Thursday, January 1, 2009

Songs and Places

Spring of 2007 I took a class in the visual studies dept. of UC Berkeley called Songs and Places. It was sort of a history of American roots music combined with autobiographical elements by the professor, and the work we did for the class was interpreting what we learned visually. The class was taught by Tony Dubovsky, and it served to really help me get my confidence back after the painting class I took with Squeak Carnwath. We had to make a new piece based on whatever area of music we were studying each week, so they're all pretty small and not too detailed, which was really freeing for me. Here are some of he things I made.

This is based on the song "When I Lay My Burden Down," which has the line, "going home to live with Jesus, when I lay burden down." For some reason this made me think of sort of an odd couple scenario of a normal guy living with Jesus. I toned it down a bit and put it in the context of the spiritual it was for the painting. Oil on lose canvas.

This is based on the song "Banks of the Ohio," which is about a man drowning his sweetheart because she won't marry him. I was trying to play with materials here, so it's kind of hard to read. It's supposed to be a view up from under the water. It's acrylic with granular medium on cardboard.

This is a drawing of Leadbelly and John Lomax (sort of an imagined situation taken from a short film made about them. You can find the film on youtube - it's pretty silly). John Lomax was a musicologist who was the first to go around and record American Folk music. He was assisted by Huddie Ledbetter (aka Leadbelly), who was very adept at remembering folk songs he heard and wrote many great songs himself. If you don't know anything about leadbelly and John Lomax (and his son Alan Lomax), I reccomend looking them up. Materials are charcoal on watercolor paper.

These are a comic of a section of the song "Barbara Allen," which is one of the oldest remaining folk songs that made it over to America from the British Isles and was preserved by the people who lived secluded in the Appalacian Mountains. It's done in pen and ink.

This is based on the song "Careless Love." Though some versions of this song have been done that remove this theme, the one that I like the most deals with unwanted pregnancy. This piece is sort of about my anxiety over that topic. I didn't mean for it to matter that I modeled for myself in this piece, I just needed a model, but I suppose in the end all that stuff affects the meaning of the art you make whether you want it to or not. Materials are oil on canvas.

This piece is based on the line "If I get to heaven before you do, I'll cut a hole and pull you through," variants of which are used in a number of spirituals sung during the civil rights movement. It's colored pencil on vellum, with a brown paper towel glued behind it.

This is a painting of my cowboy boots. I did it in relation to the cowboy songs we learned about, which was fortunately right around the time I found these boots at the Ashby flea market with my mom. I used it later in a non-traditional self portrait show my friend Ivory King curated. Done in oil on lose canvas.

My friend Erin Morgan modeled for me for this, and I tried so hard to make it look like her, but I had a really difficult time with it. The photo it's based on was taken in Kingman's back yard. It was for one of the last weeks of class, which was themed loss, and had songs like "Red River Valley." I was really sad at the time that Erin was leaving for Argentina, and I love doing paintings of all the beautiful girls I know, so I asked her to pose for me. We've since sort of lost touch, which is sad - I'm lame and have too many people to keep track of ;___;. I hope she is doing well.

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