Behind the Art: Dance Cadaverous

As often happens with the arts, what at first seems like serendipity actually does make logical sense.

Take what happened with my painting “Dance Cadaverous.” It’s literally a mashup of Picasso and Warhol.

And it started with me singing a line from one of my favorite protopunk songs that my wife overheard. The line is question is “Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole, not in New York.”

I always loved that 1976 song by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers.

One morning I was standing in the kitchen when I sang that line. Picasso was on my mind a lot because I had recently been teaching myself formal drawing by copying several images from a big book of his art.

‘’So, is that your next painting?” Tracy asked.

“Maybe,” I said. “Let’s see how it goes.”

As we now know it went pretty well, and we have gotten a lot of very positive response to that painting on Instagram even though we can’t formally promote because it has a “bad word” on it.

Here’s the thing. One of the images that I copied from the Picasso book is his famous self-portrait from 1917. He was 35, still had a full head of hair and painted the piece mostly in soft earth tones. 

In a flash of inspiration, I decided to take that self-portrait and give it a very bold spin that tells my color story but also gives that face a Warhol look.

I then decided to carry that even further. I took another famous painting of his from 1930 and added a Warhol touch to that one as well. That second image is the Acrobat, one of Picassos simplest pieces ever.

Yes, there is a lot of implied motion with that figure, who looks like he just completed a handstand or is doing a very wild dance move. But the character is painted in soft whites against a fairly simple lilac background.

To give the piece more of a Warhol feel, I took that image and painted it with seven different background colors. That provides my painting a sense of motion with a dynamic color scheme that makes Picasso’s face pop even more against all that action.

And then I brought it all around full circle by writing, “Pablo Picasso never got called…” across the top. On the bottom I painted the end of that line, “…an asshole, not in New York.”

The title comes from one of my all-time favorite jazz albums. “Dance Cadaverous” appeared on Wayne Shorter’s 1966 release “Speak No Evil,” a tour de force in which the legendary saxophonist was backed by several jazz giants.

Though I’m now mostly into contemporary hard rock, I still listen to that album several times a year. I’ve listened to it most of my adult life. And while writing this newsletter about it, I had it playing on my MacBook Pro.

I do hope you’ll take a moment to look at the painting and watch the accompanying video that lays this all out in detail right in front of you. It’s a great way to learn more about this bold and provocative painting.