By Sandra Schulman
When I first see Jason Newsted, six-time Grammy winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and now artist with a powerful solo show at the Palm Beach Cultural Council, he is dropping little self-designed enamel pins that say “Rawk” into dozens of goody bags.
“It’s what I do,” he says with a straight face.
The last time I saw him was 21 years ago at Lollapalooza in West Palm Beach, when Metallica headlined the monster rock fest along with the Ramones and Soundgarden.
After the gift bag duty, he led a pack of journalists Thursday on a preview tour of his show, a retrospective of sorts, with work he has been creating for almost 15 years. The art came about due to a shoulder injury that sidelined him back in 2004. The recovery process was so restricting he could only paint with one arm, the other being pinned down against his chest.
“I figured out a way to do it after much practice,” he says animatedly, demonstrating how he swung his arm around to paint a whirling piece inspired by Hurricane Katrina.
“I need to get what was inside, out, that became these colorful and crazy paintings” that matched the “colorful and crazy music” that he had been making with Metallica. “I approach painting with the same energy and same vision I do with music. It’s got to be real, visceral. There’s an exchange of energy with an audience, I try and give that out in the art.”
Inspired by Picasso and Basquiat, Newsted’s raw, explosive works practically scream off the canvas. Loud colors of reds and blues, aliens play guitar, and figures gape open-mouthed at the universe.
The works are large, some measuring over 10 feet long on multiple panels. One is painted on black foam board, a surprising choice of material. Self-taught, with an abundance of energy, time and the resources to devote to a full studio, Newsted soon found his way, using paint and oil sticks, improvising as he went along.
He showcased a short film of him painting a white suit leaning against a canvas. The suit Newsted was wearing began to take on the same image as the canvas, and when he was done he walked away with a dramatic bow like he used to give at stadium shows. Then the head of the figure began to pulsate and push out from the canvas. Soon the body was pushing and vibrating too until Newsted himself emerged out from the art, kicking and screaming and ultimately smashing the camera with his booted foot.
Newsted stood watching the film until the final payoff, grinning like a banshee, making a fist and shouting “Yes!”
He wasn’t planning on an exhibit until neighbor Nick Korniloff of Art Miami paid him a “hang out” visit at his Jupiter home and saw all the work in his studio. He gave him six weeks to get a show together and took him to New York last May. The show was a success, with many sales. He will also be showcasing his work at Art Miami in Dec. 5-10 at the mammoth new location on Biscayne Bay, where Korniloff has moved his fair after 10 years in Wynwood.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” Korniloff said at the preview, “and I’ve rarely been as excited about an artist.”
Newsted is supporting Korniloff’s Perry J. Cohen Foundation, which teaches boat and water safety to young boaters. Korniloff’s stepson was lost at sea in Jupiter in 2015 in a high-profile story that made news around the world and was one of the largest search and rescue mission ever conducted. Proceeds from the painting sales will go towards the Foundation, as well as to Little Kids Rock, a group that brings professional musicians to schools to teach and encourage music.
Newsted was effusive in his praise of both organizations.
“I live on the water and know how important it is for people to learn safety. My work in the schools with Kids Rock has been amazing, seeing their faces when they hear their songs get played by professional musicians is so rewarding. I want kids to get outdoors, get off the phone screens, make something real.”
Newsted also has a new gig with his acoustic Chophouse Band, which performed Friday at the Cultural Council and will be appearing there again Jan. 12.
RaWk: The Art of Jason Newsted runs through Feb. 3 at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County in Lake Worth. Galleries are free admission; call (561) 471-2901 or visit www.palmbeachculture.com.
Newsted’s other area shows include an exhibit Dec. 5-10 at Art Miami (call 800-376-5850 or visit www.artmiamifair.com; a show Jan. 11-15 at Palm Beach Modern and Contemporary Art Fair in West Palm Beach (call 305-517-7977 or visit www.artpbfair.com; and a show Feb. 15-19 at Art Wynwood in Miami (call 305-517-7977 or visit www.artwynwood.com.