(Photo: Associated Press)
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By: Alex Biese , @ABieseAPP
Mickey Hart is the first to admit that New Jersey "holds a real sweet spot" in his heart.
The Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee from Brooklyn, best known for his work as one of the drummers of the Grateful Dead, holds particularly fond memories of the band's September 1977 performance at Raceway Park in Englishtown (a show officially released as a live album in 2002).
“I had gotten into an automobile accident and this was the first time the Grateful Dead had played after I’d recovered," Hart said. "This was our first show (back), so it was really an important show for me. This was kind of my comeback from my injury; I didn't know it was going to be (in front of) like 175,000 people! It was a great concert. I had a wonderful time. I made it through. It felt good.”
After spending much of 2016 on the road with fellow Grateful Dead veterans Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann as part of the sensational supergroup Dead and Company, including a June performance at Camden's BB&T Pavilion, a different sort of art is bringing Hart back to the Garden State this weekend.
"Stealie Series 1," a variation on classic Grateful Dead iconography by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. (Photo: Courtesy of Mickey Hart)
On Saturday, Oct. 22, Hart will appear at Wentworth Gallery at the Mall at Short Hills for the premiere presentation of "Vibrational Expressionism: The Art of Mickey Hart." The first exhibition of Hart's visual art, the collection launched its North American tour in Short Hills last month.
Hart, 73, utilizes a number of methods throughout the collection, including gouache and acrylic paints, digitally-processed photographs, 3D visualizations of his own brain and wooden sculptures.
What inspired Hart to put down his drum sticks and pick up paint brushes?
“I have no idea," he said. "All of a sudden I wound up in my studio with some paint, and it seemed like it was time to visualize the music I was making. It just made a lot of sense. I didn’t have anything to paint before."
"Fierce Chinese Dragon," one of the pieces from the Mickey Hart Collection. (Photo: Courtesy of Mickey Hart)
Hart's visual output is of a piece with his recent solo offerings such as 2012's "Mysterium Tremendum," which found him working in conjunction with scientists from Penn State, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and Meyer Sound — — who converted light waves from across the cosmos into sound waves.
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"I was investigating a lot of the cosmic, epic events from the Big Bang and I was wondering, ‘What do they sound like? What does Saturn sound like?’ The only way you can hear it is if you take the signals from radio telescopes from around the world and turn that radiation into sound and then that sound into music, and so that’s the short and the long of it.
"I was trying to find the beginning of time, of rhythm, of time and space, and what it sounded like. So that’s what originally got me hooked into these paintings. It’s a kind of reflection of all of that study of the cosmos and it’s made up, much of it, of those sounds from the cosmos, visually interpreted. I also vibrate these things into existence. They’re not just painted, they’re vibrated. I drum on the bottoms of them and vibrate them in different kinds of ways to bring out the layers that I paint with. They call it vibrational expressionism. It’s certainly vibrational for sure, and that’s what makes this a little bit different."
"The Owl," a painting on a drum head by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. (Photo: Courtesy of Mickey Hart)
Whether in music or in the visual arts, Hart seems to thrive at the intersection between the ultramodern and the timeless, mixing cutting-edge science with age-old techniques.
“There was a lot of ancient wisdom that was pretty profound," Hart said, "and there were things that happened in the ancient world that are part of our world today. We’re star stuff. We were born of these vibrations. We are vibratory as humans, so you have to find out what made you you, and that’s why I study the cosmos.”
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WHAT: Special artist appearance by Mickey Hart
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22
WHERE: Wentworth Gallery at The Mall at Short Hills, 1200 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills
INFO: 973-564-9776 or www.wentworthgallery.com