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Vinyl becomes the canvas in music-inspired paintings

by Jordan Green

The portrait of the Beastie Boyspainted on three vinyl long-playerslooks iconic hanging above the binsat Earshot record store in Winston-Salem, especially in the wake of Adam Yauch’sdeath.Painted and installed before the belovedrapper’s passing, it’s one of a handful of piecespaying tribute to recording artists in the Art onRecord exhibit, which displays paintings onvinyl discs by artists from across the Triad.It’s also the favorite of artist Patrick Harris,who is a co-curator of the exhibit with JaneBuck and who has three pieces of his own ondisplay.

The three members of the group seemto stare out into the distance with the solemnityof Johnny Cash in any number of Sun Recordsreissues or Joe Strummer honored on a mural inthe Lower East Side of Manhattan.Jane Buck, a longtime customer at Earshotwho partners with storeowner Phred Raineyon a greeting card sideline, initially thoughtthe store should liven its walls with a muralwhen Earshot took over the retail space nearHanes Mall formerly occupied by the RecordExchange.

But then Buck met Harris, whosuggested instead that the walls should becovered with paintings on vinyl. Harris alsoleveraged his involvement in the local artscene to recruit other artists to participate.“I’ve always loved music and alwaysloved records,” Harris said. “The fi rst music Ihad was on vinyl. Music has always inspiredthe art.”Visual statement has been interwoventhroughout the history of vinyl records,from the arresting fi nger-snap silhouette onthe Stax label to the Clash’s unforgettableLondon Calling album cover depicting PaulSimonon smashing his bass.

By recyclingthe typography of Elvis’ debut LP, LondonCalling both mocked and paid homage torock-and-roll history. Considering the fruitfulrelationship between music and art inpackaging, it seems like a natural move toput the art directly on the disc.

The breadth of styles and range of approachesthe artists use to incorporate elementsof the label make this a fascinating andfun exhibit.Some of the pieces directly depict themusical artist whose music is on the record.That’s the case with Harris’ “Fat SweatyElvis” painted on Elvis Presley’s BlueBayou LP. More sly is Harris’ “Reaming forVengeance” on Judas Priest’s Screamingfor Vengeance LP depicting Rob Halford inbondage gear. If you know the metal singer’ssexual orientation, you probably get the joke.If not, never mind.

There is subtle play with the original recordin Millicent Greason’s piece, in which thicklayers of glossy, pink resin are suggestivelymolded into a pink mound that reveals the titletrack of the album and the title of the piece:“I’ve Got A Gal in Kalamazoo.”Peter Spivak’s “Good and Evil,” a simpledepiction of black devils silhouetted against ared background, creates a dialogue with the LP,a recording of Billy Graham sermons.“It’s like they’re taunting him — these Mephistopheliancreatures,” Rainey said.

Chad Beroth’s “Jello Pudding Pop Guy” onBill Cosby’s Revenge LP is a straight-up portraitof the comedian. Dane Walters’ “Thriller”depicting a werewolf celebrates the horror-fl ickinspiration for the classic Michael Jacksonalbum.Buck continues to solicit new artists to participate.She and Harris are screening entries.Rainey said later that he is grateful for Buck’sgenerosity with her time and energy.“As long as people are selling and as long asthere’s interest, we’ll keep going,” Buck said.

The friendship and shared enthusiasm formusic and art among Buck, Rainey and Harriswere apparent as the three gathered to talkabout the exhibit on a recent Friday morning.Bluesman Little Walter played on the stereo,and then Rainey put on some music by theearly Nick Cave band Birthday Party for Harris’benefi t.Then Harris sat down on the fl oor, opened acabinet and pulled out a stack of albums Raineyset aside for Art on Record.

He examined the soundtrack for EveryWhich Way But Loose featuring the music ofEddie Rabbit, Charlie Rich and Mel Tillis.“Oooh, can I take this?” he asked.“Sure,” Rainey said.“Paint away,” said Buck

wanna go?

Art on Record is on display at Earshot, located at 3254 Silas Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem. Anyone interested in submitting art for the exhibit may e-mail artonrecord@gmail.com.

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