Exhibit preview: Patti Smith serves as inspiration for group show

From the July 10, 2014 edition

The July exhibition at Wild Goose Creative fuses music and art by having more than 30 artists create pieces using iconic musician (and poet and visual artist) Patti Smith as inspiration. Smith isn’t the only art and music connection, though. There are works from artists and musicians, or those who produce both, and the opening reception this Saturday will feature a powerhouse lineup of Lydia Loveless, Todd May, Micah Schnabel, Shane Sweeney and Sean Gardner.

“For me it was [Smith], no question. It excited me to have people I respect and admire draw from her. My boyfriend is a musician and when we have late night talks about art, it [ranges from] guitar strings to paint brushes,” said the exhibit’s curator Vanessa Jean Speckman during an afternoon interview at Wild Goose. “I feel like music has this real immediacy in culture while visual art is maybe not as accessible to some people. I thought her prolific career and different mediums, and asking people who work in a lot of different mediums, would fuse it all together.”

The exhibit, “This is Your Golden Age/Life is an Adventure of Our Own Design: A Collection of Artwork Inspired by Patti Smith,” takes its name from a Smith quote Speckman found while watching old You Tube interviews with the musician/artist. The Wild Goose show features a wide-array of mediums and concepts, no doubt due to Smith’s range of practices, but also her experimental and thoughtful approach to any creative endeavor over the last 40 years.

“There are no boundaries with her, so that excited me,” Speckman said. “I really like how when she’s speaking about her work, she uses the word vocation. The respect she gives it and this unreligious holiness [and importance] — she’s always thinking outside of herself.”

The artists exhibiting pieces range from as far away as Stockholm, Sweden, with Nattskiftet’s “Icon: Patti Smith” poster, to local with Bob Ray Starker’s “Lenny,” which is an homage to his favorite Smith song, “Rock ’n’ Roll Nigger,” where she screams “Lenny!” (introducing guitarist Lenny Kaye) after the first chorus. The painting is a simple “Lenny!” speech bubble at first glance, but closer inspection reveals the lyrics of Starker’s favorite song layered on top in varnish.

“[Bob] said he felt like he was writing his schizophrenic manifesto. That I just love; you see it and go, ‘That’s so cool!’ Then you get up close to it and go, ‘Oh my god.’ I love the depth to everything,” Speckman said.

The exhibit was brought together through Speckman’s interactions with artists across the country over the last handful of years. Originally from California, Speckman moved to Columbus two years ago and became a full-time artist after working as a designer and running an arts, music and culture zine.

She reached out to artists she knew and respected for “This is Your Golden Age,” as well as others she hoped would be interested. The group show contains illustrations, paintings, clothing, photography, jewelry, ceramics, leatherwork and more. One of Speckman’s proudest moments in curating this exhibition — her first with artists other than herself — was securing a piece from Oakland-based artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon.

“She’s someone whose career I’d like to have. She’s just prolific in her work, and someone I didn’t know personally and just reached out to,” Speakman said of Congdon’s involvement. “I reached out, they answered me back and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’ Living in a place where I don’t necessarily know that many people, I’ve found I’ve been more tenacious or willing to ask.”

Other highlights include Sherise McKinney’s light-switch illustrations (a collection titled "I purposely am not interested in people trying to pigeonhole me. — Patti Smith") that concludes the display, and Mike Schwindenhammer’s “Radio Free America” pair of acrylic paintings.

Further bridging the music and art element of the exhibit are pieces from local musicians/artists like Starker, Sweeney of Two Cow Garage, Ben Lamb and works by sisters Aimee and Daisy May Anderson, 18 and 13 respectively, who also perform in a family bluegrass band in California.

Speckman’s piece is fashion-based, one of the handful of areas she works in, and features the famous Smith quote, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,” that opens her debut album Horses. Speckman painted the quote on the back of a lace kimono made from an old curtain. It’s designed to be both functional and true to Smith’s title and vibe as the Godmother of Punk, but also has one more aspiration for Speckman.

“My dream is if Patti Smith ever catches wind of this show, I would love for her to perform one night in [the kimono]. I’ll just send it to her. She can have it,” Speckman said.

Photos by Meghan Ralston