A Lust for Rust: Susan Harb's Guitars Give New Meaning to "Heavy Metal" in FAR OUT! The Art of Rock 'N' Roll at Gallery C | Arts

A Lust for Rust: Susan Harb's Guitars Give New Meaning to "Heavy Metal" in FAR OUT! The Art of Rock 'N' Roll at Gallery C

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"Chuck Berry's First Guitar" by Susan Harb
  • "Chuck Berry's First Guitar" by Susan Harb
FAR OUT! The Art of Rock 'N' Roll
Reception: Friday, August 4, 6–9 p.m., $8
Exhibit: Through September 17
Gallery C, Raleigh


Gallery C, a pioneering mainstay of the downtown Raleigh art scene since 1985, is preparing to open its much-anticipated, fifth annual themed art event, curated by gallery owner Charlene Newsom. This year’s event celebrates the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

From patron saint Elvis Presley to the psychedelic Age of Aquarius and beyond, everyone’s favorite rockers, including Prince, Gregg Allman, David Bowie, and Merle Haggard, come to life in an impressive collection of more than sixty mixed-media works by twenty-five artists from across the country.

Their styles are diverse. Portraiture, figurative art, conceptual art, acrylic and oil paintings, neon, fabric, and found-object collages come together in a cultural time capsule of the rock ’n’ roll era. The kings and queens of more current pop culture will also be on display: Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson.

Most prominently represented is Susan Harb, a folk artist and the owner of Wonderland Studio in Lexington, Virginia, who contributes her smashing guitar pieces to the exhibit. Taken together, they form an undiluted and conceptually coherent collection, including a group of famous Fender guitars—the kind used by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Chuck Berry, and others. One is even enhanced with a vintage Harley Davidson fender. Harb has also put together an eclectic mix of fifties prom dresses and a group of cool hand-painted album covers, vinyl included, in a small-painting format.

Escape and independence have been Harb’s goals since childhood. She never wanted to be like everyone else. She was different. You will recognize her at the showing: she will be impersonating, or maybe channeling, Janis Joplin.

"Janis Joplin" by Susan Harb - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
  • photo courtesy of the artist
  • "Janis Joplin" by Susan Harb
For most of her life, Harb was struck with a desire to make something out of nothing. “I think I was born with a lust for rust, the colors and textures of aged metal,” she says. “I consider myself a practitioner of assemblage and sculpture, largely employing found objects and discarded relics of the past, and then transforming them into one-of-a-kind, often tongue-in-cheek and satirical pieces of art. The Art of Rock 'N' Roll is a joyous venture for me as an artist. It brings to mind the music that guided me out of a small Southern town with limited opportunities to a world of Janis Joplin breaking barriers for women in music, sexual dress, and outspokenness, and to Chuck Berry, with his mélange of gospel, blues and Afro music, to Elvis and his hips. Once I listened to and watched Janis and Jimi and Jefferson Airplane, I never wanted to be Doris Day or Judy Collins again. This show, for me, is an opportunity to relive those wonderful memories.”

So put on your poodle skirts and bobby socks or roll up a pack of cigarettes in the sleeve of your t-shirt and get to Gallery C for a grand celebration of rock ‘n’ roll. Join special guests costumed in leather and vintage jewelry and enjoy the exchange of images, each with its own unique cadence, and the elusive harmonies between life, music, and art.

After the opening party on Friday, August 4, the exhibit runs through September 17.

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