Upon leaving my job at Cool and Eclectic Wednesday night, at Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach, I noticed pictures being unloaded from a van into the back door of the mall. Curious, I moved closer, catching a glimpse of a framed photo of Jimmy Hendrix holding a guitar note in ecstasy with his mouth open. It was a poignant announcement that the Rock Art Show had arrived. The show travels throughout the United States and posts its "Tour Dates" on its .
Show promoter Scott Segelbaum stopped by my store the next morning, sporting a T-shirt with a classic symbol of the rock and roll era: the yellow center of a 45 record. He explained that it labels him as old and added that most people do not even know what that symbol is. I explained to him that I do because I used to work at a record store.
Scott scanned my store's collection of retro furniture, celebrity pictures, comics, and other collectibles. He reminded me that Ron Campbell, an animator of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film, would be at his show to sign autographs all weekend long. "He'll sign those for you," said Scott, pointing to my Yellow Submarine figures. And maybe some of my animation-based comics too, I thought, as I discovered Campbell had worked on a long list of animated classics from the 1960's. Rock poster artist Scotty C. was also going to be there.
Ron Campbell stopped by my store on the show’s opening day, Friday. He was dressed in neutral colors, a wide departure from the flashy colors he used in his animations. He said he would be happy to sign some things for me. An hour later, I walked to where the show was going on, several stores from mine. There were yellow submarine images everywhere, and Ron was adding color to a large Beatles cartoon on paper, when he interrupted himself to sign my Jetsons and Beetle Bailey comics. He had done animation work on the TV series of both of those comics, as well as many more.
The show lasts through Sunday, giving me plenty of time to enjoy the vintage nature of early celebrity photographs. In one, singer Cher clutches Gene Simmons from Kiss, while he towers over her in full costume and dripping blood. In another, Elvis Costello steps out of a massive tour bus. In yet another, a young Bruce Springsteen takes a break from strumming his acoustic guitar to look up at a camera.
In addition to photographs, art from celebrities like David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Jerry Garcia is for sale. The graphic nature and Pop color palette of many of the works reinforced the commercial art aspect of the music industry's early emphasis on packaging music in attention-getting covers. Now that music videos perform those marketing duties, there appears to be a greater appreciation for that earlier imagery.
Lennon's line drawings combine minimalism and conceptual art. Paul McCartney's "Big Mountain Face" offers an interesting take on the image of George Washington's head from Mount Rushmore. However, I could not get into the seemingly sophomoric portraits by Ringo Starr. The vivid colors looked better to me on creatures like the Nowhere Man or the Snapping Turk creatures from the Yellow Submarine movie.
Looking at the Rock Art Show website, one can find a variety of works, including beach scenes by Beach Boy Brian Wilson and landscapes by Tony Bennett. Some pictures will amuse, while others may prompt one to state that their child can do better – you know, the same lines you hear in fine art museums. Some may wonder if some of these celebrities could sell their work without their fame. Then again, if fans can fight over catching a sweat-soaked handkerchief tossed from a performer, art from those same performers can't be too bad.