It was a seminal moment to walk into Kenny Scharf’s Brooklyn loft, walls filled with his fantasical and iconic paintings that I had seen many times hanging “up town.” The museums do a good job of making you feel as though the artists that inhabit their sacred spaces are from a world far from you and me. However, Kenny is not only as unpretentious a famous guy as I have ever met, but anyone that takes themselves too seriously he says, makes him run the other way. Laid back in his 70′s striped bells (that he proudly claims he brought back in the 80′s) and silk-screen DIY tees, Kenny is an open book about the pros and cons of being reared in the tinselly world of Beverly Hills High School. The west coaster in him loves nature to this day, but he realized at an early age that it’s no good to become out of touch with the world because of fame. In fact, making art for everyone has been Kenny’s life passion (he is legend in the world of graffitti art) Malia, Kenny’s daughter, is so inspired by how true to himself her dad has always been, that she is making what will be the first documentary on him, while she is studying to be an actor.
Extraordinarily real and low key like her dad, Malia is makeup free and unfussy in Rosebowl vintage finds. Her earthiness (and some of her clothes, like her amber necklace and orange bustier Alaia dress,) also comes from her mom who she describes as a Brazilian “Amazonian goddess.” Having grown up on the beaches of South America and with a dad who painted everything from the washer & dryer to his cadillac in which he picked her up from school, her parents built a world around her that is dedicated to elevating the mundane and infusing the magical. Fruit loop boxes hang on Kenny’s walls (better than cluttering the counters with junk), he swings from a trapeze and covets his 70′s new wave sharkskin suits that came out of garbage cans (like all good things did in those days, he states.) The artist whose art was initially inspired by MC Escher and the psychedelic posters of head shops in the 70′s, is interested in everyone’s story and feels everyone deserves respect, whether it be a janitor or the president. And Malia, who seems refreshingly unaffected by trends in her favorite Lucien Pellat Finet comic-inspired sweater and Moschino tiger knit leggings, feels that the open mindedness of her family has created her to be very accepting and fearless when it comes to people’s differences.
One of Kenny’s first memorable experiences with Keith Haring was when the latter artist painted himself into the corner of a room to the beat of the Devo song he was listening to. Keith, Kenny said, “was one of the most important people in my life.” We ended our shoot in Kenny’s other worldy-hyper trippy, colorful basement of a 3D art explosion with father and daughter dancing in day glo, Kenny in a full on neon painted suit and Malia in a Keith Haring tee shirt that he had given her. Malia knows little else but a world of beautiful things with every surface covered by her dad’s hand as a result of his obsession with the idea, why should any experience be mindless?