When visiting Artisans at Rocky Hill in Fredericksburg, Texas, you will see an abundance of beautiful and tantalizing art: traditional oils, furniture, pottery, wind powered kinetic sculpture. Among these many beautiful creations, several paintings will almost jump off the wall at you, demanding attention. These are the works of Ira Kennedy.
Born in a tent near San Saba in 1941, son of a migrant worker, descendent of a Cherokee great grandmother, Ira has re-surfaced in the Hill Country visual arts world. Both Ira and his family knew he was an artist very early, and by his twenties he found himself living in New York City, his art in a group show which included Andy Warhol.
Ira became disenchanted with the art world and found himself back in the Hill Country, where he lived as a freelance writer, wrote special features for Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, the Marble Falls Highlander, and other magazines and newspapers. For five years he published the iconic Enchanted Rock Magazine, with tantalizing stories about local history not found elsewhere. During some of this time Ira lived adjacent to Enchanted Rock, wrote a history of The Rock, and eventually won two National Press Association awards for environmental journalism.
Although Ira was a competent landscape painter, he wanted to be different. As he told me, “Either you are original, or why bother?” A visit to Australia and aboriginal art was an epiphany for him. He formed his unique style combining Native American symbolic images, Mexican primitive, pop art, and aboriginal pointillism. When I saw one of his paintings during First Friday Art Walk, at another gallery in Fredericksburg, and met Ira Kennedy for the first time, I didn’t know what to think of it, I just knew him for the Enchanted Rock Magazine and as author of a history of Enchanted Rock. As I have gotten to know him and his story, I have come to see his art as an extraordinary blend of spiritual mystery and natural beauty, as utterly unique in a sea of excellent Hill Country art. A viewer cannot be ambivalent about Ira’s paintings; they demand attention, they tug at your soul, they will not leave you alone.
Years ago, Ira found and traced some very old rock art near Valley Spring, in Llano County, and this led him to study and research the symbols. Eventually, he crafted this interpretation, which is his daily prayer:
“Almighty God, creator and animator of the universe, embodiment of all things, that of which I am, please manifest this prayer:
“Thunderbird, carry this prayer to the sun father; that the future may be bright among us, bright and everlasting, as the nourishing water of the earth mother. May it be bright above us, may it be bright below us; in the daytime may it be bright, in the night time may it be bright. May the path that we follow be filled with plenty, and our numbers merge with our prayer. Thunderbird carry this prayer to the sun god, it is finished in beauty, it is finished in beauty.”
Ira Kennedy, and his art and writing, can be found on Facebook, www.irakennedy.com, and at the Artisans at Rocky Hill, 234 West Main Street, Fredericksburg, Texas.