Isaac Meek works with almost any artistic medium you can think of now, but when recalling the beginning of his artistic journey, Meek gives credit to lowrider bicycles.
Building the hyper-stylized bikes with his brother and friends gave Meek his initial insight into creating something entirely his own. As high schoolers, Meek and his friends would spend Saturday nights cruising Independence’s main drag, where other lowrider fanatics would gather to “show off.”
Meek customized his two-wheeler to stunt a candy apple-green paint job complete with black velvet accents, fenders and handlebar rearview mirrors. Because embellishment is the name of the game, the engineered lighting system and stereo were the pièce de résistance.
“As far as the parts on my bike, I always wanted them to be a little more unique because I wanted to stand out,” Meek says.
The KC native may have been consumed by the machismo lowrider culture, but his artistic eye made him an ambitious student. In fact, he enrolled in summer school, not because he had to but to avoid boredom since all his friends had no choice but to attend. That’s when he started taking art classes.
After studying Caravaggio, Michelangelo and other Old Masters, he got a chance to take a field trip to Kemper Museum and listen to New York visual artist Frederick J. Brown speak. Meek was left in awe of the artist’s thick, expressive painting style.
“You always wonder what artists are like, and he was right there,” Meek says of Brown, whose figurative and expressionist style works hang in the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. “It made it more accessible to me to see, oh, he’s just a guy like me. Someday I could have work up like this.”
Meek graduated from Avila University with a bachelor’s in fine arts and a minor in graphic design. He has developed a contemporary, abstract painting style filled with broad strokes and surreal figures and shapes. Stretching his own canvas is a signature mark of his that he believes puts him “more in touch with the piece.”
Coming from a creative family has helped Meek explore his creative side. Like most artists, he finds inspiration everywhere. Meek’s grandpa, who was a roofer, always carried a pocket-sized notebook with him to jot down his ideas. Meek does the same. Listening to his uncle’s band from the ’90s, Steel Web, while painting provides Meek “direct influence” from his family. “I’m listening to my family speak and it’s flowing through me,” he says. “That’s amazing.”
Improvisation has inspired much of Meek’s work. Every surface he comes across has the potential to be a canvas. Whether it be shoes, a CD cover or a lone plank of wood in an alleyway, Meek has a knack for embracing raw materials and adorning them with his creative touch.
Meek’s work has been exhibited across the city, often during First and Third Fridays but also in galleries like the Country Club Bank, The Late Show Gallery, and the Jones Gallery. Despite his distinctive painting style, Meek never wants to get too comfortable with one creative process. Catch him putting on a performance painting live or drawing with chalk in KC’s Chalk and Walk.
To see an entire wall of his finished works provokes a sense of simultaneous chaos and calmness. Shapes wither in and out of one another through the waves of a soothing earth tone palette. It’s emotive and, like his souped-up lowrider, a style entirely his own.
Coffee: Splitlog Coffee Co. off Central Ave. Lots of attention to detail here with a Midwest warmth. I keep it simple with an Americano, extra espresso, with cream. The croissants are fire. I’ll have art on display here in July.
Museum: Although I really enjoy the Nerman, the Nelson has been impactful since I was a youth in school. The magnitude of works from across centuries and across the globe and the energy of being enveloped by such greatness inspires limitlessly.
Tacos: I am gonna have to go with El Sombrero and pair them with refried beans. These flavors remind me of the food my grandma and mother made growing up. Oh, and a strawberry soda, please.