KSBY News: Local Radio DJ Finds Unknown Person, Subject of SLOMA Exhibit

Local NBC affiliate covers Up & Adam in the Morning's interview with artist Charlie Rugg

5/26/20232 min read

By: KSBY's Neil Hebert

An oil painting exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, a local radio DJ, and some investigative digging has brought several walks of life together in an unexpected yet welcoming way.

“There are multiple ways to make up meaning in the world, to define things, to define perspectives,” said Charlie Rugg, a San Luis Obispo-based figurative artist and oil painter.

Rugg’s “And Also” exhibit is made up of four oil paintings of photos of random people he found on the internet. It’s currently featured at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art.

“There are always multiple perspectives. Looking at “Both” of them is, I think, important. Always staying open to both sides of everything,” said Rugg.

The main piece in the exhibit named “Both” spoke to Adam Montiel.

“The painting itself is just, it's striking. I mean, its size grabs you,” said Montiel.

Montiel hosted Rugg on his radio show, Up & Adam in the Morning on The Krush 92.5, to chat about his exhibit and joked about finding out who the man featured in the painting was. That’s when the digging started.

“It was a stock photo. I reverse Google imaged it. I ended up finding the photographer in Thailand. I sent him a DM. ‘Hey, there's this artist, there's this painting, there's this guy, what can you tell me?’ And he says, ‘Oh, I did that years ago. It's an artist named Kai in Atlanta.’ And I said, ‘Well, I got to find Kai.’”

“Let’s do it. I want to figure it out with you. I want to find this guy,” said Montiel during an interview with Rugg on Up & Adam in the Morning.

He came through with his promise.

“It was a lot of Google, a lot of Instagram, looking for artists in Atlanta named Kai,” said Montiel. “I found maybe a dozen. I dm’d a few people, and one of the guys got back to me and was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’”

“I saw a picture of him with this huge, huge painting with my face on it. I'm like, ‘Yo, what?’ Like, this is crazy,” said Kai Wood, the unbeknownst subject of Rugg’s “Both” painting.

Wood is an Atlanta-based artist that goes by the name iLyKai. Montiel set up Rugg and Wood to chat on the phone. Now, there’s a new perspective for everyone.

“Yo, it’s Kai, bro. It’s iLyKai, the one you made that fire painting of,” said Wood to Rugg during the phone call.

Rugg responded, “No way, bro!”

“There's this other side to it, which is the real person in that photograph, which is Kai,” said Rugg. I think it's just two separate parts that are becoming the story of this this painting now.”

“I want to thank Charlie,” said Wood. “I appreciate the fact that you found inspiration in me. The fact that you even made the painting of me has inspired me further.”

Kai tells KSBY that the photo featured in Rugg’s painting was taken during the filming of a music video in either 2020 or 2021.

Rugg’s “And Also” exhibit will be featured at SLOMA until May 29th.