stage, ventriloquist James Wedgwood proved that he was no, well, dummy.
Bad pun intended.
From an Irish leprechaun to a six-person rap band, Wedgwood demonstrated his unique talent for throwing his voice and had his audiences in hysterics with his comedic routines.
"All this beautiful sunshine and good food - is this heaven?" his puppet Uncle Ernie, an old, graying grandpa, asked as Wedgwood brought him on stage during the first show.
"No, Ernie, this is Willmar, Minn.," Wedgwood explained to his puppet.
"Oh, no," Ernie responded, hanging his head in shame. "I went to the other place!"
Wedgwood began practicing ventriloquism at just 9 years old, when one of his aunts sent him two records and a plastic dummy. He majored in theater and acting in college and never planned on ventriloquism as a career, he said.
But for the past 22 years, that's how he's made a living. He adds to and changes his act constantly, always trying to improve, he said.
"I stand in front of a mirror with a puppet and just see what happens," Wedgwood said Friday. "Then I flesh it out and tweak it. I learn something new just about every show."
Wedgwood and his dummies have performed on the "Statler Brothers Show," "Crook & Chase" and opened for several big-time country music acts.
"I've been extremely fortunate," Wedgwood said. "So much so that my relatives don't have to worry about me anymore."
People who saw his act Friday agreed that Wedgwood's talent is a unique one. Shirley Dahl, of Atwater, got an up-close-and-personal view of the ventriloquist's show when she was called up to the stage as a volunteer from the audience.
"It was fun -- surprisingly," Dahl said. "I thought it was a good show. It wasn't at all what I was expecting."
For more information on James Wedgwood and his puppets, visit www.jameswedgwood.com.