When self-confessed thrift-store addict Kaz Windness brought home her first vintage painting, she knew that she had to add her personal touch.
The Denver artist and children’s book illustrator was already known on social media for her strange thrift- store findings, including creepy dolls and all things Halloween-themed. In 2019, a picture of Windness wearing a sequined rainbow dance jumpsuit even went viral, with Bored Panda and other popular sites picking up the photo.
But the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design teacher had a different idea of how to promote a large, amateur sea painting called "The Lucky Seven" that she bought for $7.99. Windness, who credits Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” with providing her initial inspiration to become a children’s illustrator, instantly thought about adding one of her characters to the painting, which she renamed "The Unlucky Lucky Seven."
“I just kind of looked at it and thought it would be fun to add siren Stabbys that would take down the ship,” she says. Stabby, an anti-social goth unicorn with a dark sense of humor, is a character that the 47-year-old and openly autistic artist admittedly based on herself. “Stabby is basically me,” jokes Windness.“He wants to be left alone most of the time, and is very horns first!”
Stabby was born with Windness’s first graphic novel, Mother Goth Rhymes (Hermes Press, 2019). The novel included a poem titled “If You’re Stabby and You Know it, Clap Your Hands,” with an accompanying image of a unicorn with black horns, tattoos and a disapproving glare standing on a mountain of skulls. The image was used as a banner for Windness’s Rhymes booth at the San Diego 2019 ComicCon, and quickly became a fan favorite.
If UR Stabby was ready for a 2020 release but was put on hold, as was just about everything else, because of the pandemic. It was during this time that Windness decided to tackle the pile of vintage paintings she'd accumulated pre-pandemic and started turning them into “remade monsterpieces,” as she calls them in a YouTube video she posted in March 2020 to explain her process. They now form the basis of Stabbified Thrifts, a show at Wandering Jellyfish Bookshop in Niwot.
“Amateur painters really love to do wooden cabin scenes and lots of ocean scenes, especially with lighthouses,” she says. “If right away I thought something could be Stabbified, I’d buy it." Since then, though, she's developed a set of criteria for her paintings. “It can’t be a known artist, it has to be real paint," she explains. "I have to like the original painting, and I have to like it better once it’s done.”
While Stabbifying thrift-store paintings has proven to be a fun and satisfying project for Windness, it can come with unexpected twists. “There is one painting that I discovered was actually kind of valuable, from an Indiana artist named Charles L Sizemore,” Windness admits. The painting, a farm scene, now features Stabby setting the farmhouse and silo on fire.
“I still like it better with Stabby in it,” laughs Windness, who says she commemorated the value-reducing incident by adding “oops” to the painting’s description.
Stabbified Thrifts is on display through October 30 at the Wandering Jellyfish Bookshop in Niwot; it will culminate with an "If UR Stabby" book party and signing at 4 p.m. on October 30. Paintings are on sale at full price until October 20, after which unsold items will be up for auction on eBay. Thirty percent of sale proceeds will be donated to the Trevor Project. Find out more here.