What's going through Milisa Valliere's head while she's painting? Could be Beethoven, or Ray LaMontagne, or Led Zeppelin.

What’s going through Milisa Valliere’s head while she’s painting? Could be Beethoven, or Ray LaMontagne, or Led Zeppelin.

The local artist almost always listens to music while she works, and she says the songs influence the look and feel of her finished canvasses.

“The music is such an excellent way to tap into emotions,” she explained. “It helps bring out emotion, even in abstract work.”

In her exhibition opening this week at Hammond Harkins Gallery, Valliere will engage viewers in her creative process by letting them listen to the music that helped inspire her vibrant abstract paintings. A QR code by each framed work will guide smartphone users to the corresponding music.

It’ll be a potentially cacophonous opening reception, but Valliere believes “openings should be loud and crazy.”

She decided to include the extra sensory experience to help viewers understand the art.

“Whenever I go to an art gallery, the first thing I do is to look at the title for a hint about what it’s about,” she said. “You want more information. That’s true about everything in life.”

Scanning the exhibition’s QR codes will yield music by Lucinda Williams, Radiohead, cellist Jacqueline du Pres and the members of The 27 Club — Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, etc. — whom Valliere calls “the dead sunflowers.”

Valliere’s husband, president and chief creative officer of the Columbus Symphony, chooses the music for her.

“He does this thing called This Great Day,” Valliere said. “He’ll go in and pick something in history that happened or some new release. I plug it into the iPod not knowing what it is.”

She connects various colors to different emotions in the songs. When she listens to upbeat music, she selects brighter colors. More somber music in minor keys elicits darker, cooler hues.

The rhythm helps her develop a certain flow, and her brushstrokes portray a sense of energy and movement. Without that pacing, she feels off-kilter.

“The second the music ends and I’m still painting, it’s just a train wreck,” she said with a laugh.