On Wednesday (April 25), John Mellencamp welcomed guests to his second art gallery opening in New York in three years to display a striking new mixed-media style to his paintings -- the counterpoint to his career as one of the most successful rock songwriters of his era.
View gallery HERE
How long have you been making visual art? Was this something that you did during your initial music career? I’ve been making visual art for as long as I can remember. I originally went to New York to go the Art Students League and in the meantime, I got a record deal.
What visual artists inspire you? Are you inspired by other musicians that make visual art? An amateur artist borrows. A professional artist steals, and is inspired by what they have taken.
A lot of your portraits are really dark (color wise,) What draws you to this thematically dark style? My palette is the same palette it has been for 40 years, and it is the same palette as Rembrandt’s. I very rarely use non-earth tone colors, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t if I felt the surprise of the addition.
Also, a lot of your work feels referential to America and the American political landscape, is this one of the primary intentions behind your art? Or is it more just what you're thinking of? A true art is when the artist is surprised. I’m not looking to make any statements or hang on any crosses. I’m looking to surprise myself. The painting must be beautiful, even if it’s grotesque.
Heavily influenced by the German Expressionists, such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, whose anguish over human brutality and corruption speaks to his deep feelings about social justice, Mellencamp’s imagery takes its inspiration from the same sources as his music: the oppressive authority and social struggles of the working man and woman. But though that foundation is German, the evolved result is decidedly American, with the brash and snappy visual rhythms of our streets, lives, politics and passions.
I grew up in Seymour, Ind. The first place we lived was on Fifth Street. It was nothing special—just a small one-story home they built for vets returning from World War II. My two brothers and I lived in the basement. My father, Richard, fixed up a section for us with wood paneling and ugly linoleum on the concrete floor.
We had triple bunk beds. I was the middle kid, so I got the middle bunk. There was a TV, and the windows were at ceiling level.
My mother, Marilyn, was a homemaker. Later, she delivered mail to keep busy. She was very pretty, and had been a runner-up in the Miss Indiana pageant in '46. She loved to paint and did so each day, in between dealing with us. My dad created a studio space for her in the basement, too. When I was little, I'd paint on top of her work. That pissed her off.
"Like the characters in the Steinbeck and Faulkner novels he admired in his youth and the dustbowl inflected songs of Woody Guthrie, he paints about alienation and struggle more than joy or ease..."
His latest body of work will soon be on view at ACA Galleries in New York, an institution that has been supporting artists in diverse disciplines with singular points of view for over 80 years. Titled John Mellencamp: Life, Death, Love, Freedom, the exhibition will bring together two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages and series of portraits. This will be his second solo exhibition with the gallery. Click HERE to read the article online and view some of the paintings that are part of the exhibit.
“Mellencamp paints handsomely grotesque portraits in oil that are as solemn and stirring as his hit songs are catchy and inspirational -- depicting existential scenes and human beings ridden with the angst of the everyday” notes critic Doug McClemont..."
The singer is unveiling over 25 new artworks, reflecting on the political climate of the past and present, injustice and oppression.