aerosmith, alice cooper, art, asbury park, asbury park new jersey, Bon Jovi, david banegas, gallery, glam, glam metal, hard rock, jon bon jovi, long branch, mark weiss, music, music photography, new jersey, NYC, paintings, photography, red bank, rock photographer
Hard Rock+ Art = Banegas/Weiss
For the past week a tiny pop-up gallery on the corner of 47th St. and Lex in midtown Manhattan has hosted an in-progress exhibition called “Two Mediums | One Vision“, which is a collaborative effort of photographer Mark Weiss and artist David Banegas. Weiss and Banegas have been working together for about a year and a half, with Banegas painting mirror images of Weiss’ photographs in his own distinct style.
Weiss has been a rock photographer ever since the late 1970s, when as a 14 year old boy he bartered lawn mowing services for his first camera. Over the years he has taken iconic photos of (and become friends with) legendary hard rockers like Ozzy Osborne, Steven Tyler, Jon Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Brett Michaels, Gene Simmons and others from the glam metal scene. While the music may not be my taste, there’s no denying that these musicians strike truly arresting visuals, what with their hair, makeup, tattoos, and general outlandish and outsized personalities. Weiss captures this brilliantly with his photographs, perhaps because, as Simmons puts it, “Mark Weiss is a rock star. If he didn’t have a camera hanging around his neck… … it would be a Les Paul guitar.”
Banegas is a self-described “action painter”, creating his work with “pure feeling” once he sets his sights on the object he wishes to depict. Banegas explained to me that he has been painting since he was six years old but only in the past seven years, after much struggling, was he able to make a living off of it. His work, which covers a broad array of subjects, ranging from musicians to movie stars to comic book heroes to historical figures, is colorful and bright, just like his personality. Much of his work – including in this collaboration – consists of “live painting” during the exhibition. (One of those live paintings is this one, from a Weiss photo of Debbie Harry (Blondie).) He was clearly ecstatic about this collaboration with Weiss, not so much because of the work itself or the integration with music, but because some of the proceeds from the sales would be donated to charity. Banegas was sincere in expressing his amazement and good fortune that something he created would go towards helping people in need. “I sell one painting and it puts shoes on 5,000 kids in Haiti. How great is that?” No matter how much I tried to engage him in talking about the paintings themselves, the process, or the subject matter, Banegas – with a huge smile – came back to the charitable aspect. In looking at a photo of Bon Jovi, he gushed about how the musician donated $1 million towards Hurricane Sandy relief. After seeing the exhibition, I visited Banegas’ website where his dedication to giving – especially to children’s charities – is very apparent and quite impressive.
The collaboration of music and art is often beautiful, especially when the musicians and artists complement each other as they do here. I wrote about this once before, when visiting the New Museum’s exhibition on the marriage of punk music and visual art, yielding the Bowery’s so-called “punk art”. That marriage, consummated in Manhattan’s lower east side, is as natural as this one, which was (not surprisingly) born in New Jersey. Weiss – who grew up in Long Branch, NJ (no more than 3 miles north of Asbury Park) – was born to take pictures of flamboyant, colorful rock stars. Banegas – who was born in Bolivia but now has his studio in Red Bank, NJ (he recently did work for the Bamboozle festival)- is the ideal artist to convert those photos into paintings. As you can see in the photo below, and in this one of an Axl Rose painting, the personalities of these musicians are captured expertly by Weiss, and conveyed with flair by Banegas.
Most readers won’t get a chance to visit the pop-up gallery before it closes this week, and perhaps (like me) you aren’t much interested in hard rock and metal. Still, I recommend at least checking out the results of this collaboration here, some of Weiss’ photographs here and Banegas’ portfolio here. As you can no doubt tell, I am impressed.