Music provides departure for personal art

by Jordan Green

Adrum set, guitar, bass and amplifiers were set up at one end of the record store.

Millicent Greason, one of the artists exhibiting at the store, was giving curator Jane Buck a hard time about a Styrofoam Chik-fil-A cup. Buck defended herself with an explanation that she only drank water out of the cup and got many uses out of it, but acknowledged that her teenaged daughter sometimes puts duct-tape over the logo. The political implications were obvious and needed no explanation.

Greason’s husband and fellow exhibiting artist Peter Spivak was getting ready to play a show with an ad hoc band that included Eric Musk on bass and Andy Gerber on drums.

Greason and Spivak’s five combined pieces hung on the back wall of Earshot Records in the Silas Creek Crossing shopping center in Winston-Salem. Greason and Spivak’s joint exhibit is the third in a series of music-inspired shows that are going up each month at Earshot. The exhibiting artists are alumni of the successful and long-running Art on Record exhibit curated by Buck, store manager Phred Rainey and artist Patrick Harris.

Greason explained to a small huddle of visitors that Spivak’s three collages were created from cut-up albums — an obvious musical provenance.

“Both of mine are sort of self portraits that are inspired by the first two 45s I bought as a child when I was 6 or 7 years old,” she said.

Both songs hit the charts in 1971. One is “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, parenthetically titled “Nuclear Meltdown” by Greason. The other is “Brand New Key” by Melanie.

Mitchell Tilley, an artist who frequently exhibits on Trade Street, lit up.

“I love that song,” he said. “I bought the single and wore it out.”

Later, he explained the appeal to a 15-year-old junior high student. He was experiencing the emotional roller-coaster ride of teenage hormones. Like the protagonist of the song (“Well, I got a brand new pair of roller skates/ you got a brand new key”), Tilley was a skater. Melanie’s song made him happy.

The band, as yet unnamed, ripped through a slate of barely rehearsed songs that throbbed with happy abandon.

Spivak recognized Rainey and then Greason.

“Thanks to my wife for showing her pieces with me,” he said. “Her pieces are circular and mine are square. We fit together pretty well as a circle and square.”

A little while later Rainey got on the mic to hawk a CD by Spivak’s band, Fur Lined Volcanoes, on sale at the store for $9.99.

Spivak’s collages include “Delicado,” a painstaking assemblage of triangular shapes that creates the effect of interlocking supernovas; “Volume,” a spare and pleasing composition that takes the form of flowers; and “Cheatin’ Heart,” a blocky homage two the country & western genre that could be read as Picasso’s rendering of a pair of honky-tonk dancers.

Both of Greason’s pieces, which can be perhaps described as mounted twodimensional dioramas, pay homage to their respective songs through their circular shape and representation of a 45 adaptor. The dioramas assemble an assortment of found objects on backstops of plywood that are covered with Plexiglass.

“Brand New Key (Delicious Despite It All)” holds particular significance to Greason.

“This piece is where I’m at right now,” she said. “It’s playing on the ‘Brand New Key’ theme. It’s sort of a rethink, how you go through processes…. All of my life experiences have brought me to this point where I’m at now, which is where the phrase ‘delicious despite it all’ comes in. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Death is the maker of beauty.’ This is about the death of things that are unnecessary.

Greason’s creative process is intuitive. “I’m one of these crazy people that have a lot of stuff,” she said. “People give me stuff. I have a mantra in my head of what I’m thinking about: Rebirth and death. I found this bird’s egg. There’s a dead bird. A seed pod. Some of it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just rusty and cool-looking and beautiful.”