(overview and background)
A- Side 01 – Portrait David Bowie – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1’
I started this series to fulfill my own need to put my personal heroes on a pedestal. The heroes on my ‘stage’ have been with me for almost all my life, they inspired me, raised me and most importantly showed me that you do not necessarily have to fit in a standard matrix to find your place in life. They were the ultimate proof that it was even better to not fit at all. I never succeeded fitting in any template, even if I tried, it was not given to me. I experienced that many aspects of life are suffocating or conducting for me. Not my upbringing by the way, I was free to choose and find my own path.. I was born in 1970. Not sure of that got anything to do with it but it has this certain ring to it… ( :
Fame: The art print is a compilation of divers and manipulated images, amongst them Bowie twice. In the left corner we find Hunky Dory and in the right corner The thin White Duke. Both surrounded by the outskirts of worlds apart: The rockstar (featuring Jimmy Page > Led Zeppelin) and the bookkeeper. I shall not be the only one that recognize creative genius in this man but I kind of like to think I own him a little bit. Anyway within the borders of this art print, I do. The world is missing an angel or at least a (black) star (man)
B- Side 01 – Portrait David Bowie – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
I started the Helden/Heroes series with David Bowie, titled Fame. Heroes itself is also a cross reference with his album and song Heroes. I a way this whole series is inspired by Bowie. Fame was somewhat alienating and the Bowie featuring here is not drawing all attention. With Starman I place him in the spotlight. The image is loaded with links that would be recognized by any Bowie fan: Major Tom, Black Star, Starman, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Thin White Duke, Diamond Dogs. The appeal of someone like Bowie lies in his intangibility, elusiveness and fluidity. Trough his various personas he created a total experience. He guided you on his expeditions in a magical world. For me, he paved the road of becoming an artist. And he showed in his track record that that his whimsicality, artistry, commercial successes and flops all exist side by side. I think that a true creative mind that wonders and seeks, is never 100% consistent or mouldable and keeps on shifting in shape and content. Regardless of its success but with the insurance that it never stops creating. Creating is the fundament of his/her existence. If you ask me, this is art in its purest form.
Or in his own words:
“There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile”
What’s Going On
A- Side 02 – Portrait Marvin Gaye – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
This series is a hommage to them that inspired, motivated and touched me and by doing so made a valuable contribution to my ‘being’. I believe strongly we need heroes to get the best out of our selves. My heroes, in my opinion, are creative prodigies stars that shine so bright that they are still burning and glowing decennia ever after. That certainly applies for my hero 02- Marvin Gaye, as far as I am concerned, the undisputed king of soul.
Soul, hardcore soul! I must have been 12/13 years old when I heard the song Sexual healing for the fist time. This song, was the reason for buying his album Midnight Love. I listened it over and over again until I knew every tone, every tune and vocal inflections.
Maybe a strange combination, Bowie, Jackson and Gaye, but I was only 13 years old, so… Besides everything seemed fluid back than, Bowie experimenting with Jazz and soul, Jackson playing with rocksounds and Marvin exploring disco. What they had in common was their unworldly greatness. Back to Marvin, after Midnight Love I got eager for more, unfortunately he got killed by his own father in 1984. So the only way for more was travel back in time. I gradual discovered the albums, I Want You, Lets get It On en Whats Going On and was sold for live. I already liked soul music but still this was something else, it seemed deeper, more raw, sexier, more tragic, more sensitive and more apocalyptic. His voice touches my deepest consciousness, my soul. I feel him and wish I could live inside his warm and fluid voice. Soul is a music genre with essence but what Marvin’s music learned me in my life to come, was that Soul can be true soul. Not something you do, but something you are, a state of being, becoming pure love. I will not ever achieve the full 100% but It is a strive for live. Richness is a mental state, love is the state of the soul. Money, power or status has nothing to do with it. It is at the most something you stumble on accidentally.
Not only is this a hommage to Marvin Gaye and soul music it is also a plea for more soul in the 21th century. I dare to state that by listening to Marvin Gaye you might get a better, softer , warmer version of your selves. It is a comfort for the soul. Havent done it yet, try it?
Inner City Blues
B- Side 02 – Portrait Marvin Gaye – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
Number 02 of the A-sides series was a portrait of Marvin Gaye titled What’s Going On. What’s Going On, a marvellous song and the title of the eponymous album. This album is known as one of his most engaged albums. This is what soul is al about, if you asked me. The last number of the B-sides of the album is Inner City Blues and also the title of my B-sides portrait no. 02. It is a penetrating and stunning song covered by many artists. Thematically seen it might as well be a Black Lives Matter anthem, in those days but definitely in our age too. The song is about the struggle in the American Inner city ghettos, about economic malaise and police violence. Back than situated against a backdrop of under privileged young men who were send to Vietnam to fight a senseless war.
“Inflation no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die”
These days the question: what is the best way to address problems’ comes to mind. I believe that Marvin Gaye was a good ambassador for the black cause. Given his intelligent, splendour and social awareness poetry that he brought into the world.
“Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yea, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing
Panic is spreading
God know where we’re heading”
Bizarre how contemporary these lines are still now. But his poetry wasn’t just about black issues, it addressed more social issues like pollution for instance (Mercy Me)
Music that is so intense and rich that it touches the entire colour pallet that mankind beholds. His music is connecting and pure love.
In my artwork I placed Marvin Like the young soul god he was at the beginning of his career surrounded by a golden glow. The double shade of his father in the background and a banner of his later sensual loaded album ‘I Want You’
A- Side 03 – Portrait Prince – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night“…………
With these words you’re guided into Princes unprecedented ‘Lets Go Crazy’. The afterworld, that’s were he’s at now. Hopefully it fits his expectations.
This is how I got introduced to Prince in 1984. Not entirely true if I am honest. Before that, by my neighbor, he was complete and utterly Prince adapt and played his songs virtuous on his electric guitar. He was the first to introduce Prince to me and at the same time impressing me with his guitar skills. But really, I was not directly blown away by Prince. At first I thought he was a big egomaniac that looked and acted like Jimmy Hendrix. Of course, I stood corrected.
So the second introduction was at a party of a friend. She or he (I can’t remember) had rented the ‘video’ Purple Rain. A thin storyline but the music had impact. (At the same time New Years Day of U2 was high in the charts- music that flips you inside out- an urgent-as a force of nature). So, your 14-15 years old and got slapped in the face with a sense of excitement, change, revolt and extravaganza. It might happen, it could happen, it was clearly present, this outrageous energy.
As for Prince, as this is his proverbial stage, he was unparalleled in his flood of creativity. He had so much of it that it flowed constantly, always ahead of everyone, unconstrained and with great and visible joy. This man, a musician pur sang, a musician that got annoyed over commercial and shallow produced music. Who choose not to become a SLAVE of the music industry, followed his own path. And at the same time made musical flaws and mistakes too.
In this period I was also discovering my self as being not one of the flock but as an individual waiting to get shape . Due to an inborn aversion to traditions and expectations, I felt kind of lost from time to time. It seems so much easier, fitting and blending as a piece of a greater puzzle. This was –unfortunately- not for me.
If it wasn’t for them, my heroes, I might remain puzzled how to fit in my entire life. But the fact they existed proofed that oddness was in fact a great asset of life!.
In my line of work there is a lot of freedom but also a lot of rigidness and lets call it dogmas. Me, I can’t constrain my self if it comes to creativity. It is my weakness and my strength. Am I lucid or hazy? I did struggle with this characteristic. But than I feel at ease with the thought that there are many roads to Rome, even asymmetrical ones, eccentric ones and …… beautiful ones*
- In the background both Jimmy Hendrix (standing) and Sly Stone (jumping) both role models for Prince.
Around The World In One Day
B- Side 03 – Portrait Prince – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
Around The World In One Day is my second digital portrait of Prince Rogers Nelson,, a.k.a. Prince, TAFKAP or the symbol in short. We witness Prince in the background as an all embracing illusionist and prophet that orchestrates his own created world. He emerges as an omniscient visionary at the horizon. If we look down we see the young Prince running over water, without a trace or a splash. This refers to the religious and spiritual Prince. Prince made God look sexy. His God is some kind of a chief of a creative elite that connects heaven and earth. Besides It also refers at one of his last albums Art, Official Age, where he poses on the album cover with a third eye. The air balloons are a specific reference to his song Around The World In One Day, what was on his turn a referral to the Jules Verne story ‘ Around The World in 80 Days’. My image is a sum of Prince as time-cosmos-world and mind traveller, but then one who turns out to be the final destination too.
Off The Wall
A- Side 04 – Portrait Michael Jackson– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
Can a hero fall from his pedestal in hindsight? In this particular case I aim at musical hero Michael Jackson. I was really a bit troubled by this question. To find an answer I travelled back to the eighties, 1982. I was12 years old, just grasping the phenomenon of pop music. (Fame, Grease and (for real) even Shakin’ Stevens had my interest in my previous years. In my defence for the Shakin’ Stevens crush, you have to start somewhere…. right?
But then, watching this weekly music show Count Down encountering a new phenomenon- the video clip. (Oh, how much has changed…) But can you remember the excitement (80-ties people)! Weeks before the release of Michael Jackson’s song Beat It, the word was out, something special was going down. Later, the same procedure repeated with the song and clip ‘Thriller’. The tension was stretched over weeks before the release and then…. Blast, bang, wow! It was unprecedented. And for me a star, an icon was born. I loved dancing already (*Fame) but I was so exited by his moves that I actually learned the moonwalk and the thriller clip dances by heart, even the zombie- moves. Later on in dance halls and discotheques I danced my brains out on his earlier hit song ‘Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and many more, never out-dated and ultimate swinging music. (including the Jackson 5 period). And being a hobby DJ for a while (Sister Feelgood), record spinning during parties at DOAS (in her glory days), incidentally at theme nights at Cafe de Single and later on on a monthly base at jazz/ music cafe Jazzy Jam, Michael Jackson was a must do. And everyone started moving…inevitable.
The world loved and devoured him. This shy and vulnerable creature, gone mad? Tinkered at his appearance for ever, till there was nothing left to tinker with, leaving a pale-faced unhappy Pinocchio as remain. And to make it even worse, his alleged (or proved) paedophile actions, which culminated after his death.
The soul question: Did Michael Jackson have more talent that he could bare? Or is the frantic father figure, the total lac of normal and privacy made him a freak?
Well now my answer to the first question “Can a hero fall from his pedestal on hindsight?”, would be: musically, never, personally, I do pity him more that I judge him.
I have a strong sense of him, being, besides a predator, a victim too. And still I feel grateful for what he gave to many others and me. So he belongs her in my hero series. Flanked by Peter Pan, his role model.
B- Side 04 – Portrait Michael Jackson– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
We witness the now maligned anti-hero in a 3 double portrait. We see him as the dance virtuoso that he was in the Billie Jean, Moonwalk period. Cooler than cool, smoother than smooth he showed us what dancing really was all about in extremes and who was master. He made school for generations to come and is (hardly) never surpassed or outclassed.
In the second portrait we see him jumping and screaming above the horizon. An artist, lonelier than lonely and more lost than anyone. Loved to death by his audience, haunted by the press and crushed by his dad. This is why the third portrait returns in the tabloid.
Everyone knows how this story ended and what shockwave shook the world posthumous. Weird, pathetic, odd and perverse that is how he is remembered. While the prodigy he was, completely comes short in this description. The paradox here is, is it done to still speak of a hero, knowing what we know now, or not? But at the same time is a cult-hero status that came alongside with the inspiration of millions of people, not an obvious value in it’s own right and everlasting. Is the dark side in this case not the other side of the same coin? The answer remains somewhere in the middle. With Scream I want to overlap the genius Michael and the hunted game Michael.
The title is borrowed from the song Scream that he produced and performed with his sister Janet. This song and related video gives a psychedelic glance from his haunted and choking perspective.
Sugar In My Bowl
A- Side 05 – Portrait Nina Simone – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
As far as my own set selection criteria goes; for me she is a (anti) hero, heroin for more than one reason. 1- Here is a black woman who became a classic schooled musician, but not without a fight. After high school and the New York School of Arts she applied to the Curtis Institute Of Music In Philadelphia. They turned her down because she was black. This painful experience had a big influence on her and finally made her an activist singer. 2- in those days she managed to claim her position as an iconic female musician in a male dominated world. And she made David Bowie question his own talent.
I am a white privileged woman, but a woman. Born in a different era but still I too had to put up a bit of a fight to get where I am today. I think every woman understands a fight for any form of equality even if it is not her own.
Looking back in my own family history I see a chain of bright and ventures women. The ones before me are my mother and grandmothers. When they were young, they were not abled to get married and be independent at the same time. I am part of the generation that is or can be. I am inspired by their stories and a crossing border, cutting edge, woman like Nina Simone. Still I feel strongly that worldwide this battle is not won yet.
Nina Simone was beautiful, gifted and militant at the same time.
Her exceptional voice reached far but she pushed her talent and boundaries and used it to challenge politics and to provoke change.
Sugar In My Bowl is a song about a woman desiring the simple but good tings in life. These lyrics express a thousand words!
“I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl”
I want a little sugar
In my bowl
I want a little sweetness
Down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’
Oh so bad
I feel so funny and I feel so sad
I want a little steam
On my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up
So they’ll go
Whatsa matter Daddy
Come on, save my soul
I need some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar in my bowl
You been acting different
I’ve been told
I want some sugar in my bowl
I want some steam
On my clothes
Maybe I can fix things up so they’ll go
Whatsa matter Daddy
Come on, save my soul
I want some sugar in my bowl
I ain’t foolin’
I want some sugar hmmm
B- Side 05 – Portrait Nina Simone – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
We see Nina Simone in a large room with a New York loft-like atmosphere. She shares this space with herself, on piano; her young aged daughterLisa and reverent Martin Luther King. King represents here her combativeness and the racial divided world she grew up in. The few bottles of Jajem standing on the kitchen worktop are referring to both her relationship to alcohol as to Amsterdam. This sophisticated space annex industrial living room almost seems a somewhat lonesome happy home. But it’s not. The wall-window behind the balustrade has the appearance of a theatre facade. This wall is filled with images of the racial segregation. The roots were Nina grew on and what she transcended. Simone stood her ground when it came to her right as a black singer and she demanded equal rights and opportunity. By doing so she was besides being a great artist, an inspiration for many. Her activism is clear and present in the song Strange Fruit, the song where this artwork is named after.
The song Strange Fruit describes the bodies of black men hanging on a tree as strange fruit. A gruesome American history that still resonates in the V.S. of today.
Here below a few lines to illustrate.
Bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
And blood at the roots
Swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’”
Earlier Billy Holliday performed this song.It is based on the poem Bitter fruit from1937 that was published by Abel Meeropol under a pseudonym ‘Lewis Allan’.
Nina Simone had the quality to bend something ugly as racial discrimination to something powerful and beautiful. She was a great source of inspiration. But militant and strong as she was on stage, she did not succeed to get her own life on the right track. She suffered manic depressions and her private life was a roller coaster.
Her daughter Lisa, portrayed here on the balustrade with her teddy bear, was often a victim of her mother’s neglect and rage. She is probably less complimenting. Nina Simone is a story with many sides. She is a hero; heroin with quit a rough edge or the downside of great talent.
Into The Field Of Joy
A- Side 06 – Portrait Lenny Kravitz – 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
‘Fields Of Joy’ was the 3th (hit) single by Lenny Kravitz debut album ‘Mama Said’ 1991. I was 21 years old and in de midst of a turbulent era of my life. I was on a revel a lot and worked (or had worked) @ discothèque X Ray and Cafe de Singel (Zwolle). My dreamed career as graphic designer seemed out of reach. An alternative career in the catering industry seemed the way for me at that present moment. Driven by a mixture of youthful rashness and rebelliousness made me embrace this opportunity, a perfect combination of making fun and earning money. In the end it had a less fortunate outcome than hoped for. It took me al lot of energy to bend this path into something that would made me truly happy, artistic craftsmanship. This period for me is larded with the sound of Lenny Kravitz. Lenny Kravitz, a beautiful androgynies mix of Jimy Hendrix and Curtis Mayfield. A ultra cool hippie and a rock ’n roll animal. Spreading a message of love, peace and happiness, be it a little rugged on the edges.
At the end of the nineties’ I made a diptych called ‘Into The Field Of Joy’ named after Lenny Kravitz’s song. This diptych for me represented optimism and a start of something new. Both carriers wise as private everything changed. I had just obtained my first atelier at De Oude Ambachtsschool (Mimosastraat 1) and felt like a phoenix from the flames in the company of all these colourful people that worked and lived at the Mimosa. It boosted my self-confidence, my faith in my creativity and my future. From here on it would only go up and I never left this track again. Into The Field Of Joy, for me, marked an era and a promise to myself.
In the mean while, zooming in on Kravitz, he made many hits and albums. He always stayed faithful to his unique sound. Recently I bought two of his latest albums; ‘Black & White America’ & ‘Raise Vibration’’ and they proofed it to be as urgent and contemporary as his early works were. When you’re an artist and able to produce music of a continue quality for decades, your a great one in my perspective. Oh, and by the way, worth mentioning it, in my sequence this is the first artist that’s still alive (and kicking), Len the Man!
Raise Vibration is no. 06 of the Heroes B-sides series. This is my second portrait of Lenny Kravitz. At first I surrounded Lenny with butterflies and the second time I chose to place him in a field of poppy flowers. A hippie child or in his own words, a Flowerchild in a field of Joy!
The butterflies and poppy flowers are not a coincidence. Kravitz combined his musical talent with engagement and idealism. Which seems rare these days as commercialism rules more than ever in the music industries. I totally feel for this drenched with personal flavour and activism kind of music. It has an essence to it. As a visual artist my personal view worries and statements are totally intertwined with my art. I would not know how not to get it intertwined anyway. To be honest I also do believe that there is surplus value added to art, any art, when it is rooted in society and her real issues. I also strongly believe that we are constantly influenced by what we consume physically and mentally. As currently Drill rap music is the source for a strange but truly frightening hype, so a message of love, peace and solidarity can cause a wave of tolerance and open minds. Both can be inspiring. At least that is my conviction.
Set aside all this talk about meaning and content, the musical aspect is not to ignore. Kravits music is raw, pure, it grooves and it rocks, still. So plain entertainment is possible and fully present!
A- Side 07 – Portrait Lauryn Hill– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
Hereby I present my latest work from the Heroes/Helden series, Rebel no. 7, to you. This is a series of visual and virtual homages to my musical heroes. Each hero represents a period or a phase in my life. It started more or less with my ultimate hero David Bowie in my teenage years. Growing up and coming of age with many others to keep him company.
‘Rebel’ is my portrait of Lauryn Hill. She was part of the hip-hop formation Fugees with Wyclef Jean. Became a solo artist with her debut album “ Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’.
1999- coming of age- It was 1999 the year I turned 30! I made a long desired trip to the U.S.A. with soul mate /friend Anne Marieke. First stop, New York City. We were exited, filled with great expectations and curious to the max. What would this US Of A have in stored for us? It was a trip we would never forget. We went from New York to Memphis Tennessee, straight trough the Mississippi Delta to Baton Rouge, New Orleans and than by Greyhound to visit my uncle in Plano/ Dallas and discovering Texas (Austin, San Antonio) with him on our side. It was one fantastic ride but exhausting and overwhelming at the same time. In fact so overwhelmed and filled with all impressions and American contradictions, that afterwards I slipped into something in between depression and burn out. This would take me a year to overcome and to find my rhythm and balance again. The trip to the USA was not the cause but the final drop that flooded the bucket. So 1999 and 2000 for me was a period of truth, coming of age, facing life as it is and coming to terms with myself, my insecurities, my fears, my desires and goals.
Cloisters park NYC– Doo Wop That Thing!- So here is were Lauryn Hill kicks in. This was in Cloisters Park, New York City. Our stay in New York was tremendously cheerful and filled with all kinds of encounters with lovely people. We combed the streets by foot. We walked for miles, as we did this day and ended up in this park on a bench, enjoying the shade of a big tree (it was 40 degree plus) and relaxing a little bit. As my friend Anne Marieke came well prepared to our trip with her USA (New York State Of Mind) tapes on her Walkman, she shared a left or right earphone with me. This was my first encounter with Lauryn Hill. ‘Doo Wop That Thing’, bursted trough the earphone and made me instant fan.
Unplugged sessions- rebel- Years later I discovered the MTV Unplugged sessions. This double album contained songs sang with a raspy voice, as she revered to it her selves. Raw songs with a deep and serious undertone. Here was a woman, sadder, wiser and older but also wide-awake and aware, singing with true soul and content. Stripped of pretence, songs that matter. Side one ends with this song Rebel (I Find It Hard To Say). Without really knowing at the time what this song was really about, it struck me as lightening.
A few lines here;
“And while the people sleep, too comfortable to face it
Your lives are so incomplete, and nothing, and no one, can replace it
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
And what I gotta say, and what I gotta say
And what I gotta say, and what I gotta say
And what I gotta say, and what I gotta say
And what I gotta say, and what I gotta say
Is rebel… rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel“
These lines are engraved in my mind forever. Her lyrics are actually about the Amadou Diallo shooting. This is how she introduces the song;
“…I’ve written it about the whole Amadou Diallo situation……It was such a hot time in the city at that point, I was afraid that if I put the record out, people would Misunderstand what I meant by “Rebel” and they just take it to the streets”
Nowadays it might as well became a Black Lives Matter anthem. For me, not being black but sympathizing of course, it has an alternative message as well.
How I read this song it is more related to the way of our world in general. Often I’ve got this feeling of being lost in an, ‘ a priory, money’ motivated world. And how this world and his nature (flora, fauna) are ran over by an extending population of people. How our behaviour is destructive for our fellow earth inhabitants. When I am trying to put my mind to rest, I cannot feel at ease because I’m boggled and worried. How does this 21th chapter end? Does mankind wise up? How can we even sleep at night knowing what we know?
Than the words: “And while the people sleep, too comfortable to face it”, lights up in my head.
Lauryn Hill sets an example; therefor she must be courage’s and strong musician in my opinion. Her words are disturbing and comforting at the same time. Her words feel raw and honest. And I long for plain honesty and clarity in this confusing and sometimes flat earth.
Read more about my road trip (in dutch) @ https://www.maritotto.nl/reisverslag/
Hereby is present Doowopthatthingto you, my latest art print, no06 from the Helden/Heroes B-side series. This is my second portrait of Lauryn Hill. Rebel was the first one from the A-sides series. Doowopthatthing is printed on canvas 120/80cm limited and signed 1/5.
Artist Lauryn Hill is like a rough and polished diamond with many facets. My premiere encounter with her music was with her first solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. The songDoo Wop That Thing echoed trough my (borrowed) earphones while sitting on a bench in the sun in The Cloisters (park) New York with my co traveller Anne Marieke (1999). This song resonated for us the New York vibe we were experiencing at the time. But this specific album is still one of my favourites. It is upbeat, cheeky, bold and out there. Love it. She did not produce a lot of records and for a while her life and career went downhill or rephrased Hill went down. Some time passed by and the Unplugged album caught my ear. This album was undeniable still very much Lauryn Hill but drenched with the life she had lived and emotions she had gone through. The album starts with a conversation (intro) with her audience, which she keeps on doing throughout the whole unplugged session.
I picked a few significant lines to illustrate her metamorphoses:
“And you know, it’s real interesting because I used to be a performer, and I really don’t consider myself a performer so much anymore. I’m really just… I’m sharing, you know, more or less the music that I’ve been given. But if I stop, if I start, if I… you know… feel like saying, “Baby, baby, baby” for eighteen bars — whatever, you know? I just… I do that”
She also refers to her voice later on, that has become raspy over time, but that’s ok she said because she now was a singer with a lot of stuff on her throat. I mean…..
If an artist is capable of such introspection and personal and artistic output, it adds so much value to everything he or she does and her legacy. In this perspective Miseducation was her coming out as a solo artist after her career in the equally successful hip-hop formation Fugees. And it is without a doubt a great performance but the unplugged sessions proved her to be an artist with great depts. Doo Wop That Thing seemed naïve, almost innocent in comparison with for instance the song Rebel from the unplugged sessions but in their unique ways they were both extremely powerful. And somehow it both suited my own coming of age.
Lauryn Hill, a singer with a lot of stuff on her throat. I hope to have captured it sufficient with this visual tribute to her.
100 Ways To Be A Good Girl
A- Side 08 – Portrait Skin/Skunk Anansi– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
Hereby I present my latest artwork from the Heroes series, 100 Ways To Be A Good Girl. This is a portrait of Deborah Anne Dyer alias Skin, the front woman of the band Skunk Anansi.
My first introduction to Skin and Skunk Anansi was in 1995 as she performed her song Weak. A tall, black, and bald female singer appears. Her exterior is slender, bold and feminine, armed with a fantastic voice.
“Lost in time I can’t count the words
I said when I thought they went unheard
All of those harsh thoughts so unkind
‘Cause I wanted you’.“
Her sound is cautious and delicate at first until, after 45 seconds, a hurricane hits you.
“Weak as I am, no tears for you
Weak as I am, no tears for you
Deep as I am, I’m no one’s fool
Weak as I am”
As how I interpret this song, is that love makes vulnerable. Thus, getting hurt is part of the game. Is it?
I was 26 years old and stood with one leg in what my life used to be while the other leg stepped into a new era. That era for me meant a choice for becoming an independent artist and becoming a working inhabitant and participant in a squatted school building in Zwolle. Here I created the base for my art practice.. In 1996, I also left my lover after 7 years relation and a new but complicated love entered my life.
The song Weak was, proverbial spoken, about me. I will not go into detail but I can reveal a little. I did choose to encounter everything to come fearless and with an open mind. This open mind to new developments around me, new friends and adventures and the impact of this relation made that my ‘weakness’ was totally at the surface. But I did not allow it to be there. I ignored this voice of the inner me. So my open mind became an open nerve.
Of the same album Paranoid and Sunburnt is the track ‘100 Ways To Be A Good Girl’. A song with the same moderation and rage combined to a brilliant intense musical roller coaster.
“I caused a major war just by talking
You flew into a rage, cos that’s everything you know”.
These lyrics seem pure and autobiographic. It’s raw and poetic. A song impregnated with sorrow but filled with self-reflection at the same time.
“I know 100 Ways To Be A Good Girl
I know 100 ways, my willingness top lease
I know 100 Ways To Be A Good Girl
Still I’m alone, I’m alone, and I’m alone”
“The willingness to please’ was also about me. When I landed in a burn-out/depression, 1999/2000, I did some soul searching. One of the conclusions I made was that I drifted too far from my core. It took me a while but I reclaimed it. The Good Girl, she knew 100 ways to be good to others, but not one to be good for herself. Now, 2020, I never stopped learning to understand life and the needs of my inner me. This journey will never be complete but I can say that I feel in sync with work, life, and love. Maybe one of the benefits of getting older
To me Skin was of a role model: feminine but firm Vulnerable but resilient. That is why she is no.08 in my Heroes series.
Post Orgasmic is no 08 of the Heroes/ Helden series- B-sides. A second portrait of Skin (Skunk Anansi)
There are many notions about art. Art pour l’art, art to celebrate splendour, ethically engaged art and many other notions. Within the visual arts, notions can be periodically dominant and if you ask me, very paralysing in their dominance. I am not an insider in the music industries so I don’t know where they stand on this matter. But, as a fellow artist I did wrestle with the general idea that engagement can be explained as judgemental. My work is ethically engaged but it is not a political or artistic correct choice. It emerges from who I am as a person and the questions that are raised in my head on a day-to-day basis. My art can be personal, it can be ethical, and whatever is bugging me. I use my imagination to translate the raw facts into a new story. Doing this gives me more grip. For me, the music of Skin- Skunk Anansi has this sense of urgency that I also experience in my work. I do not know her on a personal level, but her appearance, voice, music and subjects seem raw, intense, sincere and ethically engaged. As if she bares everyone’s pain and anger. Of course it is all theatre, especially in the music industries. But the closer the illusion gets to the soul, the more universal and real it gets. As a visual artist I always look for a certain truth. I use my eyes, hands and imagination to bring this truth to live. I often describe my work as abrasive aesthetics; this characterisation applies, in my opinion, for Skunk Anansi (Skin) too. Power, vulnerability, loss, love and pain are inseparable connected to each other.
A- Side 09 – Portrait Jeff Buckley– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/1
Dream Brother is the latest and last of the Helden/Heroes-series that is extended with the subtitle the A-sides. This is a portrait of Jeff Buckley. Jeff is a late hero that lived in my sub-consciousness for years before I encountered his second hand album Grace at music store Minstrel Music in Zwolle. Oh Yes, Jeff Buckley, a name surrounded with a spark of genius and infortune. In those days I was spending my gage as (hobby) DJ at dance- records. Grace is not a dance album. But my love for music has no limits. If there ever was one it would be about quality. I want to feel music in my bones, I want to wallow in music and I like to disappear into it from time to time. So, Grace is a latecomer. While the singer was already dead and buried when I met him. Drowned, A dramatic end of a life of a musician of dramatic, melancholic mesmerising music. Once at home, I put on the record and started listening with eyes close as I always do with new music. A mixture of hysteria and melody, softness and rawness came over me, a musical apocalypse. At first I did not knew if I even liked it or not. I left it for a while until I took it to my workspace and tried it again. I felt as an exiting ride. It started to stick. I started painting on it. For months the same music over and over again until the record turned grey. This is how it goes with real good music; you wear it like a coat, if fit fits well you really don’t ever take the coat off anymore. It is becoming part of you. This record Grace is a journey trough the poetic mind of the singer that takes you to unknown and tumultuous places, a journey trough live it self.
Lilac Wine (and I feel them drown my name)
B- Side 09 – Portrait Jeff Buckley– 80/120 cm on canvas- Limited & signed 1/5
Lilac Wine is the second portrait of Jeff Buckley I made. The first portrait was called Dream Brother no 09 from the Heroes A- side series.
The A and B-sides holds 18 art prints in total now
Buckley is the odd man out in the Heroes series. He came in late and remained a mystery to me. While most of my other heroes kind of made a click with me on a personal level, he did not. He is a total stranger. His music caught me by surprise. I did not even plan to buy his record when I was browsing through the second-hand discs at Minstrel Music (Assendorp, Zwolle).
I felt like buying it. Somehow I stored this record in the back of my head for a while. Then at home I installed myself for a session with closed eyes absorbing this new album. My boyfriend Erik defined the sound as a bit hysterical. Especially the first song Mojo Pin hit all the notes in the register. So, I took Grace to my atelier and there it found its way to my ears again. The hysterical notes were actually quite fascinating and the album unfolded itself like a mystical and dark fairy tail. It grew on me and got hold of me. Passionate is the word that comes to mind. Buckley died ever so mystical as this album and he was for me. Disappeared, drowned in Wolf River Marina in Memphis Tennessee. Confessing his manic depression to his dad the evening before. Darkness and brightness can live so close to each other in one heart that they can actually tear it apart until it devours its host. Still he left us with something bright and beautiful. Say grace, Hallelujah