Musicians who make art
Musicians are visual people, attuned to their physical appearance, especially in a live performance, and meticulous with the iconography that graces everything from the humble handbill stapled to a telephone pole to insanely costly music videos. Musicians are also great observers and they see the world from a unique perspective.
This visual sensibility is often manifested on stage, with costumes, make-up and props, or in the descriptive lyrics of a classic song. The Art Car Museum’s current show Musicians Who Make Art presents works by musicians who also explore and reveal their “visual intelligence” in the forms of painting, sculpture, and installation art.
Guest curator Melissa E. Noble has assembled an incredibly diverse collection of works by Texas-based musicians and artists who, it may surprise you, also play music. 38 individuals are represented, and there are recurring motifs connecting some of the pieces on display.
Creative use of recycled materials appears in many works. Carley Wolf’s packaging tape sculptures “Ghost Wolves” hang suspended from the ceiling. Ken Little’s totemic “Black Jacket Moose” consists of a moose head draped in a leather jacket and a collection of athletic foot wear. And Gary Bennett’s elegantly crafted and wonderfully rich-sounding “Washtub Bass” is built from found objects, mahogany, and a washtub. Bennett was happy to let opening night visitors play the instrument, and it sounded great.
Jessica DeCuir pillaged the classic artwork of record albums by King Crimson, Blondie, and the Rolling Stones to create eye-popping collages. And Al Souza skillfully cut and time stretched an aforementioned humble handbill into the beautiful vertical collage “Tribune Showprint #3.” Taking a discarded item of little monetary value and transforming it into a work of art is one of many magical things musicians do.
Reliquaries, altars, and mementos abound in the show. A sense that time is passing, “waiting in the wings…” (to quote musician artist David Bowie) is palpable. The Art Car Museum has never been shy about paying tribute to its extended family of artists, mechanics, and characters, especially when they’ve passed from this world. A room serving as an installation and tribute to art car artist and drummer Steve “Smitty” Schmitz is a world of its own, with photos of his and musician artist Rock Romano’s band Dr. Rockit & The Sisters of Mercy bringing some levity the atmosphere.
Many opening night visitors had their kids in tow, but few works included images of children, although the ones that did were striking. Janice Rubin’s photograph “Ogoni Grandmother” is a beautiful, very alive portrait of a Grandmother and grandson.
James Cobb’s triptych of light jet prints grafts incredibly elaborate phantasmagoric tattoo artwork onto the bodies of three young children. The children, each identified by their first name, are shamanistic in their appearance, like members of a (musical?) tribe where power and protection comes from tattoos. But there is something unnerving about approaching and studying these three prints, given the age of the subjects and contemporary associations with tattoo art.
I’ve described only a small cross section of the works on display. Musicians Who Make Art is up until Aug. 7 and both visual artists and musicians will enjoy it. I plan to return to find out more about the musical background of some of the artists. A complete list can be found on the Art Car Museum website.
On May 19, The Art Car Museum presents a farewell party for Steve Schmitz with a musical performance by his former band Dr. Rockit (aka Rock Romano, also represented in Musicians Who Make Art) & The Sisters of Mercy.