The opening for singer John Mellencamp’s new art show at ACA Galleries in Manhattan was, unsurprisingly, a who’s who of Hollywood and rock stardom. Lorraine Bracco, the actress who played Tony Soprano’s therapist, was there alongside veteran rock reporter Alan Light, Bungalow8 founder Amy Sacco, and Universal Music president Bruce Resnikoff.
Mellencamp’s show, “Life, Death, Love, and Freedom” is his second at the gallery, and like his musical career, his artwork is only getting better. The portraits, rendered in dark oranges and shadowy blacks, are reminiscent of the German artist Markus Schinwald’s work. Mellencamp himself cites influences as far ranging as Robert Rauschenberg and the German expressionists Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.
The titles of the work variously make reference to James Dean, the Marlboro Man, and a character from the movie Babydoll. But Mellencamp would prefer the work be read on its own terms. “These galleries want names on the paintings,” he told artnet News in an email. “I would prefer not to name any artwork. I find titles anywhere I can get them, more or less just for identification purposes.”
Lest viewers think that Mellencamp’s art is merely a vanity offshoot of his musical celebrity, in fact, the Jack and Diane crooner spent time at the Art Students League in New York in the 1970s, and always hoped to pursue a painting career.
Today, when he isn’t on a 50-concert tour, Mellencamp frequents galleries and museums, plus the occasional art fair. But he’s happiest making his own art, no matter what form it takes.