A local horror-inspired artist is clawing his way to the top of the art scene in Hudson County. Artist Kevin Diaz says his nightmare-fueled paintings have come to be part of an artistic movement among North Hudson municipalities.
Diaz was born in North Bergen, and raised in Guttenberg. An alumni of North Bergen High School, he started painting at age 18.
“I took a painting class during my senior year of high school,” he said. “I was like, ‘Ooh, I like this!’ Then I just kept doing it. I never thought I was going to be, like, an artist. But then I thought, why not?”
That was around 2013. Diaz started by making posters that he wanted to put on his walls. Now at age 25 he has his own studio in Union City.
“It’s nice to have your own space to create and do what you want to do, rather than messing up your mom’s house,” he said. Self-deprecating humor is a trademark.
First he went to Hudson County Community College and graduated with a degree in Computer Arts. Then he graduated from Arizona State University online with a Bachelor of the Arts in Art History. Now Diaz is sharing his art with the places he calls home.
“I was born and raised here, and I thought I should be catering to the local community,” he said.
Inspired by the darkness
Diaz draws inspiration from an array of dark and twisted topics which defined his youth.
“I would say my influences stem from dark watercolor paintings as well as the seedy underbelly of pop culture,” he said. “Horror, true crime, and performance art are also main influences on my art.”
In addition to incorporating ideas from things like the dark side of pop culture and horror movies, Diaz puts some of his own personal demons on display throughout his work.
“I’m also perpetually drawn to the idea of my anxiety being present in my work, which I exemplify with my expressionistic brush strokes, splatters, and spontaneous materials.”
While it’s an outlet to deal with his anxiety sometimes, Diaz said, “When I have anxiety I shut down and I don’t want to do anything.” But that hasn’t stopped him lately.
“This is the first year that I’m doing anything,” he said. “I was in school before and I didn’t have any friends so I didn’t do anything. After I graduated, I knew I needed to network and put myself out there.”
Show after show after show
Lately it seems like Diaz, who also goes by Slaughter DK, can’t go a week without hosting an art show. He frequently partners with local galleries or hosts art shows at his studio in Union City.
One common venue where he hosts his displays of visual and performance art, complete with live music, is an art gallery known as Greenhive Studio.
“I started working with Greenhive through a friend,” Diaz said. “We just connected after that and we built a friendship. Now we’re associates, I like to consider myself a Greenhive bitch.”
According to Diaz, the space is more than just a gallery, it’s rather a “collective” of artists and other talent. And he falls under that other category too, incorporating performance art into his gallery exhibitions.
“I’m a huge Maria Abramovic fan, even though that’s like a minicscule part of my inspiration for performance art,” he said. “I like to shock people. I like to do controversial things.”
‘A clown at heart’
Part of that meant dressing in full clown garb at a recent show. Diaz said he has always been a clown at heart.
“I’ve always considered myself a clown on the inside, because I’m always making people laugh,” he said. “But there’s always something a little romantic about a clown. They’re paid to entertain you and make you happy, but you don’t know what’s going on behind the makeup. You don’t even know what the person looks like.”
Diaz started doing makeup this year, and it is now an important part of his art: “I’ve always been hesitant to do my makeup, because I don’t trust myself to leave the house looking a mess.”
He has since come a long way, from being hesitant to leave the house with makeup on to going full clown. But Diaz said he would have done it anyway, regardless if he had started wearing makeup in other more casual settings, because he is proud to be a living piece of his art.
Throughout 2021, Diaz made painted a number of pieces for his various shows. However, he is also particularly proud of a table sculpture he made, utilizing in part the legs of a mannequin and a lot of candles. Another sculpture he made consists of a mannequin head on a stick wrapped like a lollipop, of which there are two.
Powering through 2022
Diaz said he is going to keep the momentum going in 2022.
“I started 2021 full steam ahead and I’m planning on starting 2022 full steam ahead,” he said.
That means continuing to contribute to enrich the local art scene. Diaz is starting with the building his art studio is located in. A former warehouse which is now rented for other commercial means, just off of Kennedy Boulevard, he is hoping to inspire other artists to move in and contribute to the scene.
“There’s not a lot of artists in this building,” he said. “There’s a lot of music artists here and a lot of businesses, but not a lot of visual artists. I’m like trying to start a revival here.”
Diaz also wants to do more for the local community than just share his art. He looks to do fundraisers and more for important causes in the future, but wants to continue to help develop the current movement first.
“I really want to do more for the community, like fundraisers and things of that nature, but I have to build a repertoire and, like, a following before I do that,” he said.
And since Diaz can muster a decent attendance at one of his exhibits while COVID-19 cases are so high, when things settle down more it is not inconceivable that his shows will draw more attendance.
For more information, go to slaughterdkart.com. Diaz can also be reached via Instagram at @slaughterdkart.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.