Orlando Sentinel: John Mellencamp Art Exhibit Set To Open In Deland - Interview

By Jim Abbott - Orlando Sentinel

For singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, painting is appealing for the opportunities that it offers to refine creative ideas.

"Once a song is done and released, you really can't take it back," Mellencamp said Thursday at the Museum of Art -- DeLand, where an exhibit of his art opens on Friday, Oct. 10.

"A long time ago, I wrote a song called 'Pink Houses'," Mellencamp said at a press conference at the museum. "Now when I hear that song, all I can think is: 'Why didn't I do a better job on the last verse?' If I had written it today, the last verse would've had more meaning."

By comparison, Mellencamp often works for decades on his paintings, discarding ideas only to have them emerge later as parts of another work. Alluding to one of the works in the DeLand exhibit, "Man In The Cage," Mellencamp traced its origins to 1985.

"I worked on it; I hated it, then I worked on it some more," he said. "Consequently, I think I made something beautiful out of a bunch of things I didn't like. There's not a painting in this room that I couldn't go back and work on."

Although the "Pink Houses" singer is known as a rocker, Mellencamp developed an interest in art at an early age.

In the early 1980s, he attended the Art Student League in New York, "for two weeks," he said Thursday. There, he was inspired by early 20th-century modernists including Walt Kuhn, Chaim Soutine and the German Expressionists Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.

"The Paintings of John Mellencamp" opens to the public on Friday, Oct. 10, at The Museum of Art in DeLand. The exhibition will contain roughly 50 oil and mixed media paintings, showcasing recent works of art never before exhibited at other museums.

The museum, at 100 N. Woodland Blvd. in downtown DeLand, will host the exhibit through Dec. 28. Mellencamp was spotted in DeLand on Wednesday, taking a tour of historic homes and dining at De La Vega Mexican restaurant on North Woodland Boulevard. He also was slated to attend a VIP reception for major museum donors Thursday night.

"I never could figure out why anyone would want to live in the middle of Florida," he said Thursday. "There's no ocean. There's big bugs. But when we were driving into town, I said, 'Look at this architecture!' I like to see your old houses."

The DeLand show is Mellencamp’s first art exhibition in Florida. Nationally, his work was featured in exhibitions at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, ,Tenn., 2012 and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, 2013.

For details on the art exhibit, visit moartdeland.org. And look for more on Mellencamp's exhibit in the Soundboard column of the Calendar section in next week's Orlando Sentinel.