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The Tree of Influence

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For much of my life, rock music was the dominant artform and I studied every aspect of it. One of the things that always interested me was “which artists influenced the artists that I was listening to?” So much of classic rock was built on the backs of blues artists and you can hear this deeply when you listen to Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Hendrix and others. This “artist tree” is a metaphor that I use for describing this and the branches of that tree each represent an artist who came before them and played a role in their development and sound.

When I started One River, I was intrigued with this same concept and how it applied to visual art. For most people today, their perspective and knowledge of visual art is stuck in the past and that is because art has never crossed over to pop culture. Radio did that for music and MTV put it on steroids. So, when we teach kids and teens in our classrooms here, we write lessons about living artists and share stories about who influenced them. We also do this because we want to celebrate artists who are putting their heart and souls into their careers today and our role is to help create context for who they are and what they do.

Last week I was visiting my son in Europe and we went to see Hockney – Van Gogh, a breathtaking exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam that celebrates the work of 81 year old British painter David Hockney and the connection he had to Van Gogh. I urge you to watch the interview with David. He is a living legend and will go down as one of the greatest painters of all time.

I am sure there are numerous living artists that look to Hockney for inspiration. Shara Hughes, an artist who we showed at One River, was featured in the Whitney Biennial and has an upcoming solo show in NYC, is just one of them. Great artwork inspires the imagination but is almost always rooted in someone before them. Ask David….ask Shara.