Christopher Konecki grew up in San Diego and took off after graduating from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2008 to travel and test other waters. First he worked in Los Angeles, and hated it. He took a job in Florida next, then traveled to Central America and, finally, landed in Paris for six months before going broke and returning home. Konecki's been back for a year, and in that time he's painted an ode to his lifelong love, called Quintessentially Californian. The show opens at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla.
"With this show, I'm not trying to explain So-Cal culture," Konecki says. "People will always interpret how they want. But these [paintings] aren't very open to that; these aren't as deep as in the past. I'm not painting swirls and puppies, though. There's some sarcasm."
One piece that the one-time CityBeat cover artist points to is "All Grown Up," a painting of the finally developed Coppertone Girl. In it, the same little black dog tugs on a bikini bottom, this time exposing the sunburned booty of a buxom, topless young woman.
Konecki's series celebrates Southern California's skate, surf and marijuana subcultures: palm trees, power lines and hot-air-balloon iconography show up in a bright palate of aerosol, acrylic and house paints, some on wood panels, others on neon orange and white striped traffic barriers.
"When I was traveling, I noticed people's reactions to me being from California; it's such a unique and interesting place to people. They got excited by it," he says.
On the road, Konecki also realized how new San Diego and the United States are in comparison to a city like Paris. The culture is still young here, he says, and ripe for the taking—and that's something the artist strives for in his work.
"There's a reason I don't sign paintings," he explains. "I want the styles of my paintings to be so unique that people look at it and say, That's Konecki.'"