“King Robert”, Scratchboard, 24″ x 36″, 2015
Cool, Calm, and Collected: Portraits in Scratchboard by Beverly Glascock
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
As a youth I encountered a book by Guy Peellaert and Nik Cohn called Rock Dreams. It was essentially a history of Rock and Roll embodied in a series of portraits of musicians and songwriters. Peellaert, a Belgian artist who had been known up until then for set designs and French language comic strips, celebrated the move from popular entertainers such as Frank Sinatra to counter-culture figures such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. Many of the images conceptualize the subjects in surrealistic terms.
In her current one-person show, Beverly Glascock, who I have known only as a sculptor, returns to 2D for a series of scratchboard portraits that reimagine rock legends in much the same way. But where Peellaert is a freewheeling surrealist working in vivid, expressionistic color, Glascock is working in stark, high-contrast black and white, and includes statements that delineate the cultural associations underlying the fanciful nature of her perspectives (Her exhibit title is drawn from a John Hiatt song, “Icy Blue Heart”).
All of it is fascinating, and some of it proved illuminating even to a self-professed culture junkie. One of the most interesting is a series of portraits of the Supremes that supplant Mick Jagger’s singular visage for each one. The images reference a salary dispute between Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong that resulted in the latter two leaving a planned 2000 reunion tour. Seeing Jagger in drag harkens back to the androgyny of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when Jagger famously wore dresses as a part of his onstage wardrobe. Another astonishing transformation replaces Audrey Hepburn in a famous publicity shot for the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s with Paul McCartney. Sir Paul has no androgyny in his history, but Hepburn’s shag haircut in the original photo is cited as an influence on The Beatle’s famous mop tops.
Other characterizations include Lenny Kravitz as Jack Sparrow, Jerry Garcia as Che Guevara, and Keith Richards as the Pope. One of my favorites depicts former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as a Royal Monarch. The aged, weathered, face is positioned with the chin up, and the leonine mane and close-cropped goatee alone might suggest regal bearing, but Glascock adds a crown and vestments as icing on the cake. “King Robert” is a good example of how the artist has either chosen her source images with great care, or has been supple enough with her imagination to follow their inherent connotations. In any case, her approach yields engaging results.
The visceral visual impact of the work owes much to the rarely seen scratchboard technique. Using engraving tools on a black ink surface covering a white clay base, the reductive process must have been particularly appealing to a sculptor, with an impressive range of marks developing form through texture. Besides actual edged tools, Glascock employs fabric and steel wool to penetrate the rich black surface, leaving subtlety and nuance in the renderings that are satisfying on a graphic level, but also reveal the sensibility of a sculptor.
I found myself staring into the depth of the surface, luxuriating, if you will, in the mark making. As digital images, these works might be taken for photographs, perhaps drawings, but to view them in person is to be enthralled by the technique, as well as the artist’s singular development of the medium. The fact that Glascock has chosen such appealing popular culture transposition as her subject is the bait, that the technique is so compelling is the Big Fish.
Cool, Calm & Collected: Portraits in Scratchboard by Beverly Glascock
April 2 – May 9. 2015
909 East Market Street
Louisville, Kentucky, 40202
12:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Thursdays thru Saturday
or by appointment.
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]