Aug. 08, 2012 - Issue #877: Corb Your Enthusiasm
Musician and artist
Exhibit shows Woody Guthrie's artistic side
Woody at 100: The Guthrie Legacy
Presented by folkwaysAlive!
Art Gallery of Alberta
His music is familiar, but what about his artwork? Woody Guthrie paved the way for modern folk music, but in addition to being a prolific songwriter, Guthrie was also a talented visual artist.
To accompany the Woody at 100: The Guthrie Legacy conference on Thursday, August 9 and Friday, August 10 will be 17 panels displayed for the public to get a further glimpse into the life of a music icon. Fifteen of the panels will feature photographs, lyrics, press clips and writing depicting Guthrie's life from birth to death to his continuing presence today, while the other two will display replicas of his artwork.
Michael Kleff, a radio producer for German public radio, a board member of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and husband to Guthrie's daughter Nora, first unveiled the exhibit at a music festival in Germany this February. Since then, it's been shown at the Clearwater Revival Festival in Hudson, New York and is making its way to Canada. The exhibit was curated with the help of Tiffany Colannino, an archivist with the Woody Guthrie Archives and Jorge Arévalo Mateus, a curator with the Woody Guthrie Archives.
"Everybody thinks Woody Guthrie is the Dust Bowl Balladeer and the union organizer, but there are still only a few who know that he also was an artist," Kleff says, adding there is no evidence that Guthrie ever studied fine art, but has left behind a collection of sketches, illustrations, water colour paintings, political cartoons and sketchbooks.
"I think it shows the full character of Woody Guthrie," says folkwaysAlive! director Jonathan Kertzer. "Beyond being a well-known songwriter and writer, he also was an artist. It also helps tell the story of his life, which is fascinating."
Aside from using art as a facet for creativity, Guthrie often used his artwork to make extra money on the road.
"He sometimes did a painting and then he traded it in, in one case for a previous Martin guitar, so he had very loose connections to his artwork," Kleff adds. "It's also interesting, when he first went on the road in his early years, he always had brushes on him because while on the road, he made bits of money painting signs, or store advertisements or drawing portraits of townspeople."
Guthrie also illustrated his own records, and replicas of these will be on display during the exhibit. In addition to album covers, he would also illustrate song lyrics, which Kleff says are fascinating documents of colour and creativity, and give a good indication of his drawing and painting talents.
"This exhibit gives those fans of Woody Guthrie's life and legacy some new information they didn't know about, and those who basically don't know anything about Woody Guthrie," Kleff says. "It will tell them an amazing life story."
The ease of accessibility of the exhibit is also in line with Woody Guthrie's story, adds Kleff: it travels light and can be rolled up at the end of the day to be transported to the next venue.
"It really can go to the people and Woody Guthrie always thought that his songs were people's songs," Kleff explains. "I think it's a good way to present him and also show how timely Woody Guthrie is today, that what he writes about and what he does has meaning today." vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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