With “The Ringo Starr Fine Art Show” paying a visit to 60 Church St. in Harvard Square for a three-day stint starting today (June 7), some might assume that the man who rocked the kit for the most influential band in the history of rock ’n’ roll has traded in his sticks for paint and brushes. Not so. The beloved Beatle actually uses a computer to make his art. (Fans of Starr’s musical work, meanwhile, can relax: his 15th solo studio album is forthcoming.)
Co-sponsored by the Harvard Square Business Association and 100.7 WZLX FM (with exhibit space made available by Harvard Real Estate Services), “The Ringo Starr Fine Art Show” will feature 17 of Starr’s colorfully buzzing portraits of his far-out, imagined “people.” All of the pieces, hand signed and numbered, will be available for purchase with 100 percent of the proceeds going to charity.
Combining the bold decor of ’80s pop art with the hasty forms reminiscent of underground comic pioneer Mark Beyer or cable TV’s “Dr. Katz,” Starr’s work is, at its core, fun and organic. And, he admits proudly, “childlike.” It’s a fitting end product (and outlet) for Starr, a performer long noted for his sense of humor and humility. Both qualities were in evidence during a recent phone interview with the musician/visual artist.
“I’ve always sort of drawn and painted all the time, really, and just sort of created stuff … It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. The idea that you totally get involved in it, suddenly you’re in it,” Starr says, adding, “It’s so great for me.
“As a drummer, I always need the other people,” Starr says, chuckling. “You know, I’d like to do ‘A Little Help from My Friends’ just on the drums, [but] you need the pianos and the guitars.”
When it comes to Starr’s creative process in producing his visual art, those “pianos” and “guitars”— his friends — are his mind, mood, and the machine sitting across from him.
“I just go free-falling. Whatever the face turns out, it turns out. I just guess the colors off the top of my head at that moment,” Starr says, referring to the final product, and succinctly so, as “abstract Zen art.”
Starr’s trouble-free approach to creating his art informs every aspect of the process, including the very naming of the pieces. Turns out, Starr designates titles for the majority of his pieces only because he’s required to do so in order to save the file. Consequently, the artist takes a no-frills approach to naming a good number of his pieces for referencing later on. “If you ever want to find it again, you got to give it a name,” he says. For this reason, one doesn’t have to guess too hard what such pieces as “Hat Man” and “Three Faces” are all about.
This practice, however, can throw off his audience.
Take for instance, his piece “Zak.” Naturally, it’s a portrait of his son (a talented drummer in his own right who plays with The Who), right?
“Well, that’s not him,” Starr explains. “I put those letters in the hat to see what it looked like,” Starr says, in reference to the word “Zak” resting on the subject’s hat. “And then I couldn’t find out how to get rid of them,” he admits. Such is Starr’s approach: embracing the happy accidents and enjoying the ride.
Or, as Starr puts it, “You take the most sophisticated machine and they look like they’ve been done by children. Isn’t that a groove?”
One hundred copies of each of Starr’s pieces will be available for purchase with prices ranging from $400 to $1,800. All proceeds benefit the Lotus Foundation, a London-based organization that supports a range of charitable causes, including family and child welfare, animal protection, and addiction recovery and education.
‘The Ringo Starr Fine Art Show’ will run June 7-10 at 60 Church St. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. except for June 10 (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The exhibit, which includes ‘A Little Help From His Friends — John, Paul and George’ (a collection of hand signed pieces from Starr’s band mates), is free and open to the public. The show will mark the largest collection of signed Beatles artwork ever assembled.