A photographer’s lens caught James Blake Miller smeared with blood and dirt during the battle for Falluja. In his eyes, America saw the steely determination that would bring victory in Iraq; now stress and divorce have made him a casualty of the war. The image hit the world on 10 November, 2004, as US Marines stormed into Falluja. Miller’s image became a symbol of steely resolve, of weary-yet-determined struggle, of the toughness of the American fighting man having a cigarette break before finishing the job.
“Marlboro Man” is no longer an icon for the American warrior ethic. He is a symbol of pain and suffering and the enormous problems endured by veterans returning home. He has become the public face of shell-shock. No longer the victor, Miller has become one of the war’s victims.”
Kaleo has cultivated a unique style of Cerebral Contemporary Art entitled, “Images of Irony”, which provocatively juxtaposes society’s overindulgent obsession with celebrity against its perverse compulsion for consumerism. This dynamic juxtaposition of ironic images has produced a fiercely compelling series of societal commentary that stirs the spirit and awakens the senses. Kaleo attributes his unique artistic perspective to his own personal journey of agony and ecstasy.
His colorful life began in the culturally diverse city of Pasadena, California, but his upbringing was anything but rose colored. He was born to an unwed European-American mother and a Hawaiian-Spanish-Puerto Rican father who left the family before Kaleo was born which forced his mother to fend for her family on her own. Although Kaleo’s mother provided more than enough love and spiritual support for her children, she struggled financially to provide for her kids later to be placed on welfare. She sacrificed her own well-being for her children as much as humanly possible but, still, Kaleo’s early years were filled with hand-me-down clothes, watered down milk, and old rewrapped toys for Christmas.
This would be a tough beginning on its own but, this was just the start of Kaleo trying experiences. At the age of 5, Kaleo almost died when he had a horrific accident, falling head first from a three-story structure, suffering various head injuries and two broken arms. Although an extremely traumatizing experience, his amazingly quick recovery would exemplify the mental, physical, and spiritual strength that would come to define this artist.
Perhaps the most challenging and difficult times for Kaleo, dealt with his mothers clinical illness known as Compulsive Hoarders Disorder. Kaleo’s home was virtually filled to capacity with everything from old newspapers, and broken furniture, to cardboard boxes, and empty bottles and cans. Young Kaleo was punished if he ever attempted to remove anything from the maze of belongings which his mother had compiled. Because of this abnormal situation, no one, not even his closest friends were ever allowed into his home. Teased and embarrassed because of his family’s dilapidated car and home, Kaleo’s already difficult situation soon reached its height. The gas in Kaleo’s home was shut off. In order for them to turn it back on, the gas company had to enter the residence. Fearing that her children would be taken from her if the authorities saw the conditions within the house, she refused to allow them in.
For the next thirteen years, Kaleo was without heat in the home; having to endure cold winter months huddled in nothing but blankets. And when he wanted to do something as simple as taking a shower, he was forced to take a pot of water, boil it on a hot plate, and bathe in the tub.
Life was anything but smooth sailing for this intriguing artist but, these experiences are what he says have made him the strong, confident, and focused creator that he is today. He actually attributes his present-day artistic success, as well as his lighthearted, fun loving and fully accepting approach to life to those trying past experiences. Kaleo’s life has been filled with challenges, but he has always seemed to rise above all of the possible stumbling blocks and has created a quarry of positive stepping-stones along the way.
His upbringing in the racially mixed city of Pasadena, his attendance at a predominately African-American high school, and his later work as a teacher in the Pasadena Unified School District have given Kaleo a unique perspective on American society and our diverse cultures which are the subject of his artwork. Kaleo has always delved into all things with a fiery passion.
As a young musician, he was recognized with All-City Music Honors in Pasadena for his musicianship, which later evolved into a successful career in the music business. He was signed to several record labels including Mercury/Universal Records, and as a producer, singer/songwriter, has had his music featured in numerous movies and television shows.
He earned a Bachelors Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he was a member of the UCLA Football team, which won the Pac-10 Championship and later played in the famed Rose Bowl Game.
His first love, art, has always served him well and he has always had a tremendous passion for that mode of creation. He was granted a scholarship at an early age for his visual works, has studied under various art mentors, and has continued to refine his skills throughout his life. Now, Kaleo is a full-time mixed-media visual artist, and couture clothing designer with a passion for creating works of art which he says, “challenges the viewer and evokes emotion with the goal of uplifting his audience through cerebral works of iconic and commercialized juxtapositions. Art is meant to arouse the senses and stir the spirit. It’s meant to visually stimulate the observer through colors, patterns, textures, and words to inspire and to create contemplation, and this is always my intent when I create a new piece of artwork. Whether it’s my “Positive Pop” series which puts an uplifting spin on the vintage soda signs of old in order to create a modern daily motivating reminder to live into our full inspired potential, my 3-Dimensional, Multi-Media, Story Pop Art which tells the tale of the icon being exalted through vibrant colors, imagery, and items which jump off of the canvas, my Contemporary Sports & Entertainment Pop Art which has graced the homes of NFL Hall-of-Famers and Hollywood Legends, or my Cerebral Neo-Pop Art series entitled, “Images of Irony”, which provocatively juxtaposes society’s overindulgent obsession with celebrity against its perverse compulsion for consumerism, my intent is straight forward, unmistakable, and direct. I am here to make a statement, to be a force, and to entice the viewer to think, to feel, and to be Here and Now. Enjoy my creations.”