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TENNESSEE STATE MUSEUM TO EXHIBIT THE ARTWORK OF JOHN MELLENCAMP
The paintings of John Mellencamp will be featured in his first museum
exhibition, Nothing Like I Planned: The Art of John Mellencamp, 12 April 2012 to
10 June 2012 at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. Organized by curator
Renee White, the exhibition contains 52 paintings, spanning four decades of
output. Lois Riggins-Ezzell, Executive Director of the museum and a longtime
supporter said, “For more than 30 years, I have been an ardent admirer of John
Mellencamp, the heartland rock and populist champion of the people. More
recently, I’ve become a serious devotee of John Mellencamp, the extraordinarily
talented artist. We are very pleased to introduce John Mellencamp the Artist to
a museum audience.”
Born in 1951 in Seymour, Indiana, a descendent of German immigrants,
Mellencamp played music from the age of fourteen. His interest in painting came
even earlier. “I started messing around with oil paints when I was about ten
but, you know, without instruction,” he remembers.
Eventually, he focused on music, and by 1980, was earning accolades. Two
years later, he won a Grammy. Even with a string of hit recordings reflecting
diverse musical styles and innovating what would come to be known as the
Americana genre, Mellencamp continued painting as a means of personal
self-exploration. His first subjects were friends, family and landscapes
reminiscent of the French impressionists. Mellencamp’s formal art training was
sparse. “I briefly studied at the New York Art Students League. There was so
much information that I’m, to this day, still trying to learn and put into
practice what my teacher taught me back then,” he admits.
The award-winning songwriter, actor and musician shuns being designated “rock
star” or “pop singer” and has a long history of musical exploration and
innovation. One of his current projects is Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a
musical in collaboration with(hyphen) best-selling author Stephen King. He has
long strived to use his music to promote social justice, and to underscore the
plight of the American family farmer. He was acknowledged for these efforts with
both the Woody Guthrie Award and ASCAP Foundation’s Champion Award.
Bringing the weight of personal history to both his music and art, Mellencamp
always returns home to the state of Indiana where he still resides. A testament
to the power of place and authenticity permeates his works.
His portraiture has evolved to a personal style that some critics describe as
similar to the dark and shadowy paintings of the German Expressionists. This
search for expressiveness by means of exaggeration and distortion of line and
color in favor of a simplified style intended to carry an emotional impact is
the recent oil painting, Savannah GA.
Mellencamp, like German Expressionist Max Beckmann, exalts the individual, a man standing in full frontal pose opposite the viewer. With arms out of sync with each other, the facial expression is dour
and contemplative. There is an intense aspect of an inner world, an emotional
force, something that explains why this style, like those earlier German
is best manifested in times of social crisis and upheaval. Mellencamp
understands the inequality of modern society. His realism is
inseparable from his philosophical concerns; he provokes so that people will ask
questions about the world around them.
When asked about his work, Mellencamp responded, “I learned a long time ago
that you can’t control what people think. Do I have a mission of what I want to
accomplish with this? I’ve already accomplished it. There it is. There’s the
song. There’s the painting.”
A fully illustrated color catalogue with an essay by nationally- known) art
writer, Hilarie M. Sheets will accompany the exhibition.
The Tennessee State Museum is open free to the public. Hours are:
Tuesday-Saturday 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Sunday 1 to 5 P.M. Closed Mondays.