Musicians aren’t constrained to create art in only one field. Most of the time they should be, but that’s not the point. Every now and then this can actually be a good thing, and produce something that stands on its own as a stunning piece of work. This list celebrates some acclaimed musical acts who’ve taken the leap into a different field and not fallen on their asses.
MC Ride (Stefan Burnett of Death Grips)
Death Grips’ yeller-in-chief mentioned something about pursuing painting just before Death Grips was formed, but he didn’t provide any examples, because that would just be too easy. Thankfully, Josh Huddelston of American Aftermath dug up some samples of Burnett’s work, and unfortunately they are not the acrylic Anne Geddes knockoffs I was hoping for. But on the upside, one of them resembles a Korn album cover.
If you’re in that (admittedly narrow) cross-section of people who loved Arular or Kala, pay a shitload of money for clothes AND have a time-machine, set the dial for 2008 and your wallet for MIA’s official store, where she was selling clothes of her own design. There’s no trace of the threads in her online store today, but somewhere there’s got to be at least a few people with a bomber jacket that looks like an MIA album cover in their closet.
Hecker doesn’t travel the world with his harrowing, indefinable drone; his sound-art installations have gained him numerous plaudits within the art world. Though we can’t find any documentation of them, listen to this song of his from Ravedeath, 1972 and imagine you’re looking at a speaker in tree, and you get the idea.
The Swans man occasionally takes a break from making twisted, blasphemous music to create twisted, blasphemous art. Fun!
Johnston’s career exploded when Kurt Cobain wore one of the recluse’s self-designed shirts, and exposed the public to the giddy, tortured designs of Johnston’s music, comics, and paintings. At his online store you can purchase all his doodlings, including his first ever comic book Space Ducks.
The Mount Eerie dude (and genuinely funny human) handles most of the artistic direction for his band himself. So a good portion of the Mount Eerie album designs, t shirts, posters and whatever is original art from Phil himself. Pretty cool. Those absurdly gorgeous photos are from his collection “Mt. Eerie 6 & 7.”
That big eyed cartoon character you occasionally saw in a golden-age Moby video or on some merch was Moby’s own “Little Idiot.” But he also dabbles in phography: In 2011 he released Destroyed, a collection of photos. They aren’t as good as Phil Elverum’s.
The bassist/vocalist from Sonic Youth has been making visual art and curating for almost as long as she’s been pioneering indie rock. Since 1982 she’s curated, collaborated, and created visual art for galleries around the world, some of which is documented in the book Kim Gordon Chronicles Volume 2. And topping off the cool mom trifecta, she runs her own clothing line X-Girl.
Don Glen Vliet is one of those rare genius musicians whose visual art has accrued comparable levels of critical praise. Though commercially, there’s no comparison: Vliet made more money as a painter than he ever did as Captain Beefheart. Though I don’t think that the creator of Trout Mask Replica was ever fated to tear up the Billboard charts, so maybe it’s for the better that he quit music entirely to paint.