I appreciate the freedom that flows through improvised art forms such as Jazz and abstract / expressionist painting.
It basically feels like a conversation that starts with, "What if?" and ends with, "Here's a brand new thing." – Nic Jenkins, musician/visual artist
There’s a noticeable Spark – an undeniable Energy – in the art of Romare Bearden. You could say the same about other 20th Century expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, Norman Lewis and Willem de Kooning. What do these visual artists all have in common? Jazz music.
Just like French impressionist painters like Monet and Pissarro, who were masters at capturing the essence and energy of nature in real time on their canvases, Bearden and his contemporaries’ version of En Plein Air painting happened in the jazz clubs in the 1940s.
April is Jazz Appreciation month. My intention is not to dig into the history of jazz and visual art, here, though their importance in our world is not lost on me. I want to take a minute to celebrate the beautiful relationship between the two -- that energy, that fluid motion of movement, emotion and color.
Pollock slung paint to the sounds of New Orleans Swing and Billie Holiday, expressing himself similarly to the improvisational, spontaneous style of the jazz music wafting through his studio.
Norman Lewis' (1909-1979) abstract expressionist paintings turned sound, rhythm and bebop into visual interpretations of his favorite music.
And Norman’s friend and art contemporary Romare Bearden made friends with iconic jazz musicians of the era, telling stories through his collage of the African-American experience, often making comparisons between the process of creating art and composing music.
I am continually inspired by these great creative icons from our history - both as an artist and as a lover of music. And if you were to be a fly on a wall in my own studio, you would most often find me listening to the cousins of jazz - hip hop and soul - to get my proverbial creative juices flowing, because of that rich energy - the layers, the harmony, the calculated improvisation that you hear with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker (...and Outkast, and a Tribe Called Quest, and Erykah Badu...) and all the rest.
Trahern Cook, aka Easel Cathedral, often takes his easel and paints to live shows, using that energy to replicate what he sees, feels and hears onto the canvas.
To “jam paint" alongside the likes of Mark Rapp and the many other talented jazz musicians in our town is a wonderfully creative ride.
I try to get as lost as possible in the sea that is the performance. Steer the boat in a general direction and let it go where it goes.
Jazz is very visual for me. Each instrument has it’s own color, line and personality. I try to translate that emotion of sound onto the panel and hopefully there’s a few folks out there that it speaks to. - Trahern Cook
I love these words by local artist Nic Jenkins, "[Jazz] feels like a conversation that starts with 'What if?' and ends with, 'Here's a brand new thing.'" And I think that sums up this absolutely special relationship between Art and Jazz... can we answer a question with another question?