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Cosmo Kid bangs out worlds from fire

With paper, knife, wood, newsprint, paint and a lighter, this artist creates universes for the county fair crowds.

Published February 21, 2004

[Times photos: Lance A. Rothstein]
Todd Kenyon, 26, picked up his art form after leaving New Jersey to follow the carnival circuit. Now the Cosmo Kid, Kenyon wows audiences with his otherworldly three-minute pieces. Kenyon is now making his art live at the Pasco County Fair.


DADE CITY - Todd Kenyon is different.

Sure, he might blend in while in such places as Ybor City or Miami. But at the Pasco County Fair, with a pierced tongue, spiked hair, a tie-dyed T-shirt and fingernails of more than eight colors, he stands out in the sea of cowboy boots, jeans and baseball caps.

Kenyon, 26, is known as the Cosmo Kid, an artist who combines spray paint artwork with sideshow-style dramatics. Working with spray paint on coated paper, he is able to create a piece of art that looks like a cross between work by Boris Vallejo, Salvador Dali and the Florida Highwaymen.

The Cosmo Kid starts by gathering a crowd in P.T. Barnum fashion.

"Gather 'round. You've never seen anything like this before," he says.

With techno music emanating from twin speakers behind him, he lays out a blank sheet of paper about 2 feet by 2 feet. Working with a palette knife, scraps of newspaper, pieces of wood and his can of spray paint, he creates a window into another world. In just three minutes, he will have made a black hole in outer space with an interior scene of palm trees on a sandy beach, or a waterfall streaming over a quasar.

People are drawn to the spectacle that Kenyon becomes when he is working. He uses a cigarette lighter to dry the paint when he is finished with a piece. Often, people will say they want to buy the piece before it's even complete.

As Kenyon sets up Friday, he begins a new piece. The fair has not even opened, but several workers and volunteers hang out at the tent to watch him work. Among them is volunteer Doris Prokopi of Land O'Lakes.

"I've been volunteering at this fair for 10 years, and I've never seen anything like this," she said.

Before he became the Cosmo Kid, Kenyon worked for several years on the carnival circuit. Working at different game booths and food stands, he saw the midway as a chance to get out of New Jersey.

"I knew if I stayed where I was living, that I wasn't going anywhere." he says. "With no money and no car, the carnival was the best vehicle I could see to get out."

Kenyon ran into a spray artist named Ace at a carnival in Orlando about nine years ago.

"You ever get that feeling when you know you want to do something?" Kenyon said. "I haven't figured out why he wanted to teach me, but he did. And after a few months he just said, "Okay that's it,' and he sent me out on my own."

[Last modified February 21, 2004, 01:31:48]

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