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Chuck D Brings The Noise With Fine Art Exhibition

Public Enemy,Takes a Nation, Artwork by Chuck D
Chuck D – Public Enemy, Takes a Nation

This is a guest post by Ken Davis at Funkatropolis.

Hip-hop legend Chuck D is renowned for his formidable skills on the mic and politically charged tracks; but what many people aren’t aware of is that he’s also a talented visual artist. And those talents will be on full display at his first fine art exhibition, which will be held throughout March at Gallery 30 South in Pasadena, California.

The exhibition, titled Chuck D: Behind The Seen, will feature artwork that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer created over the years; many of the pieces were created while he was on tour.

Before Chuck D (born Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) was the outspoken frontman of groundbreaking rap group Public Enemy, he was a graphic design major at Long Island’s Adelphi University. He already had a love for hip-hop and would use his graphic arts talents to design promotional flyers for upcoming hip-hop events. He was also the first black student to write and draw a comic strip for the university’s student newspaper, The Delphian.

Additionally, Chuck D co-hosted a hip-hop mix college radio show with fellow DJ Hank Shocklee, who would later become a member of Public Enemy’s famous production team, the Bomb Squad. While hosting the show, he started going by the DJ handle “Chuckie D.” He would often rap over demo tapes that Shocklee had assembled, including a track called “Public Enemy No. 1.”

In addition to Shocklee, Chuck D met musician/rapper William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.—better known by his stage name Flavor Flav—at Adelphi, as well as college radio station program director Bill Stephney (future Bomb Squad member and Def Jam executive). Chuck D and Drayton hit it off and began hanging out and rapping together.

Chuck D formed Public Enemy in 1982 while still a student at Adelphi,and he earned his B.F.A. in graphic design from the university in 1984. (He later received an honorary doctorate from Adelphi in 2013.) Following graduation, he maintained his love for hip-hop and continued to develop Public Enemy. In 1986, the group signed with rising record label Def Jam Recordings. Public Enemy released their debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, on the label in 1987.  The album reverberated throughout the hip-hop community with its strong political themes, powerful raps and the Bomb Squad’s hard-hitting, densely layered production. The album signaled a new direction for hip-hop in which rap artists began addressing social and political issues on their tracks.

The lineup for Public Enemy when they dropped Yo! Bum Rush the Show was Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X (born Norman Rogers), Professor Griff (born Richard Griffin); and the Bomb Squad—Hank Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, Carl Ryder (Chuck D’s production pseudonym) and Bill Stephney.

Chuck D would often use his graphic arts talents to design Public Enemy-related artwork, including the iconic b-boy caught in a rifle’s crosshairs logo.

The group followed up Yo! Bum Rush the Show with their landmark album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988),which is considered one of the most influential albums of all time. The platinum-selling collection was a revelation and forever changed the game in hip-hop.

Public Enemy’s hot streak continued in the early ‘90s with the release of two more rap classics: Fear of a Black Planet (1990) and Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black (1991). The influential rap outfit released more great albums in the ensuing years and have thrilled audiences around the world with their dynamic live shows.

The group dropped their most recent album, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, in late June of last year. And in addition to performing with Public Enemy, Chuck D tours with rap-rock supergroup Prophets of Rage.

For more information about Chuck D’s upcoming fine art exhibition, visit Gallery 30 South’s website.

Mischief Makers: Paintings by Joan Baez

Joan Baez Self Portrait Painting
Self Portrait: Painting by Joan Baez

Singer, songwriter, musician, and activist Joan Baez is currently presenting the first solo exhibition of her paintings at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, California. Baez is probably best known for her American folk music, which often includes songs of protest or social justice. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Joan Baez began her social activism in the early 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement when she worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The exhibition, titled “Mischief Makers”, features portraits of “people who have brought about social change through nonviolent action – the risk-taking visionaries”, according to the gallery description. Images of Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bob Dylan, Malala Yousafzai, and others are included. She also includes a portrait of herself as a young woman.

John Lewis: Painting by Joan Baez
John Lewis: Painting by Joan Baez

A portion of the sales of the paintings will go to Carecen SF, an organization dedicated to assisting Latino and other immigrants, as well as under-resourced families in the San Francisco Bay Area. The exhibition opened September 1, 2017 and continues through October 1, 2017. Contact the gallery for more information.

Visit the Pop Life Art homepage for links to many more celebrity painters.

Artwork by Val Kilmer on Exhibit in Los Angeles

Jim Morrison painting by Val Kilmer
Jim Morrison Painting by Val Kilmer

Actor Val Kilmer is probably best known for the characters and real life icons that he plays on screen and stage, such as Batman, Jim Morrison, Mark Twain and others. However, Val Kilmer is also an artist, and many of the images he paints reflect the characters he plays. Kilmer has an exhibit of his paintings and sculptures opening next weekend at Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles. The exhibit titled, ICON GO ON, I’LL GO ON, is described by the gallery as follows:

In Val Kilmer’s recent paintings his representational choices are not of himself as a subject, but of himself as a character, rendered as an instantly recognizable Icon through the use of stencils. These are not self-portraits (just as the roles he’s drawing from are not self-portraits). They are self-referential only as a stepping-off point to explore these Archetypes. His choice of characters (certainly as a painter and, perhaps as an actor) are Mythic and particularly American ones – The Superhero (Batman), The Cowboy (Doc Holliday), The Rockstar (Jim Morrison), The Writer (Mark Twain –“The First American”), and the Soldier (Iceman from “Top Gun”). The film references in these choices are actually their least important element.

The exhibit opens to the public Friday, July 21, 2016 and it will be open for one weekend only. Contact the gallery for more information. Val Kilmer also currently has a solo exhibition at the Woodward Gallery in New York City open through July 22, 2017.

Kilmer told the Guardian that he was exposed to art through his little brother who he says “was a legitimate genius and he was born with a paintbrush in his hand.” He also says that his original paintings are owned by Ryan Gosling, Robert Downey Jr, Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Stone, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Michael Mann, and Bob Dylan.

In addition to his character portraits, Kilmer also paints abstracts. He posts a daily abstract at his Instagram page.

#DailyAbstract #ValKilmerArt

A post shared by Val Kilmer (@valkilmerofficial) on

Take a look at Val Kilmer’s website to see more of his paintings. He also sells his artwork at his website.

Visit the Pop Life Art home page for links to the artwork of more than 100 actors, singers, and musicians.

Tony Bennett: Celebrating 90 Years Of Artistry

Painting by Tony Bennett
Painting by Tony Bennett

As part of his yearlong 90th birthday celebration, artwork by legendary singer Tony Bennett will be exhibited this May at The Paley Center for Media in New York City. The exhibit, Tony Bennett: Celebrating 90 Years of Artistry, will feature nearly 40 of Bennett’s original paintings, and will include screenings of his classic TV performances. The exhibit will open at the Paley Center’s New York location on May 4, 2017 and run through June 18, 2017.

Tony Bennett says that he began creating artwork as a child with chalk drawings on the sidewalk of his childhood home in Astoria, Queens. He has since grown into a successful artist. Several of Bennett’s paintings have been commissioned by such organizations as the United Nations and the Kentucky Derby, as well as private collectors including President Bill Clinton, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey, Robert DeNiro, Katie Couric, and the late Frank Sinatra. According to the Paley Center, the selected paintings in Tony Bennett: Celebrating 90 Years of Artistry will cover such subjects as world travels, New York, fellow musicians, and self-portraits. Bennett signs his artwork “Benedetto,” which is his birth name.

In 2007 Tony Bennett published Tony Bennett in the Studio: A Life of Art & Music, which includes images of his artwork.

Tony Bennett often posts images and videos of himself painting at Instagram.

Working on a watercolor in the Bahamas

A post shared by Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett) on

Visit Tony Bennett’s Art Website.

Related Blog Post: Tony Bennett Donates Painting for Louis Armstrong Museum Auction (2/11/2012)

Visit the Pop Life Art home page for links to the artwork of more than 100 actors, singers,and musicians.

SwitHeart: The Watercolour Artistry and Animal Activism of Loretta Swit

Loretta Swit Book Cover Artwork
Loretta Swit Book Cover Artwork

Stage and screen actress Loretta Swit is probably best known for her award winning role as Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the 1970s television series M*A*S*H. Loretta Swit is also a dedicated activist in support of animal welfare, and a painter. She uses her artwork to raise money for animal charities.

This month, along with graphic designer/author Mies Hora, Swit published a book of of her watercolor paintings called SwitHeart: The Watercolour Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit. Accorder to the publisher, the hardcover book includes 65 full-color paintings and drawings, as well as anecdotes about each. Proceeds from the book will be donated to organizations that are dedicated to ending animal suffering and cruelty.  Most of the images in the book are of Swit’s paintings of animals, although the book also includes an image of Swit’s painting of herself with her M*A*S*H castmates. There are also 22 photographs of Swit with animals.

When asked in a recent interview where her affinity for watercolor came from, Swit answered:

Stupidity! (Laughs) It was a lack of information! I’ve been painting since I had a thought in my head. I was six years old, and I started with watercolor. When I grew into adulthood, all my artist friends would say, “That’s so difficult. Why do you do watercolor?” I answered, “I only knew what I knew!” It was the “bumblebee theory”: I didn’t know that watercolor was the most difficult of the mediums to work in. I just loved it, and I didn’t know any better! So, my ignorance led me to doing watercolors. And now, I view oil or acrylic painting with awe. I can’t do that!

In addition to the book, you can also purchase limited edition Giclée prints, posters, and greeting cards of Loretta Swit’s artwork from the book at

Painting by Loretta Swit
Painting by Loretta Swit

Visit the Pop Life Art homepage for links to many more celebrity painters.

Related blog post: Loretta Swit Paints The Rookie for the Search Dog Rescue Foundation (1/15/2012)