When Fred Kaems was a boy, he carried a sketchbook around with him practically everywhere he went. All around him, the city’s art was coming alive in new and exciting ways. Whenever inspiration struck, young Kaems would grab his book and draw.
The Milwaukee-born artist saw his first graffiti in the mid-1990s, and he was hooked. By high school, he was painting regularly and had developed a love of spray paint. Still, he never thought he’d make a career out of art. But when curator, Emma Daisy, assembled her crew of creatives for the Bayshore project, she knew Kaems had to be a part of the team. By that point, Kaems had painted walls across his home city. However, it’s not the work itself that he loves most.
“As big and crazy as some of the projects that I have done are, the true highlights are always seeing something I have made bring happiness to someone else,” he says
The wall painted by Kaems includes several gas meters and pipes. He wasn’t going to let those get in the way of his vision. In fact, those “obstructions” became part of the vision.
"For this wall, I wanted to really play up the meters and pipe, including them in the composition. At first glance it is hard to tell where the meters stop and where the painting begins. It was really interesting to think of a space in such a different way than I am used to.
Like much of Kaems’ work, his Bayshore piece represents a collision of his two styles: a heavy, pattern-based mode of work that skews toward the abstract, and another style he calls “quasi-realism.”
“I paint many of the pieces of a painting in a realistic manner, and I often include trompe l’oeil and perspective to make 'believable' spaces. The way each of the elements is arranged is unexpected.”
Kaems likes the element of surprise that people will have when viewing his mural at Bayshore. They may even need a double take -- or a second or third visit -- to fully enjoy all of the artwork on display. Above all, he hopes that someone out there (maybe even a kid with a sketchbook) sees his work and gets hooked.
Photography by: @samuelli