John Mellencamp: The Painter

“People up on the east side, people on the gravel road, people of many colors, whose stories will never be told. Too late came too early for me to face myself, I am a troubled man.” The rock-and-roll legend trades in his guitar for a paintbrush to reflect an image of American life.

John Mellencamp lays beautiful poetry into song, but not many know his skills with a brush can rival any master. A boy from the Midwest, rose to stardom in the 1970s and became an international rock sensation. Yet, behind the scenes, Mellencamp found solace in painting. Now, with its debut in the American South, The Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia will feature an exhibit dedicated solely to Mellencamp’s artistic talents. The show, entitled American Dream: Paintings by John Mellencamp, consists of 50 oil and mixed media paintings, some of which have never been seen before by the public.

Known primarily for his music, Mellencamp enjoyed a successful career in the music industry. Yet in the shadows, he always had an interest in art, which allowed him “a solitary antidote to life on the road.” He fell in love with music at an early age growing up in Indiana, but was influenced by his mother in a more artistic sense. Mellencamp’s mother was an artist in her own right. He comments, “I grew up smelling linseed oil, turpentine, and oil paint. That was my biggest influence by (my mother) and also her encouragement to paint.”

Mellencamp’s paintings have been well received and interpreted in different ways and on different levels. Contributing Editor at ARTnews and The New York Times, Hilarie M. Sheets, observed, “Mellencamp doesn’t
wince at grappling with issues of his heart, whether autobiographical or political. He often paints in a free, more graffiti-like style, layering text and pictographic images
on canvases evocative of the frenetic street-art energy of work by Jean-Michel Basquiat.”

For more on Mellencamp’s work and the exhibit check out the February/March issue of South.