This Spring not only brought warmer weather but the first large project of the season. A new client, Locked and Loaded, a new shooting range and weapon store in Pana, Illinois gave me a call. They wanted a 60′ wide scene depicting a early autumn forest seen. They only requested a few deer but one needed to be a massive buck! The completed scene only took eight days to paint but that was spread out over three weeks due to rain. But now, its complete. It is viewed by every car passing on Hwy 16.
It took a call for entries, a resume and portfolio review, a sample design, a painting and finally a judged presentation. Then I got the call, I was chosen. The Carondelet Community Betterment Federation had selected my design for the seventh “Mural on Broadway.” With their sites set on ten total murals the tribute design of Jazz Trumpeter Clark Terry would forever grace the streets of South St. Louis on South broadway.
With Mr. Terry’s passing in February of this year, it seemed a natural selection to immortalize the man in the neighborhood where he was born and lived. The mural is only a short walk from where he lived before his trumpet led him around the world. A self-taught musician who was inspired by all he heard on those St. Louis streets, created his own sound that led Quincy Jones to describe him as the best trumpeter ever.
The entire mural took two weeks to complete. It is roughly 24′ tall and 28′ wide. It is painted on the side of an empty commercial building. A dedication ceremony is being planned for early 2016. Mr. Clark’s widow, family and some national jazz musicians have been invited.
(photo composite comp)
After a resume and sample submission and after a design approval presentation I was chosen as the artist for the seventh painting in the Murals on Broadway series. The Carondelet Community Betterment Federation has a goal of 9-10 public murals in the South Broadway neighborhood. This large wall mural is a montage tribute to Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry. Mr.Terry passed away this past February at the age of 94. Having been born and reared in the Carondelet neighborhood, his musical talent would eventually take him around the world. He played with Count Basie, Duke Ellington and was mentor to Miles Davis. He has sold more jazz records than any other musician!
The painting is about 24′ x 30′ in size. I estimate the completion time should take ten days. In conclusion, the Federation will plan a dedication ceremony to officially unveil the art to the community.
A few months ago I received a call from someone I’ve never met. He said he owned a tool & die company and he also had a company that produced metal bodied electric guitars. He said he was building a new assembly room and studio for this guitar business. Most of my commissions are from people I have never met. I have very few repeat customers for mural projects. Every customer seems to be as new as their projects. But quite often, this stranger turned customer ends up being a friend. This is the case at Metalin’. Ken Wolfert is one of the most independent, free-thinking creative people I have met in some time. He is also the owner of Metalin’. Our first simple intro meeting turned into two and a half hours. I saw the site and we discussed his vision for his room.
For a freelance artist working on a commission there is nothing better than when a client points me in the desired direction and then says “go.” There was very little direction or critique after that. He knows the best way to get the best result is to let the artist just do what he does. The project turned into one five by seven foot hung painting, a fifteen foot stairway graffiti mural leading to the guitar area and the final twenty-two foot wide montage mural depicting some of his favorite guitarists: Billie Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chet Adkins, Kieth Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Les Paul, BB King, Carlos Santana and finally, Eric Clapton. I worked very intensely on this project and am very proud of the results. Ken was very pleased with everything as we left the install on Friday. Great job, great customer but as usual in these cases, it ends. For most customers the need for murals isn’t an everyday thing so while I hope to hear that voice on the phone again in the future, it is not expected. This project will lead to more and I can show what was painted. Another sample in my three hundred plus list of projects. They’re not all this much fun to work on but I enjoy them while they last!
When the owners commissioned me to re-paint the American flag scene with addition, no one would have expected the amount of rain the area has received! Regardless, the entire project nears completion and is expected to be finished sometime next week. The sixty-five foot flag section has been completed and now the new Uncle Sam addition is well underway. The project will be a total of ninety-five feet wide at its completion.
After 911 in 2002, the owners of Helen Fitzgerald’s Restaurant in Sunset Hills commissioned an artist to paint a very large sixty-foot flag mural on the side of their building. It was beautiful and impactful. Over the years the elements took it’s toll on the image. I had talked to Brett Syberg four years ago suggesting he let me re-paint the art. For a variety of reasons he chose to wait. Now a couple of weeks ago, I contacted him once more to discuss the art. The situation had changed and he immediately said, “Lets do it.” So the large 911 flag mural will be completely re-painted from stars to stripes. All of the original folds and design will remain as originally painted, but the colors will all be as bright and covered as in the beginning. In addition, the remaining thirty-five feet of blank wall to the right of the flag will be designed and painted.
This mural will now be ninety-five feet wide. Many murals fade and sometimes it only adds to the patina. In the case of an american flag mural, a different responsibility is involved. These colors should never be allowed to fade or look weathered. It is an honor to be chosen to complete this wall to be seen by veterans and the public alike!
This vintage camera of mine, the Panon Widelux F7 camera, is the real star of my upcoming Bold’e Burlesqu’e photo exhibit. Also used by actor Jeff Bridges on the sets of all his movies, this 1950′s designed gear-driven camera stitches slits of images together manually to create a full 170 degree view of my subject. In addition to the primary exhibit of Burlesque prints I will also be displaying a small select group of other favorite panoramic photos. I will have the camera available for viewing at the exhibit. There are few left in working order and are difficult to find.
What began with a four foot by six foot painting on my own living room wall exploded into a full-time career. To date, the best we can count, I have created over three hundred large-scale paintings all over the midwest region. These have included residential, commercial and public installations. The largest in scope and time has been a 15,000 square foot project in Eureka, MO. It took twelve months to complete. It is housed indoors at the Victorian Gardens independent living facility. Many of my paintings are considered commercial use artwork. This includes, restaurants like J. Bucks, DelMonico’s, office buildings like Merrill Lynch in Clayton and hotels such as The Chase Park Plaza.
Then still there are the countless public murals like the many seen along Route 66. I am to date still the most viewed artist on the great Mother Road. They say every journey begins with a single step but in my case, a single painting. I have illustrated in Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Virginia and Kentucky. There are no walls large enough to stop me from painting. What began with small 18″ x 24″ illustrations used for advertising purposes for Fortune 500 companies has developed into artwork many feet long! With Spring here I am looking forward to new projects in new places.
Why Burlesque? I am often asked this. Of all the subjects, of all the vintage subjects, why Burlesque? Honestly Burlesque wasn’t the top pick when I came up with the idea of creating a photo series while using my vintage Widelux camera. I had thought of roller derby, rodeo and bowling also. When the art form of Burlesque came to mind, I really didn’t know if it still existed. Boy, was I naive! What I knew about this form of dance was minimal. I thought it was an old form of theater usually performed in old, dark, smoky halls with ladies of questionable character undressing in front of screaming drunk men. This is where I admit I was entirely wrong. This is where I explain, why Burlesque?
I met a television celebrity entirely by chance one weekend at a vintage sale. Her name was Danielle Colby of “American Pickers” fame. This History Channel reality show has brought her into living rooms all around the country for many seasons. As she teams up with Mike and Frank to search for rusty gold very week, she also is deeply involved in the world of this vintage art form named Burlesque. While the other potential photo venues faded in desire due to camera limitations or popularity, Burlesque just seemed to make sense. If my goal was to pick a subject slow enough for my old camera’s swinglens to catch up, if a vintage look was desired, if accessibility was needed, then Burlesque was the choice. So in the Spring of 2014 I contacted my casual acquaintance, Danielle Colby, via email and pitched her my idea. I explained the limitations and benefits of this fabulous camera and how it would portray what was shown onstage. I also expressed my desire to do with Burlesque what the artist, Degas, did with ballet. This was the thought that intrigued her. She has many photographers in her family so the idea came across as a natural fit. She performs with her own dance troupe titled, Burlesque Le’Moustache. Then Danielle not only invited me to photograph an event, but the annual Iowa Burlesque Festival. In October, the beautiful Davenport Adler Theater was to be my palette. It was six months away but I accepted the invitation with excitement.
It was during this waiting time where my doubts began. It seemed logical for a photo series but I wondered if I should photograph a performance I wasn’t all together comfortable with. Now keep in mind, at this point, I had never seen Burlesque and was only familiar with what I thought I knew. Dark theaters, people with questionable character, drunkenness and debauchery. Not necessarily my kind of place. Was I nuts? What would friends think? Had I slipped to the dark side? But then the question I asked myself was this. What is the true role of any photographer, especially a vintage photographer? Did every correspondent agree with every war he covered? Does every reporter agree with the subject of every story he writes? Maybe I was missing my own point. All I originally strived to create was my own type of vintage art using this fabulous tool of panorama. I wasn’t trying to judge the subject but to paint the subject on film with integrity and beauty. I was making this too tough. I decided to proceed with the schedule and shoot the festival without hesitation. I would find beauty as I saw it and I would photograph with integrity. While photographing sunsets and street scenes would be safe and more widely accepted, frankly, they have been done. I just wanted something that, even I, had not viewed before.
The day (or evening ) arrived and I entered the hall leading to the theater box office to meet Annie Wren, Danielle’s sister, who was to take me in. She handed me the all-access pass that would allow me anywhere at the Adler. Back stage, on stage, dressing rooms, green room, cat walks, everywhere. She escorted me downstairs to the inner sanctum of the theater. Down the stairs and around the hallways to the first dressing room. From the hall I could see on into the crowded, narrow room banked on each side with counter vanities and make-up lights. It was like being on the sun bright. I stood at the door while Annie leaned in and got the ladies attention. “Girls,” she said, “This is Ray Harvey. He is a photographer and he is here with a really cool old camera to shoot your performance. He will be all around here. Does anyone have an issue with him taking your photo? If you do, speak now. But if you do, then you may want to think about a different line of work cause there will always be someone taking your picture.” No one shook their head and I was greeted with a “Hi Ray” as I walked into the room. And that was it. I was in the dressing room. Much like being in a girls locker room or daughters bedroom, I suppose. Make-up, bags, purses, hair dryers and candy wrappers were thrown about. I needed to step over clothes as I entered. The best thing was that they couldn’t care less about me being there. They rarely looked my way. They were just in their moment having fun and I guess an old guy with a camera was just part of it. As difficult as it may sound to you, I wasn’t looking at the nudity, lack of clothing or their costume process. In fact, it was only later when I reviewed my own photos did I really see what was in the dressing room. I was concentrating on the location of the camera and it’s angle to the subjects. I needed to be aware of possible glare to the camera lens as it moved from left to right. Was this a low angle or high shot? Was a close-up appropriate? Lots of decisions and no do-overs. This was a chance of a lifetime!
For more commentary on the night of BOLD’E BURLESQU’E, stay tuned!