Friday, September 22, 2017

Maria

Ever since I met this most generous and hospitable woman named Maria I'd loved the name Maria. This Maria was the partner of a classmate and hostess of a weekend long party in the Achterhoek that I attended during my college years at AKI. She was a true angel and I've regarded all Marias as angels ever since. I have now been happily married for 17 years to a Maria. (I somehow knew I was destined to marry a Maria.) Hurricane Maria however, has been no angel. She is the embodiment of this myth of the beautiful but deadly woman that since ancient Greek times (Helen) has affected the mind of Western masculine culture. The idea that a beautiful woman is also a dangerous woman has subverted the minds of men while objectifying women. Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean this week but she is not supposed to cause any harm to my hometown in Florida. Two weeks ago hurricane Irma left two feet of water in my studio. About 750 records were submerged and I spent a whole week to salvage the most important ones. Most classical records and about half of the folk from around the world discs were under water. The salvage process focused on sub-collections; 25 Maria Callas records, all records from the Nonesuch label, my records from India, just had to be saved. Besides the 25 Callas records I realized just how many records I owned by singers named Maria. Coincidence or not, they all had be salvaged too. 

The history of the top 100 has not featured too many Marias though. This years list has A Mushroom Vedanta by Maria Sabina while Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot has featured several times. The most Maria paintings (besides those of my wife) have been portraits of Maria Callas, who has been in the Top 100 many times. The painting above is from the Top 100 2009, the one to the right from 2008. The song Casta Diva from Bellini's Norma is listed in the 100 Greatest Recordings of All Time. 

Just for fun I'll share some of the Marias from my record collection.














Friday, August 18, 2017

Savannah Rhythms

Upper Volta: After a photograph by Kathleen Johnson
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The original image, a photo by Kathleen Johnson, was used on the CD Burkino Faso: Savannah Rhythms (2002) as an illustration for Allah Man Dogo, a marriage celebration of the Bobo-Dyala tribe. The reproduction of the photo is tiny and in black and white and I doubt if the photo has anything to do with the dancers, bride or groom, or the xylophones of the celebration. The gentleman in the picture appears to have a straw in his mouth, perhaps to prepare to weave a straw hat just like the one he's wearing. On the LP version, from 1981, the photo is slightly bigger and in color (even though there's hardly any), and not particularly associated with any particular recording. Allah Man Dogo (God is great) is the opening track on the album and was recorded in 1973/4 by the same Kathleen Johnson who took the photo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Top 100 (Remixed): Update

Charles Duvelle
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017

Deben Bhattacharya
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas, 2017
The first of two receptions for The Top 100 (Remixed) has transpired at Tempus Projects in Tampa. Thanks to curator Jade Dellinger and gallery director Tracy Midulla the reception was a great success. 323 Top 100 paintings are installed. The exhibition runs through September 21. The second reception, the second First Friday Artwalk in Tampa during the course of the exhibition, will be on September 1st from 7-9 at Tempus Projects. Large sections of what is on view right now will be replaced by other works. So for those who've seen it, the exhibition will look quite different on September 1st. The exhibition is organized in groups of ten, the curator and myself pulled works from the last 16 years and organized these into themes. Top 10s of various topics are hung in groupings. Some sections are serious and formal (like geographical locations), others less so (musicians with beards for example). A 22 page guide is available to identify the paintings and their specs. Since the opening I have been diligently working on the next sections to substitute existing ones, to the point of fixing up older paintings to complete a section or even painting brand new ones. One of the new topics to be displayed on September 1st is Ethnomusicologists. The two paintings above are both brand new, created specifically for this topic. In the case of Deben Bhattacharya I redid a painting that I simply couldn't find anywhere in my archive. Frustrated as that was I did a brand new painting from the same photograph as the lost one. I had spent two hours looking for that painting while making a whole new one only took me an hour-and-a-half, and it's better than the original too. Even though painted in 2017 this painting belongs to the Top 100 of 2013/14. Charles Duvelle's portrait however solidly belongs to the Top 100 of 2017 as it illustrates the recording of Wama Igini Kamu recorded in Papua New Guinea by Charles Duvelle, that was released only one month ago. A site I follow, Sublime Frequencies, published the book with two cds included called The Photographs of Charles Duvelle. Duvelle was also already included in this section but I never really liked my effort for the Top 100 2012.
The full top 10 of ethnomusicologists:
  1. Hugh Tracey (1903-1977, South Africa). Ethnomusicologist, founder of ILAM
  2. Alan Lomax (1915-2002, US). Ethnomusicologist, directer of Archive of American Folk Song.
  3. Bela Bartok (1881-1945, Hungary). Composer, ethnomusicologist (one of its founders)
  4. Charles Duvelle (French). Composer and musicologist, founder of Ocora (1958)
  5. Paul Bowles (1910-1999, US). Composer, associated with Morocco
  6. Pat Conte (US). Musician, collector, founder of The Secret Museum of Mankind
  7. Alain Danielou (1907- 1994, France). Historian (of India) and musicologist. UNESCO
  8. Deben Bhachattera (1921-2001, India). Ethnomusicologist, UNESCO
  9. John Storm Roberts (1936-2009, UK/US). Ethnomusicologist, co-founder of Original Music
  10. Joe Bussard (b. 1936, US). Record collector, founder of Fonotone
In case the selection of ten paintings don't work well together, I'm also bring three alternates;
  • John Jacob Niles (1892-1980, US). Composer, singer, collector, the "Dean of American Balladeers"
  • Sam Phillips (1923-2003, US). Record producer, founder of Sun Records
  • Jon Ward runs the blog Excavated Shellac.
 Come check it out September 1st in Tampa if you're in the vicinity (and even if aren't).

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Top 100 (Remixed)

The Top 100 (Remixed) is a forthcoming exhibition at Tempus Projects in Tampa, Florida from August 4 until September 21, 2017. The exhibition, curated by Jade Dellinger, will feature hundreds of works from my Top 100 Archive. Jade and myself have spent many hours selecting and organizing works found in my studio for inclusion in the exhibit. It was fun to open box after box of old top 100 material and many half forgotten works surfaced in the process. Just yesterday I found in a bow with miscellaneous stuff this lovely portrait of Billy Karren. 
 Billy Karren
6 x 6 inches, oil on wood, c. 2005.
The interesting thing about this portrait is that I didn't know at the time that Billy Karren is a man, not a woman. I thought then that Bikini Kill was an all-girl band and that I was painting one of them. The Top 100 Remixed exhibit will be organized following thematic and topical top 10 lists. I selected this portrait for the Riot Grrrl top 10. Huggy Bear, another favorite Riot Grrrl band, also consists of men and women, so Billy is not the only guy represented in the Riot Grrrl top 10. About gender: The portrait paintings in the exhibit are about equal, where in the early days I painted more men, the last decade has seen more portraits of female musicians. The one top 10 that is strictly male: Men with beards. The portrait of Roky Erickson that I've just completed (see previous post) is part of this select group of outlaws and freaks (David Allan Coe is represented with a big painting here.)

Roky Erickson

 Roky Erickson
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Roger Kynard 'Roky' Erickson turns 70 this weekend. Born in Austin, TX. Roky is a psychedelic cult hero best known as founder of the legendary 60s band 13th Floor Elevators but released, in a second career, between 1977 and 2010, a score of solo albums.  The song You Don't Love Me Yet appears on All That May Do My Rhyme from 1995. The song is clearly much older as Bongwater recorded a cover version of it in the late 1980s.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tomboy

Princess Nokia
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
"Who that is, hoe? That girl is a tomboy." That's how Tomboy by the Bronx rapper Princess Nokia starts. Then she goes on about her "little titties and phat belly" (both of which she shows off in the video for Tomboy) boasting about her prowess. Princess Nokia is Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, an Afro-Nuyorican (that's a new one for me too—a New York Puerto Rican) hip hop recording artist. Despite offers from major labels, she decided to do it all herself. Tomboy is from the mixtape 1992, indeed named after the year she was born.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beth Orton

Beth Orton
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Beth Orton's new album Kidsticks is already a year old. I had forgotten to keep up with the British singer-songwriter for awhile, it took an airplane ride across the Atlantic to reengage. The interactive media display on the back of the seat in front of me offered the full album which I listened to twice. Snow is the opening track and the one going into the Top 100 2017. Just as Cat Power's latest album Sun, five years old already, Kidsticks is a departure of her earlier albums and features electronics in place of the traditional instruments. The painting, rather slick for my standards, is larger than life. Portraits larger than life are rather uncomfortable to look at and I usually make an effort to avoid this. The last time I fell in the trap was, for some odd reason, also a Beth Orton portrait.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ralph Carney

Ralph Carney
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
I'm always happy to follow up on a recommendation, it doesn't always result in me painting a portrait of the musician, but sometimes it does, especially when the recommendation was made by an individual who knows what would interest me, and certainly when this individual knows a thing or two about what was recommended. Jade Dellinger told me to listen to Ralph Carney. It happens so often that I don't know about a musician I should know about. Ralph Carney is a legend of the Ohio (Akron) music scene and made his mark on the mainstream music scene as a longtime collaborator of Tom Waits, and with the Black Keys, Jonathan Richman, B-52's, and many others. His solo work is indeed worth every second spent exploring. No. 1 in my top 10 last week is a video posted on YouTube called Lament for Charleston. The multi-track saxophone recording the shootings at Charleston, SC and was influenced by Coltrane's Alabama.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bongwater (2)

Ann Magnuson, Kramer (Bongwater)
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Bongwater was formed by Mark Kramer and Ann Magnuson in 1985. The LP The Power of Pussy is from 1991. Members of the band then included David Licht and Dave Rick. Licht went on to form the Klezmatics, Rick to Phantom Tollbooth. Kramer founded Shimmy Disc Records in 1987 and is an influential producer (Daniel Johnston, Half Japanese, among many). Kramer, Licht and Eugene Chadbourne were in Shockabilly, a band that under a different name also included John Zorn. A host of names there, a who's who of the New York music scene in the 1980s, all Top 100 luminaries. Ann Magnuson (see previous post) is an actress and performance artist. Folk Song, the next entry in this year's list, is an epic nine minute extravaganza featuring a sample of Roundabout by Yes, it closes the Power of Pussy album.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bongwater

Ann Magnuson
Oil on canvas paper, 16 x 12 inches, 2017
One of most exciting music videos on YouTube is a recording made on David Sanborn's Night Music that ran for two seasons on NBC from 1988-1990. The program is known as "the greatest music show on TV." In this particular episode David Sanborn (himself a notable jazz musician) is talking to Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame. Then the band comes up: It's Weir with the band Bongwater and the Pussywillows with special appearances by Screamin' Jay Hawkins(!) and Roky Erickson. After a crazy jam Hawkins disappears and Bongwater plays You Don't Love Me Yet, one of their signature tunes which is an original of Roky Erickson (of 13th Floor Elevators fame). Here's a link (I highly recommend viewing it.)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cat Power and the Animals

Cat Power
16 x 12 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
Some years ago I wondered what if Beth Orton were an animal what kind of animal she'd be. I suggested she may be a crow. One year later there was a song called Magpie on her (then) new album. Now, what kind of animal would Chan Marshall be? Of course Chan Marshall's alter ego is Cat Power, but I doubt her spirit animal would be a cat. There aren't many of her songs in which animals are named. I recall (from the top of my head) the Werewolf Song, a cover of a Michael Hurley original, then she did Salty Dog, an old blues song but that one's not about a dog at all. The newest Cat Power in my Top 100 is Sad Sad Song in which a killer whale plays a prominent role. The credits are Cat Power's but the lyrics are, in good blues tradition, an amalgam of various verses, some old some new, some hers, some by others. The whale verse appears to have been written by M. Ward, a contemporary West Coast musician. I don't see Cat Power a killer whale though, perhaps a zebra.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Competition

Tumivut: The Competition Song
16 x 12 nches, oil on canvas paper, 2017
The Competition Song has now been listed in the Top 100 for three consecutive years and, because of it, also gained its place in the all time list of 500 recordings (going back to 1983). The performers are not known (to me) by name. I found them on YouTube years ago. I looked through all the comments to get information about their identity but no dice (there's one comment in which one of the singers is referred to as Charlotte). The comments to this video are mostly made by horny guys who get a boner from watching (deep throat singing is a favorite pun). There certainly is an element of eroticism embedded in the performance, and in all "katajjaq" performances, but it's not really sexual at all. The song is at the core (at least right now) of what the Top 100 is about; the search for the ultimate music recording that would illustrate the the essence of musical performance, and its origin. The competitiveness of it is an ongoing topic throughout my 35 year top 100 history, as the project itself is competitive—the ranking of music. The #1 every week is the ultimate musical recording (subjective). The video descriptor is: "Tumivut - Inuit Throat Singing - The Competiton Song at Aboriginal Day 2010 at The Forks in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada." The performance is not intended as art but it's a game. A lot of skill is required to compete but the outcome is objective—there's no jury—the winner is the one who keeps singing with a straight face, not missing a beat, no laughing.