|9/8/2011 6:49:00 PM
“Beyond Words’ right title for Bernie Taupin art on tour
If the name Bernard John Taupin seems familiar, you have only to check the liner notes on Elton John albums since the 1970s. Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to nearly all of the Elton’s hits from “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to “Candle in the Wind.”
But, in recent years, among major art collectors across North America, Taupin, 61, also has gained a reputation as an important abstract artist.
A number of celebrities, actors, musicians dabble in painting, but precious few reach the point of being able to show their work in some of the finest galleries in the country. Taupin is one that’s made the cut.
“I think it’s because I take it seriously,” Taupin said in a call to his home-studio in the mountains overlooking Santa Barbara, Calif. “I’ve appreciated art ever since I was a kid. Thanks to encouragement from my mother, it was something I stayed with.”
It might also be because, as many critics and fans say, he is a genius.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Taupin opened “Beyond Words,” an exhibition, with works for acquisition, in the Wisby-Smith Fine Art Gallery in Dallas. This weekend he will be there to talk about his art.
“The words came first,” he said. Though he doesn’t claim to be a poet. “I prefer to call myself a lyricist.”
The story goes that a submission of song lyrics to a contest in his native England led to the start of his career. Seventeen-year-old Taupin and another youth, who would become Elton John, both lost out in the competition, but one of the organizers told them they should team up. They did, and “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “The Bitch is Back”, “Daniel”, “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” and “Nikita” are among the hits that followed.
Moved by the death of the Princess of Wales in September 1997, Taupin and Elton revisited their hit “Candle in the Wind”. Taupin rewrote the lyrics creating “Candle in the Wind 1997”, a tribute to Diana, and another beloved recording that topped the charts.
Nearly 40 years after their collaboration began, they teamed up again for the Broadway production “Lestat: The Musical”, which opened in March 2006.
Jefferson Starship (“We Built This City”), Alice Cooper, Heart, Courtney Love, Brian Wilson, Kid Rock and Willie Nelson have also sung Taupin’s words. He even made a couple of recordings himself and had a band, but those were more experiments than anything.
Taupin is known as an ardent supporter of gay rights, and in 2006, he won a Golden Globe Award for his lyrics to “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” from the film “Brokeback Mountain.”
Taupin said it was in about the mid-90s that he began to follow his creativity onto the artist’s canvas.
“Now I paint all the time,” he said, adding that gaining a large studio to work in has helped. “You might say I was ‘space motivated.’ My studio, and you’ve seen it on the video, is a converted racquetball court.”
Though he’s gained the room to paint big canvasses, he says he still may have to “knock out a wall.”
“There’s no outside light,” he laughed. “So when I see my work on display and presented in proper lighting, it’s a great surprise.”
Bold, vibrant colors are key to his paintings.
While he primarily paints in oils and acrylics, he refers to himself as a “multi-medium” artist.
“Whatever enhances the work,” he said, “but basically it’s either oil or acrylics.”
From Taupin’s Artist Statement for galleries:
“Canvas to me is simply the visual extension of what I have spent my life creating through words. The imagination, in my estimation, is the most powerful tool the artist possess enabling us to conjure up beautiful distraction for the ears and eyes.
I have no formula except that which comes from what I dream, feel and see. To me colors are like words… they express emotions… likewise texture and mediums display an abundance of moods.
I have no set pattern of definitive style, it is hard to conform when there are so many options; house paint and wood stain can be equally as evocative as acrylics and oil, at times all four together can create the desired results.
I find blocks and oblongs of bright color effective, for me they express affection. In the same way their dark counterparts with their fragmented edges and torn middles spell disturbance and pain. The intermingling of all these parts present life…”
While Taupin has shown his works in mostly local galleries, the current show opened a few months ago and will travel to galleries into next year.
“There are about 60 original pieces I’m showing,” he said. “It’s the biggest show I’ve ever had.”
Taupin also lamented the difference between creating paintings and songs.
“You write a song and you part with it, but you hang onto the copyrights, or you should anyway. But a painting, you’re turning over to someone completely and forever. That’s especially hard if it’s something you really love, to say goodbye to it,” he said, adding, “There are about three pieces I feel that way about in this show.”
“Beyond Words” had its premiere at Hamilton-Selway of Beverly Hills, a leading gallery of contemporary art, which was followed by standingroomonly at Toronto’s Liss Gallery. Rock legend and longtime friend of Taupin’s, Elvis Costello, showed up for the opening in Toronto.
“That was a great evening,” he said. “I still can’t believe how well that show went.”
He may be an internationally renowned rock artist, in more ways than one, but he’s always had an affinity for the American cowboy way of life.
Early signs were when Elton dubbed himself Captain Fantastic, Taupin took the label “The Brown Dirt Cowboy.” He’s also spent a considerable amount of time in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was well-known for his quarter horses.
“I used to compete on cutting horses,” he said. “I won my fair share of buckles. But eventually it took a toll on my shoulder and back.”
A marriage or two (including to the sister of actress Rene Russo) and several rodeos later, Taupin settled on a ranch in California with his wife Heather Kidd.
In addition to raising two daughters there, he was, until its recent retirement, co-owner of Little Yellow Jacket, a PBR bucking bull that was an unprecedented hit in the rodeo arena becoming a three-time world champion.
Taupin can be heard hosting “American Roots Radio with Bernie Taupin” on satellite radio Sirius XM Radio’s The Loft channel.
Even sooner, from 6-9 p.m. Friday and 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Taupin will be giving presentations and greeting art lovers in the Wisby-Smith Fine Art Gallery in The Crescent, 500 Crescent Court, in Dallas. Attendance is free, but to assure space for everyone, RSVPs are requested, (214) 397-0808.
Bernie Taupin On Elton John, Songwriting & Painting
Posted on September 9, 2011 at 9:23 AM
Updated Friday, Sep 9 at 9:59 AM
Wisby-Smith Fine Art (500 Crescent Court), presents “Beyond Words”, an extraordinary collection of artworks by Elton John’s legendary collaborator and lyricist Bernie Taupin, for what promises to be the single most important art event of 2011. Beginning on Friday, September 2, the public will be able to preview the artwork. Taupin will make special appearances at the gallery on September 9th (6-9 pm) and September 10 (6-9pm). RSVP requested: 214.397.0808.
Photos Elton John at Blossom Music Center Sept. 8 2011