John Mellencamp Exhibition Coming To Mansfield Art Center This Summer

Mansfield Art Center  By Mark Caudill

The Mansfield Art Center has landed a huge name for an upcoming exhibit.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp will have his work featured from June 26 to Aug. 7. The exhibition will be called "Paintings & Assemblages."

It turns out that one of the voices of the heartland is a prolific painter, too.

"For us to be getting such a huge exhibition from a huge name is going to be very exciting for us," said Jennifer Beavis, marketing and development director. "We've been working on it for about a year."

Mellencamp is best known for a string of big hits in the 1980s, including "Hurts So Good," "Jack & Diane" and "Pink Houses." He has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide.

Mellencamp released a new album called "Strictly a One-Eyed Jack" earlier this year.

Mellencamp is established and prolific painter

In addition to rock and roll stardom, Mellencamp is an accomplished painter, collector and activist. Paintings & Assemblages documents America’s heart and soul, exposing unsettling, but beautiful truths with an attitude of defiance and narrative sensibility.

As his musical career flourished, Mellencamp began to paint earnestly in the 1980s. His affinity for portraiture, influenced by the works of Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, shares a kinship with German Expressionism of the early 20th century.

"Driving in the Rain" is one of the works of John Mellencamp that will be on display this summer at the Mansfield Art Center.

Like his music, Mellencamp’s paintings are carefully composed through the structural requirements of harmony, rhythm and order. His large-scale oil portraits and mixed-media pieces examine subjects that speak to the viewer with a voice as powerful as his songs.

Mellencamp has a wide list of accomplishments. He helped found Farm Aid, which is still around.

In 2008, Mellencamp was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Many might be surprised to learn of his love of painting.

"He paints many hours every day," Beavis said.

In 2012, the New York Times called Mellencamp "a natural storyteller" for his artwork.

Beavis, as a matter of fact, actually likes his artwork even more than his music.

The exhibition that will be held at the Mansfield Art Center is currently on display in Deland, Florida.

"We may have work that's never been displayed," Beavis said of the 55 pieces coming to Mansfield.

Mansfield Art Center worked with Mellencamp's team

George Whitten, executive director of the Mansfield Art Center, and Tim Gorka worked with Mellencamp's team to schedule the exhibition.

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"It was kind of a pipe dream that we never thought would happen," Whitten said.

Hoffman Entertainment, which manages Mellencamp, has been through Mansfield while going back and forth between New York City and Indiana, the singer's birthplace.

"They got back to us right away," Whitten said. "I thought, 'You gotta be kidding. This is actually happening.'

"We're thrilled to be working with John and his people. It's great for us. It's great for the community."

Whitten recalls talking to Mellencamp's representatives on Jan. 6, 2021, because it was the day of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

John Mellencamp is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as a prolific painter.

He describes Mellencamp's work as "very powerful, soulful," adding the singer does not like to mix music and his artwork.

"Not many people could have two professions," Whitten said.

"And be equally skilled at both," Beavis added.

The art center will host an opening preview for "Paintings & Assemblages" on June 25. It will have a limited capacity.

A public reception will be held June 26. Whitten said there is no guarantee that Mellencamp will make an appearance.

Admission for the exhibition will be $5.

"There's expenses bringing a show like this to town," Whitten said.