In the last three months I’ve started on what will be the bulk of a
series of paintings on the band Uncle Tupelo for a show at the University City Library in April titled “Graveyard Shift”. The
paintings and show have been a long time coming in what’s
been an evolving set of circumstances that started over a
year ago in 2013. Way back then, Iowa artist Karl Haglund
and myself daydreamed about having a joint show at some
point in the future and brainstormed on what that show could
consist of. After many emails back and forth, we settled on
Uncle Tupelo. We both had our own reasons for that subject and
it seemed like nice common ground for us to meet on. Unfortunately,
for many more reasons, that show never happened. Karl did,
however, show a series of great paintings based on St. Louis guitar
players this past Oct at KDHX titled “Fifteen Keys”, but the
titled was the only reference to Uncle Tupelo.
I was stalled for a long time because of lack of images to paint. Sure
I could have gone online and googled a bunch of UT pictures but
that really didn’t interest me. I wanted images that weren’t well
known or even published. Photos from people who were actually
there and experienced what was happening. But that was proving
hard to find, at least for me. Eventually, though, slowly but surely,
I started to acquire beautiful photographs from various people
who were either there or actually took the photo themselves.
This includes two incredible black and white photographs,
one of the original trio playing what appears to be a cramped
show at the infamous Cicero’s basement venue circa 1990
and another of the band, along with Brian Henneman (from The Bottle Rockets) sitting in the well-worn upstairs apartment
the band rented in Belleville, IL.
Another trio of photos came from the last show UT played which
was at Mississippi Nights on May 1, 1994. The photographer
snapped 3 photos before being ordered by security to cut it out
or the film would be confiscated. No more photos were taken,
but these 3 are really incredible and have never been seen by the
public at large. These images along with three other paintings I
had already started of the cover art of the first three UT albums
will make up all the pieces for the show.
In addition to these paintings, Steve Pick will write an essay
(for lack of a better word) to go along with the exhibit. The essay
won’t exactly be about Uncle Tupelo, though that will be main
premise, but more about what it was like to be around during that
time. To watch a band form, develop, play live shows, gain a following,
tour, recording, etc. Try and help put things in context for those, like
myself, who were not around to experience it. In short, he’ll offer much
needed perspective on what a rare and exciting thing this was.
As you can see there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on
these pieces. I only have 3 months left to complete them.