By Gabe Meline
Death can really make you look like a star.–Andy Warhol
The house that Jared Powell inhabits, from the entryway to the back porch, is a living monument to the obsessed artist: canvases laid vertically against furniture, a coffee table blanketed in supplies, the walls in each room covered with finished and half-finished works. His kitchen on a recent evening is perhaps the most cluttered, as Powell, pushing aside pens, paints, markers and notebooks, pulls together material for “Cottonball Resurrection,” a silk-screen art show celebrating iconically troubled musicians that opens this weekend at Santa Rosa’s A Street Gallery.
In mostly collaborative pieces, Powell and artists Joe Leonard, Jayson Taylor, James Williams and Sal Lopez apply a crisp acrylic makeover to the bedraggled faces of great talents who deserved better in life. The top two images on the kitchen table tell the story. One is Lightnin’ Hopkins, his gold teeth shining beneath sunglasses and a fedora, concealing the ex-con who notoriously signed the world’s worst record contracts. Next to him is Ol’ Dirty Bastard, or, as the sprouting apparitions of crucifix-adorned milk bottles hint, “Big Baby Jesus,” his preferred nickname imagined in the deranged haze of cocaine that would eventually turn fatal.
Digging deeper into the pile, there’s penetrating perspectives of Marc Bolan, Sonny Boy Williamson, Wendy O’Williams and Keith Richards–“People who were fucked up,” Powell explains with a small trace of admiration, “but who still were prolific and put out quality work.” Adventurously presented on 12-inch LPs and sheet metal, the images contain so much detail and filigree that a second or third look yields miniscule, sometimes hidden clues to the stars’ woes (Richards, the only living musician in the show, floats among syringes).
Though the process does not imitate its subject to an illicit degree, it’s a well-known fact that Powell, Taylor, Leonard, Lopez and Williams pride themselves on burning both ends of the clock under a self-ordained “can’t stop, won’t stop” philosophy of insomniac obsession, explaining the collective drive behind the show. “It’s as much about educating people as it is about art,” Powell says. “Some girl came by and saw Leadbelly and was like, ‘Who’s that?'” With this, Powell pauses, leans forward to mimic his irritation, and reenacts his direct response: “The reason you have music.”
‘Cottonball Resurrection’ opens Saturday, March 24, at A Street Gallery. 312 S. A St., Santa Rosa. Live music will be provided by The Aces; very limited T-shirts from the show will be available. 5:30pm to 8:30pm. Free. 5707.578.9124.