'I'm with the Band' at DAM highlights musicians' artwork

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
"Self Portrait" by Detroit musician Kevin Patrick in "I'm with the Band."

Can individual creativity be contained in just one discipline?

That's the implicit question underlying "I'm with the Band: Detroit's Musicians Show Their Visual Side" at Detroit Artists Market, up through Aug. 31.

Or, as show curator Jeff Cancelosi put it, "Is there a difference between the interplay of color and shadow and the bending of a note over a percussive beat?"

Perhaps not. He points to the long tradition of great musicians emerging from schools for the visual arts, like John Lennon and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, to name two. 

"And recently Bob Dylan and Tony Bennett have been painting," Cancelosi added. "So my question was, 'Is this happening in Detroit too?'"

The answer would seem to be an emphatic yes. 

The DAM show pulls together works by 29 musicians, from rockers to jazz artists, ranging from Destroy All Monsters' Mike Kelley to Rob Tyner of the MC5 and Rogue Satellites' Lisa Poszywak. 

"I was really glad to get Rob Tyner" who died in 1991, Cancelosi said. "It was wonderful to be able to find his wife, Becky. We sat down and had a long talk about his life this past Saturday."

Some of the musicians represented, like Niagara (Destroy All Monsters), will come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the Detroit art scene for the past 25 years. 

For "I'm with the Band," Niagara gives us one of her marvelous, annoyed vixens -- adjusting her lipstick while remarking, "This band sucks."

"This Band Sucks" at Detroit Artists Market by Niagara, formerly of Destroy All Monsters.

What's not to like? 

Cancelosi, who's nuts about the print, said the minute he explained the show's concept, Niagara said, "Oh yeah - we definitely need to put 'This band sucks' into that."

There are some wonderful surprises here, not least the late Mike Kelley's black-and-white print, "Political Cartoon (In the Clutches of Evil)." With its two misshapen characters -- one apparently the devil, and the other "John Q. Public" -- the piece riffs on the dated tropes of political cartooning. 

"It’s a totally wild print," Cancelosi said. "Cary Loren suggested we call the Mike Kelley Foundation. And that’s what they sent us. We didn’t have a lot of say in the whole thing." 

For something completely different, check out solo artist Kevin Patrick's "Shades of Beauty," a lush portrait of three long-haired women of color grouped in front of dense foliage. 

Striking as well are two small abstracts from Cary Loren (Destroy All Monsters) and "Who Is the Animal" from saxophonist Dave McMurray (Dave McMurray Band).

In the latter, a white guard and four African-American prisoners in neck chains are all rendered in marvelous, rough-edged slapdash. 

"Who Is the Animal" by Dave McMurray of the Dave McMurray Band at Detroit Artists Market.

"McMurray told me when he plays music he sees color, and vice versa," Cancelosi said, never mind that this particular sketch is black and white. The point still stands -- the one talent inexorably bleeds into the other. 

With John Michaels (The Britemores), you'd have to say artistic talent clearly runs in the family.

The son of well-known sculptor Glen Michaels, John gives us a polished portrait of two little black girls ankle-deep in the surf. Indeed, "Two Girls (Coney Island)" is pulled off with such finesse, it's hard to believe the musician didn't spend years at an art college. 

Impressive in a completely different way is "Erasing a Cobra with the Moon on a String" from Johnny Bee Badanjek (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels), a multicolored, patchwork-quilt portrait of fellow rocker Mary Cobra of The Detroit Cobras.

"Erasing a Cobra with the Moon on a String" by Johnny Bee Badjanek, of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

One of the artists represented, rapper Tashif "Sheefy McFly" Turner, was in the news recently when the Detroit Police arrested him on June 19 for working on one of 10 murals the City of Detroit commissioned him to spraypaint.  

After a flood of unwelcome publicity for the city -- right on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club -- Turner was released from police custody after about 24 hours. 


(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy 

'I'm with the Band: Detroit's Musicians Show Their Visual Side'

Through Aug. 31

Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward, Detroit 

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

(313) 832-8540