Artist Trek Thunder Kelly

Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on artist Trek Thunder Kelly!

How many years in Venice?

I’ve been lucky enough to spend 27 glorious years in Venice, full of stories; miraculous sunsets; Gold’s Gym workouts; Sundays at Baja Cantina; martini’s at Hal’s, lunches at Joe’s; cheap beers at Townhouse (when there were still dildos on the shelves); bar-fights at the Brig (when there were still chalk-boards); breakfasts at Stroh’s Deli; First Fridays; kick-ass Red House Gallery art parties; music at Stronghold; wine at Zinque; fries at James’ Beach; margaritas at Rebecca’s; Venice Art Crawls; Venice Art Walks; Venice Home and Garden Tours; late night guacamole at La Cabana served by Ramon and Jesus in tuxedos; chicken-salad sandwiches at Windward Farms; the Hare Krishna parade on the boardwalk; coconut sake bombs at VAC; the canals; the bungalows; my home at the Waldorf; Small World Books; paddle-tennis; roller-blading; surfing the pier and breakwater at dawn; buying clothes at Aardvark’s; burgers and beer at Hinano; oysters at 72 Market St,, old-school Roosterfish…and all of my friends over the many memories.

Tell us about your art, and what makes it awesome?

What makes my art awesome? I guess that’s subjective. I think sometimes it’s pretty good, and I certainly know when it isn’t, but there are a few works that are untouchable for me, and I feel satisfaction in knowing they’re the best I can do. I mostly painted on canvas, especially when I owned Red House Gallery on Abbot Kinney (now Aviator Nation) where I could work against the big walls. I switched to murals when I moved into my van, after returning from a three-year world-wide vision-quest. Down-sizing affected my decision to switch to murals, you don’t have to worry about where to work on canvases, or storage. Also, I like murals because you don’t lose them, as art they don’t disappear into a house somewhere. They are public, and as a result, you can visit your offspring whenever you want while sharing with others.

Climate Awareness Mural on the Venice Boardwalk by Trek Thunder Kelly.  Photo by @dkwiii

How many years, and how did you get into it?

I’m a third generation artist, I’ve been drawing and painting most of my life. But really we’re all artists; nearly all of us began working with traditional art around the time we could walk, and some of us stuck with it. I copied comic book super-heroes as a kid, which evolved into portraits of my Dungeons and Dragons characters; these I passed before my father for critique. It was from him I learned scale. I eventually went to college, worked at a movie studio, ran my own specialty advertising company, then decided one day to buy a canvas, brushes, and paint at an art store, and that’s where it really began. Once I realized I wasn’t a bad painter, I enjoyed it.

Describe your style:

My style might be called realistic-surrealistic ironic pop art.

What would you say has had the largest impact upon your particular style?

The largest impact on my style has been nature, photographs, and advertising. I tend to look outside for subjects rather than within, and enjoy the unexpected results derived from limits, mash-ups, and mistakes.

Devolution of Fool Bull by Trek Thunder Kelly

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently thinking about a new series on canvas, as I organize funding for large-format murals in various locations worldwide.

Upcoming shows:

I haven’t decided.

What accomplishments, projects, or pieces are most proud of?

I’m proud of my Abraham Lincoln painting, and the Prada Indian. The building on the Venice boardwalk wrapped in clouds makes me smile. I also enjoyed several year-long performance art pieces I engaged in: wearing a tuxedo for a year; wearing all the same shade of blue and running for Governor of California another year; wearing a 365 word poem, one word each day as a sign on my chest, for another.

Owning Red House Gallery on Abbot Kinney was a lot of fun, and I think we made a memorable impact on the street and in Venice. Traveling the world and our country alone for over 3 years felt like an accomplishment, especially making it through a year alone in the desert. I’m currently hoping our TV show “The Good in America” will get picked up so we can do some good, healing the deep divisions in our country.

Where do you find inspiration from?

I’m inspired by beauty in general, which is everywhere, in the way light falls across weeds in an alley, or the texture of stucco on a ceiling in an office, shadows on the beach, colors in water, smiles and the way most people treat each other. Photography enriched many insights for me, as well as traveling alone and experiencing firsthand the authentic kindness people are willing to share with strangers.

What brings you to the arts and how has it helped your life?

Art was a path that opened organically before me, it was my most natural choice. I learned it also gives you a robust amount of creative freedom, in crafting who you are, and how people interact with you. Art has made me happy, and hopefully provided a platform to make others happy, and to inspire them to think as well.

Among the many artists in Venice, who are your favorites?

I like the genuine joy in Tyler Ramsey’s works. Never’s murals are iconic. Elizabeth Orleans creates beautiful organic shapes. Gary Palmer is a classic. Kate Wolfgang Savage is haunting. And of course, many of the local artists conveniently memorialized on the wall at Larry’s.

Finish off the statement: Art is…

Art is communication. Art is freedom. Art is what proves our humanity.  Art is what enables us a connection to everything else.  Art is imagination.  Art is any and everything we purposefully create as conscious beings.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your field?

Follow your instincts; master skills; look for unusual combinations; rejoice in mistakes that take you in different directions; actualize ideas, complete them and move on. Go to Burning Man and Art Basel. Interact with existence and surprise yourself often.

Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote:

“Diplomacy is the art of letting other people have your way.” – Mark Twain

Favorite book, band, or movie:

“Under the Milky Way” by the Church is the elevator music of my mind, it’s almost always there playing in the background. Watch “Family Man”, “Shine”, “American Beauty”, “The Edge of Tomorrow”, if you haven’t already…there are really too many movies for me to remember, the same with books. I would recommend “Hard-boiled Wonderland at the Edge of the World”, as well as “The Denial of Death”, “Deep Survival”, “American Nations”, “Sapiens” and of course the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy to start.

How would your friends or colleagues describe you?

Alas, I’m not sure.

Smile mural by Trek Thunder Kelly

What causes do you support?

“Beautify Earth” is a great organization working to enhance the world through murals. “True Connection” aids in developing much needed Emotional Intelligence in people across different platforms. My friends at “Shark Allies” work hard to educate and prevent the needless destruction of a primary and important part of our ecosystem. “Heal the Bay” is crucial in keeping our waters clean on the beaches we love. “Waves for Water” aid people in obtaining clean drinking water worldwide. Tom’s Shoes “EndGunViolenceTogether” campaign is important.

What’s one thing we can do to make the world a better place?

Think about compassion and what it means every day.

Abraham Lincoln: Emancipation Proclamation

List 1-2 things on your bucket list, and 1-2 on your VENICE bucket list:

Ride horses across Mongolia; snowboard an ice-berg in Antarctica.  In Venice, I have several murals I want to paint on a few blank but prominent walls.

Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world?  Fun facts or accomplishments?

I’m a sucker for watching talent shows like “The X Factor” or “America’s Got Talent” on YouTube and crying for hours. Also, I often work out at Gold’s in jeans and boots.


Describe Venice:

Venice is a creative community, conveniently located on a beach in southern California that passionately both does and does not give a F#CK.  I wish more places were like it.

Describe your perfect day in Venice:

Well, when you live in your car, get to the beach bathrooms first thing in the a.m., right after they’re cleaned, this will start your day off right. Then surf to wake up and hug the world. Get breakfast at Figtree, Rose Cafe, or GTA. Work-out and shower at Gold’s Gym. Buy a book at Small World, and a cool jacket at Animal House. Peruse the intriguing stores on Abbot Kinney, Rose, and Lincoln, bike to the pier, around the canals, along the walk-streets.  Get a little work done at Tom’s Shoes.  Chill for a snack at Erewhon. Have wine with friends at Zinque or Wabi-Sabi. Hit the beach for an amazing sunset. Happy Hour at The Whaler or Waterfront. Get fuel somewhere local for a stop at Rooster Fish and Townhouse. Eat late night tacos at La Cabana. Return to van. Snuggle into sleeping bag. Repeat.

What Venice places would you take a visiting artist friend?

I would do “Trek’s Bicycle Tour of Venice” which includes nearly everything above with more emphasis on murals and a stop at L.A. Louver.

Climate Awareness Mural by Trek Thunder Kelly

What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?

To live in Venice for nearly 3 decades, memories all smooth into a blur. What visitors deem unusual or striking is the norm. Very little surprises me, but other places seem bland in comparison. My fondest experience was sharing my gallery space on with the public, on one of the most inspiring streets in one of the most unusual neighborhoods on Earth. I love it.

Anything else about Venice that you would like to say?

Create, care, engage, these qualities are more important than ever.

Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?

Have some fun with Tyler Ramsay, he and Tom’s shoes are creating an End Gun Violence campaign worldwide that’s getting a lot of traction.


Check out the following two videos!



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