Music directly fueled the birth of abstract art since, by nature, it is abstract. Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist from the early 20th century, attended a concert by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenburg, who broke with previous musical traditions reflective of the avant-garde spirit of artists from that era. Fast forward to 2010, the Guggenheim organized an exhibition of Kandinsky’s work, and as visitors walked around, they listened to Schoenberg and Wagner as to see the correlation and impact the music had on Kandinsky. Each art form doesn’t represent the world around us but tries to capture the feelings of the human experience.
This is not the first time in the history of humanity that music has directly influenced art, but it is one of the most direct instances that begins to represent our own time. Today’s fan art by groupies certainly represents the way in which music ignites our soul. One such piece of art that captured the attention of many Rusty Nail-goers was a piece entitled “Janis” by Colorado transport Christian Lebraux. Working with watercolors, Lebraux’s art is composed of delicate layers that focus on one main image, yet are surrounded by identifying accoutrements to highlight some of his famous musicians.
“Music has always been a huge inspiration for me,” Lebraux states. “I find it stimulating for my own work and life. I want to depict such cultural icons as Janis Joplin and George Harrison because people relate to them and their music still has relevance today.”
A self-taught artist, Lebraux spent a large portion of his childhood studying art books in the art room at school. “I was just always better at expressing myself through my art,” he states. “Writing papers was not something that came naturally to me, so my teachers would often allow me to create illustrations in lieu of having to write a traditional term paper.”
During his early days as an artist, Lebraux’s medium of choice was oils, but he discovered an allergy to it. Searching for a new form of paint, he turned to watercolor.
“I had been painting in the way of the old masters,” he states, “layering glazes on top of each other and working my way from the lightest to darkest value. Watercolor provided me with that same option.”
Luckily, today there are oil paints on the market that don’t induce allergy attacks. Once again, Lebraux has begun to revisit them in his work.
Yet, his signature style comes in the way that he layers the image with other associations of the subject matter. His Janis Joplin painting contains a central focus of the blues singer surrounded by other versions of herself. Atop the image is a line from her famed rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee” (written by Kris Kristofferson): “ Feeling good was easy.”
Lebraux captures an essence of Joplin, a collage of the artist as people want to remember her. But his control over the paint is evident in how he creates a dreamlike vision of his musical icons.
Though not necessarily allowing the music of these artists to dictate the direction of his work, it is obvious that looking through his oeuvre, Lebraux hears his work come to life. In addition to Janis Joplin, he has created images of Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and George Harrison, to name but a few.
Not limited to rock ‘n’ roll icons, inspiration also arises from his new coastal surroundings. Lebraux’s move to Wilmington three years ago inspired such renderings.
“I was looking for a change,” he states. “Rents were rising in Colorado, and the city of Denver was changing. I had heard about Wilmington’s art scene, and after a visit, I decided that this was where I wanted to live.”
His portrait series, “The Eye of Her Mind,” features women composed of the contents from a women’s purse. His mixed-media approach features his distinctive watercolor and layering techniques to create complexities of range. Yet, they all have a common denominator.
“I like to tell a story with my work,” Lebraux says, “but I want the viewer to tell their own story and take away what they want from my work.”
An illustrator of his musical love, Lebraux’s first show will come as a pop-up at local blues and jazz haunt The Rusty Nail. Folks can see the newcomer’s work and meet him on January 26th from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.DETAILS:
Pop-Up Art Show
by Christian Lebraux
The Rusty Nail • 1310 S. 5th Ave.
Sunday, Jan. 26th,
2 p.m. – 6 p.m. • Free!