Elvis Still Life depicts a scene from our cabin home in Riverside California, where I was watching the Elvis documentary This is Elvis. Despite the politics, Elvis always gives me hope, and its amazing to watch a person perform that changed culture, and to see tape of performances that shook the world. This is true when you are watching the first appearances of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, and also Elvis. When the Beatles performed, in an age that had very few television channels, obviously no cable TV or internet, they were such a sensation that most of America was focused on the live performance that was so wildly popular that, as the legend has it, there were no crimes committed during the few minutes they were on Sullivan as even burglars were watching! Although Elvis literally shook the world when he infamously appeared on Sullivan (from only the shoulders up after gyrating to "Hound Dog" earlier on the Milton Berle Show, shocking a conservative America), before this Elvis Presley had first burst upon the American culture via television on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show in 1956, from which this image originated. In four successive visits on the program, Elvis had begun to conquer the world of music, helping to invent Rock n’ Roll and more. In the image on the television, he is singing the ballad I Was the One, from his four appearance on February 18, 1956. Caught in a moment of reverie, the singer looks up to the heavens with passion and intense movement, which the painting depicts with the micromanaged repeating of his eyes and features that were captured in the moment of the video still. Although he got a lot of his moves and music from African American Blues and Gospel, I optimistically like to think he too was born "on the wrong side of the tracks" and was from a poor family, friends with the African American communities of his youth, and grew up learning from attending those gospel performances and hearing and attending blues being played—and he too didn’t follow the Patriarchal Symbolic Order, wearing pink to school and having a "truck drivers’ haircut and attitude" in the deep south going to school. He also passionately believed in what he was singing, and was able to bring life to lyrics and music that he didn’t write—coming from the Pictures Generation of appropriation, I also have had many years of working with pre-ordained material that in a post-post Modern way want to bring new life and spirit to, like Elvis did with his music. As he was spiritual and passionate about his role as an artist and musician, I would like to think the video still captures a moment when he truly is transcendent, lost in his music, he goes beyond his corporeal body as he transmutes his message and music to the world.
Surrounding the contemporary television are cds and films—I’m an avid collector, and likes to "get inside" the persona’s that he paints when creates by researching his subjects and playing music and films that have to do with his subject matter to make it have a "life of its own," much like the method actors that Elvis was inspired by to create his music. An American flag rest at the television’s side, and above, a detail of one of my paintings of a utopic image of whales and birds that is included in the Finale (Last Judgment) section of the My American Dream cosmology. Reflected on the surface of the TV is a "circle painting" that he painted in the ’90’s that resembles a halo or heavenly projection, as Elvis was a believer. To paint the image, I listened to most all of Elvis’ career from these early years to Vegas in the ’70’s, wanting to capture the spirit of this great entertainer—whom I have painted many times—and how he helped to change culture and influence the world.