The Black Angel’s Death Song
Acrylic, spray paint, marker on canvas
54 x 108 Inches (Un-stretched)
The Velvet Underground & Nico (Album & Cover), Loaded (Album & Cover), The Woodrose Ballroom Velvet Underground promotional flyer, 3 Velvet Underground band photos (one including Andy Warhol), Gibson J-200 photograph, Lou Reed & Nico photograph (my personal favorite), Heroin lyric sheet, Who Loves The Sun? Lyric sheet, Lou Reed I’ll Be Your Mirror lyric book, All Yesterdays’ Parties The Velvet Underground In Print 1966-1971 (edited by Clinton Haylin), various Pinterest glances at Lou Reed & Nico, Squeeze by The Velvet Underground (Which includes no original band members), Are You Happy Being A Schmuck? Lou Reed, Sydney 1975 (Interview), The Velvet Underground (45th Anniversary / Deluxe Edition) - primarily After Hours, Pale Blue Eyes, The Murder Mystery, I’m Set Free, Some Kinda Love, Candy Says, The Velvet Underground Handbook by M.C. Kostek, Inside The Velvet Underground by Rob Jovanovic, and lastly, The Apple Documentary The Velvet Underground.
First off, I want to talk about something other than the painting, just myself. I started painting seriously back in 2018 due to my lack of expression at the time. I felt that I was letting time slip by and was not doing enough creatively or taking the opportunities that reality, the world or the universe threw into my head. With music, I always felt that I was getting my emotions out there, whether good or bad, and was communicating with anyone who could someone listen. Painting holds an extremely important place in my heart, one of the oldest expressions known to man. Some of the greatest works that have ever been realized into existence were paintings, need I say somehow survived and are still around. American Gothic, The Last Supper, The Starry Night, Sistine Chapel, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, the list goes on and on and on and on. With this being said, now you kind of get me.
2022 stands, to me, as an extremely transitional year in my personal life and artistic life. This painting was started before the year started, and has seen many different faces, as do all of my paintings. Sometimes, I peel back layers, looking for something I lost in there. In other times, I’ll add and add and add on top of it, trying to bring something new to the table. As I do this with my work, I realized that I also do this to myself, and we as humans do this all of the time. We sometimes dive into the past searching for a piece of ourselves, something we lost, whether it be a personality trait, physical characteristic, whatever. For me, I usually find myself searching back for those ideas I lost, those traits about myself that somehow got mucked up by something else in my life, whether I accepted that piece into my life or not. It is a constant in life to keep changing. The problem is sometimes we don’t realize it at all, and we miss out; Or, we’re just a tad bit too aware.
I’ll shorten it up for you now, I recognized a lot going into the new year, and consciously made the decision to stimulate changes, behavioral and cognitively. Rebirth is in the air for me, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I plan to go into greater depths and efforts to explain the time it took me to finish a work, and a little bit more about what brought me to make it a certain way. The source materials are places I drew inspiration for the work, all senses included. I believe this to be immensely important; to remind myself and the viewer where this all came from, and give us both a guide to view. Help us draw new realizations.
Statement for The Black Angel’s Death Song,
The Velvet Underground, one of the most romanticized and iconic rock bands of all time. That might not be true to everyone, but to me it is. The style of their playing, the newfound sound of the band, and importance of the lyrics shows me all I need to be stuck in their trance. Lou Reed used to put himself in many situations to give himself inspiration, rumored to be nefarious ones. I find this to be a truth I share with him. As anyone who’s followed this band, you would know of their inclination to drugs without even listening to the music itself. ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ might be one of the most blatantly honest takes on drugs next too ‘Heroine’. Lou Reed, a master poet with 6 strings constantly venting onto the vinyl. I’ve felt that it is important to not leave out the details, especially the drug, sex, and revolt related ones on the painting.
When it comes to the lyricism of the band, Lou Reed’s words had deep roots in his upbringing, his sexuality, and drug habits. The devotion to this art was so profound he was making lifestyle choices dependent upon the discovery of new lyrics. As stated by David Bowie, “There were elements of what Lou was doing that were just unavoidably right, the nature of his lyric writing. Dylan (referring to Bob Dylan) had certainly brought a new kind of intelligence to pop song writing, but then Lou had taken it to the avant-garde”. *source The Velvet Underground Documentary. I find this to be one of the most genuine parts of the whole experience consuming the music; I’ve heard I’ll Be Your Mirror over 1,000 times in my life and each time, I think about those words, “I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don’t know”. 13 words that are life changing to some. It is definitely a bit dramatic to say that they’ve changed my life, but in fact, identity crisis is real. I’ve had my moments and so have you; Nico singing softly to me that she see’s me can definitely be a bit comforting in those moments. Not claiming that’s the songs inherent interpretation, just an interpretation I’ve made. I think it can also relate to the beauty of opening up to others, and just how much that might change a cruel person. As with The Velvet Underground’s whole catalogue, there’s interpretations all over the internet about each and every song, these are just mine. A few favorite jams of mine just for fun; After Hours, Candy Says, She’s My Best Friend. As with all writing, some messages are more direct than others. I feel that Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground have achieved a perfect balance of straightforwardness and abstraction. The themes are all there - love, romance, drugs, self doubt, sadness - but they're portrayed in such a way that each song can deliver a different emotion to a different individual. For instance, I’ll Be Your Mirror makes me extremely happy, where as to others it makes them pretty sad. I’m extremely grateful for this.
Out of all the tunes, I chose ‘Heroine’ and ‘Who Love’s The Sun?’. It’s funny because those two aren’t even my favorite songs by the band. Ironically, one of them doesn’t even have a single original member of the Lou Reed era band in it, quite the hypocrite I am. Even more ironic, the title of this painting, The Black Angel’s Death Song, is rumored to have little to no intentional meaning, yet I chose it as the title for a work?. The first ever short film I watched of LA that I actually liked had ‘Who Loves The Sun?’ as the backtrack, something that’s stuck with me.
I don’t want to neglect the influence and importance and Andy Warhol here either. Without Andy, the possibility of the band having had its ‘Big Break’ could be deemed as nearly impossible. Considering how ‘out there' the music was considered at the time, some radio stations refused to play ‘Heroine’. Many venues were upset with what the band did on stage, including the audience. Within all this chaos lies a unique authenticity most bands and even figures of my generation and their generation don’t have; They didn’t really care what anyone else thought but themselves. Without Andy, many might have not bought into their vision. The bands internal conflicts also added fuel to the fire. With Lou Reed kicking out John Cale, the bright velvet light shining begin too dim. I’ve made sure to incorporate this in the painting by leaving it unfinished, just like The Velvet Underground is to me.
I drew from many sources to make this work, including many old photographs of Lou Reed, Nico, The Velvet Underground & other loosely shot photographs of them all performing. I’ve read a few books about them, some I finished, some I skimmed. I listened too Loaded many many times, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and the 45th anniversary one all the way through. I’ve pretty much heard every song they’ve ever made. I’ve listed my sources and also show some photographs of some notes on print outs I made throughout the process.
I chose the Velvet Underground to start with very circumstantially; I had the canvas ready and the idea of starting my next painting project , Cover Band Culture, and just ran with it. I’ve been a fan and have studied them for a while for my own musical project so I kept it rolling. The new project I’m working on takes a peek into myself and society and the obsession with rock & roll icons and nostalgia. I don’t want to get too deep into it to draw attention away from this painting, but that’s the umbrella it falls under. My thought process is this; As a cover band takes lyrics and makes them there own, I take the lyrics of The Velvet Underground and make them my own (on the canvas of-course). We live in a state of cover band culture - post rock & roll, where we romanticize the past. Can’t compete with old trends? A thought that crosses my mind almost every single day. We play tunes that are already out, we buy albums that have already been released, we keep chasing that high. When you go to guitar school or a tutor, chances are they teach you how to play Ozzy or Page. Rock is not dead, it’s just already been born.