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The Paintings of John Mellencamp

Dog Boy painting by John Mellencamp
“Dog Boy” – 2007, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
Photo by Jerry Atnip

The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio will present the “The Paintings of John Mellencamp”.  According to Butler director and chief curator Dr. Louis Zona, who organized the exhibition, “The Butler is pleased and proud to showcase these remarkable paintings by an American icon. Mellencamp’s very personal works, rooted in the traditions of European expressionism, display a unique understanding of art history, theory and composition. They are crafted with both skill and spontaneity by a great talent who is truly “twice blessed” with the creative gene.” According to the museum, the show which will feature approximately forty paintings, some never before seen by the public. The exhibition opens November 3, 2013 and continues through January 12, 2014.

Singer-songwriter, musician John Mellencamp is a Grammy winner and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee. Mellencamp’s interest in painting began at the age of ten, influenced by his mother who painted with oils. He studied at New York City’s Art Students League with portrait painter David Leffel until his music career began to take off in the 1980s. However, Mellencamp has continued painting throughout his musical career.

According to Mellencamp, “Initially I was interested in portraitures only. I started looking at Rembrandt and those guys. That genre of painting. That led me to Impressionism which I didn’t really have a feeling for. From that it went to German Expressionism which has stayed and remains the basic foundation for what I do. Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, the foundation of my influence, same as folk music is the foundation of my songs.”

John 51 painting by John Mellencamp
“John 51” – oil on canvas 20 x 16 inches.
Photo by Jerry Atnip

In 1991, John Mellencamp established the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in his birthplace Seymour, Indiana. The mission of the center is: “to provide art education and enjoyment to the surrounding communities, both in a gallery and studio environment and to draw the attention of the state and surrounding states to the area of Jackson County as an art conscious region.” According to their website, “It is John’s desire that the Art Center not be a Mellencamp thing. He furnishes the house and property with the philosophy that if the region wants an art center, it will support it.” The center has one room reserved for John Mellencamp’s paintings.

In 1998 John Mellencamp published a book of his paintings titled Mellencamp: Paintings and Reflections. For more information about John Mellencamp and to see more images of his artwork visit

Visit the Pop Life Art homepage for links to many more musicians that paint.