Rock: Unplugged and brushed on Expo: Using paintbrushes as their instrument, rock stars paint a mural of life's melodies.

March 06, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Some paint it black and others use a rainbow of colors. Some are originals and others do covers of the classics.

When rock stars put down a guitar and pick up a paintbrush, they're not just rock stars anymore. They're rock stars with a paintbrush.

"Image Makers Rock 'N' Roll Art Expo" is a collection of original artwork by musicians including John Lennon, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan. The exhibit is at White Marsh Mall through Sunday, after shows in more than 50 Canadian and U.S. cities since it started touring with curator Colm Rowan in 1989. The nearly 65 works deliver a clear picture of a rock star's deepest thoughts.

Rock stars think about themselves: Fans think rock stars are hip, happening and hot, but self-portraits and interpretations of bandmates shed new light on the rock star's self-image.

Dylan does an expressionist self-portrait a la artist Emil Nolde. The Cure's Robert Smith renders himself as a distorted image with bad hair, with thick, caked-on paint and a smear of bright red representing his lips. Perhaps this is a self-parody of his clownlike makeup. And Rolling Stone Ron Wood produces a grotesque, withered image of himself in a rather successful stab at realism.

Wood also brings his fellow Stones to the canvas. In "Mick With Guitar," Wood captures Jagger sitting on a chair peacefully strumming a guitar instead of running around like a one-man protest against collagen lip injections.

The black and white "Exercising" shows Charlie Watts holding drumsticks and Keith Richards smoking a cigarette. Don't push yourself, mate!

Rock stars think about other rock stars: They don't only think about themselves. Works depicting idols and influences attest to that.

Wood presents sincere, almost worshipful paintings of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, along with a Warhol-esque multiple image of Elvis.

And these artists aren't afraid of being overshadowed by their idols. Lost Planet Airman's Commander Cody's larger-than-life paintings of Dylan, Tom Petty and Eric Clapton have to be viewed from 30 feet away, or else they look like garbage.

These works also prove rock stars aren't reluctant to acknowledge the sex appeal of their contemporaries. In "Eye of the Beholder, Keith," by the Kinks' Peter Quaife, Keith Richards is reflected in the eye of a hot babe.

Rock stars think about sex: Sex also pervades the palette of other works by Quaife. "Rock and Roll Dream" is particularly disturbing. In this picture, a male model holds a woman as if she were a guitar. But wait, she is a guitar! There's a guitar stem where her arm should be, and the guy is holding a guitar pick to her side.

Maybe it's the curves, maybe it's the smooth surface, maybe they can't think of another metaphor. Whatever it is, Quaife isn't the only rock star artist to explore the guitar/woman theme.

A less offensive variation on the theme is "She Lives on Love Street," by the Doors' Robby Krieger, a swirling, Van Gogh-esque work with camouflaged symbolic images. Look closely and see the "She" of the title, whose curves are bordered by a guitar. Look even more closely and see Doors iconography, such as Morrison in his Jesus stance.

Rock stars think about other artists: The impact of famous artists doesn't stop with Krieger's Van Gogh influence.

Moby Grape's Peter Lewis pulls a Gauguin with the burnt-orange, exotic "In The Land of Milk and Honey." Mickey Dolenz's "72 Me," a representation of an embryo after 72 hours, evokes Dubuffet. And Jerry Garcia does a mean cubist-era Picasso in "Facets 1," a tangerine and aqua marvel. Garcia also does Dali in "Sands of Time," in which a foot hovers above the desert.

But by no means is all the work derivative. A small sketch by Garcia features a woman with an abstract skyscraper hat a la Carmen Miranda, with a gekko sprouting from the side, and Lennon's trademark squiggly suggestions of an image burst with warmth and feeling.

Not all of the rockers are up to the standards of Garcia and Lennon. But let's put this whole crossover art thing in perspective.

How do you think Van Gogh sounded on the electric guitar?

Art expo

When: Through Sunday, regular mall hours

Where: White Marsh mall

Admission: Free

Information: 410-931-7100

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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