Story and photography by Jimmy Steinfeldt
Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 10/21/19 – Radiant Collection is the debut fine art collection from guitar legend Joe Satriani. He worked with acclaimed Los Angeles art team SceneFour. Joe utilizes a customized glove with LED lights to show movement on the fretboard. Visual canvases are created from this. Many of the artworks are then taken to Joe’s home where he adds various paints such as acrylic or watercolors. Joe named each art piece and all the pieces in the collection are signed by Joe and SceneFour. Each is numbered and shipped with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Jimmy Steinfeldt: Please tell me about your career as a fine artist.
Joe Satriani: This is the first time anybody has asked me to do anything like this. I started doing art when I was a young kid. My two sisters are trained artists and my wife and son are artists. I’ve been putting art on guitar picks, straps, cd booklets, and things like that for a really long time. I’ve always been sketching. My manager Mick Brigden has seen me scribbling for 25 years. I was never trained. I only do the art things I do as a sort of release. I started doing things on computer and I thought I should put them in a book and see what happens. The book was an experiment to see what happens when you hold a piece of art versus what it feels like to look at it on a screen. I remember handing the book to my manager and not telling him anything about it before he opened it. I just wanted him to experience my art in a book for the first time. Putting art in a book is different then sending the art in an email. Presenting art in something tangible like a book is special. I got the reaction I wanted and we eventually sold that book to my fans. This helped me get over a hurdle. That hurdle was my concern that my fans may or may not like it because they know me for music.
After the book my wife showed me how to use brushes and paints and what to do with canvases. I had not done this before. I then thought I should do 100 to 200 pieces before I show my paintings to people. However the guys at SceneFour reached out with this project that was all about filming me playing guitar with the LED glove. I just casually mentioned that I was doing painting and they said we should combine the images of my playing guitar wearing the LED glove with my painting. This gallery show is the result of the collaboration.
Joe Satriani spoke about the exhibit:
This exhibit shows two really different versions of the artwork. One type of artwork is similar to other SceneFour artworks. Brilliant electric colors with more of a graphic vibe. Then there is the other type of artwork with my crazy painting on it. The process of collaboration is what made it work, very much like making a record. If you are comfortable with your band you can throw out an idea and maybe someone will interpret it in a better way then you would have. One of the artworks in the exhibit is Ghost on a Hill. I had just painted it and I sent it to Scenefour without any suggestion to them. That was the best thing I could have done because they had a better idea about what to do with it. The teamwork was really important to me because I rarely do that. I’m usually working on solo albums, I’m writing all by myself. A lot of my decisions get made privately but this was a real collaborative effort.
Cory Danziger of SceneFour spoke about the exhibit:
My company SceneFour has been making abstract art for many years with famous drummers. We had done about 40 collections and we thought how about if we do guitar. How can we do this using the movement from the shapes created from guitar strings. I made a list of great guitar players and at the top of the list was Joe Satriani. Turns out Joe is the coolest guy in person. And He’s such a nice man.
Chris Young created the glove which Joe uses to create the art. The glove has LED lights so when Joe touches the frets, the movement is shown in the artwork. We are excited about this, his first fine art gallery show.
Joe talks about each piece of artwork:
Harmonic Spirits. Anybody who plays guitar knows that there is stuff that you do where the body resonates. That chunky, fat feeling of leaping off the guitar. Harmonics are pretty much like that. The sound can be really intense at the proper volume. It can feel like the notes are jumping off the strings and it’s out of your control. If the feedback goddess blesses you for a moment it’s something special. This is a great representation of that. These colors are intense and I just love it.
Radiant Creature. The first time I saw it I thought it looks like a rabbit. Some of you here today said you see a shrimp, or a tree frog, or a skull but these works are generated from an LED lit glove. I was not thinking rabbit, shrimp, tree frog, skull when I was playing but now that I see the finished art work it may influence me to write a song about that. Also the color I find fascinating. All of these artworks have the quality where I want to look at them over and over again. If I’m going to put artwork in my home and I’m going to see it everyday I want it to give back.
The hardest part for me was signing these pieces. I hadn’t signed any artwork before and now I had to sign and title each piece. I would have never thought of doing such a thing. So as I’m signing each piece my hand is shaking because I know it’s important
Hill of the Skull. There’s lots of stories about this piece. Is it attributed to the crucifixion? I didn’t set out to do that. These things happen in art that you don’t plan yet it turns into a powerful statement. It started with a piece of art at SceneFour that looked desolate like a burnt forest. However there was this cross which you see in the bottom left that didn’t look like it was part of the burnt forest. About a week later I started doing watercolors. I did these watercolors on small postcard size paper and with water color pencils and I discovered ways to manipulate the art work after doing the drawing. I’d bring artwork to my sink and run water over them for a second, tilt them back and forth and play with the water. Sometimes sponge it and all of a sudden this is what happened to this piece of art. I wasn’t expecting the red tears and the hair coming down and the stare in the eyes. I don’t know how the watercolor pencils react so violently to water. The result though is right up my alley. I scanned it and put it together in Photoshop. I sent it to the team at SceneFour and said “I don’t know if this is too weird for you.” SceneFour did its thing to the work and here’s the final piece. I don’t know how it all happened. I guess it’s like one of my live performances. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I step on stage, turn the amp on 10, step on a pedal and it sounds like the end of the world. But then you work it out in front of an audience.
The Stare. This is also like a musical experience. As an example last night I stepped on stage. There are moments that I’m so deep in the music I might just drift off for a second. At a point like that my drummer might throw a stick at me to wake me out of the dream state to bring me back. When I saw this piece I was fascinated and decided to paint over it because of the stare. I was trying to deal with the energy coming from the original artwork. One of the things I found difficult with this whole project was the idea of putting something of mine on this original artwork since I often saw the pieces as already complete. I thought what business do I have drawing on this. This piece is one where a lot of work was done on computer and the computer ones were more outrageous. They had a little more whimsy. This guy has got some funny ears that’s for sure and I don’t know what he’s thinking about. When I draw ears or parts of the body I’m not thinking about the body part but rather what is that person feeling at that moment. What do his ears, nose, mouth, feel like right then.
Ethereal Visitors. I kept seeing eyes everywhere. Also the pink and blue mesmerizes me. Beautiful amounts of color, much of which I covered up. I added a lot of black to help focus the eyes. The outline of the lips was already there and the glove created that. I think all artists have to practice a sort of triage. Where you say I like that part but I’ve got to kill it for the other part to live. You can’t have too many solos in a song so you have to pick one. The main focus for me on this piece was that the eyes are all looking in a different place.
Harmonic Visitors. This one gives you a peek into my twisted brain. I recognized right away that what’s going on with the radiant bands of orange makes it difficult to imagine what you are going to add on top. The two characters on the right I painted first and I was concentrating on the eyes. I had in my mind a fortuneteller, or Ouiji board, or spiritualist, and they send out a message and call visitor spirits, if you believe in that kind of thing. Anyway the sprints come. You may not like what they look like or what they got to say. What is it that I could do musically that could call up these spirits? If you play certain sounds or chords, melodies or notes you could call these spirits. I thought whom am I calling with these harmonic sounds jumping off the fret board? These guys in the painting just showed up! They kinda look like me…on a bad day, or good day depending on what you think. For a long time it was just those two guys and I just added the third guy at the last moment and I don’t know why. Turned out that three was the magic number.
Transcendence. That was so difficult to do because the artwork was so intense already. You can kinda see the pickup on the guitar in the bottom left and you see the strings going off. Even though I had redesigned other pieces before, I had never done a diagonal. I struggled with the idea of where this person was going to be and what they would be doing. I started to think about performing. Last night I played at the Experience Hendrix show. We were doing the song I Don’t Live Today. It has an extended feedback solo. I ham it up a bit. I end up lying on the ground. I’m lost in that moment. My wife took a picture of that. The photo looked to me like a weird guy with a guitar on stage and the audience is hearing this really loud screaming guitar. However in my heart, soul, and mind I’m this guy who seems to be way somewhere else in a different place and in a peaceful moment. So this shows the strange way I sometimes experience my own performances.
Quantum Frenzy. Improvising requires being in the moment but at the same time looking ahead and also considering what happened in the past. When I saw this piece I thought it was perfect. It represents frantic playing everywhere on the guitar. I thought the three heads, that’s so cool. I wish I could get my guitar to do that on stage. Of course that would require my wearing the glove with the LED lights, and I really can’t play that well wearing the glove.
Radiant Convergence. Some of the art pieces in this exhibit are very abstract. Then you see a piece like this where the guitar is so much like it really is. I wish I had a guitar that was built like that. I know that my guitar tech doesn’t want me to have one like that, changing the strings would take twice as long. It represents a schizophrenic moment when I hope the two ideas I have will come together and work.
Ghost on the Hill. It’s an acrylic painting I had done. I’m not sure what this person is saying but when I finished it I thought it was asking me something although I don’t know what. It looked like a burnt forest or someplace where people had been crucified. It was pretty gruesome looking. Even though I knew it was just my hands on the guitar it hit me as really dark. If you could see my studio you’d see 100 weird faces staring at me. Paintings on the floor, up above, and on the walls. This one spoke to me.
Ethereal Moment. This whole exhibit is about capturing people doing something they’ve never done before. The guitar in this piece is floating in the oddest way. I was attracted to pieces where you really couldn’t tell that I was there. I’m sick of looking at pictures of myself so anything that looks abstract is attractive to me.
I can just barely pull out the shape of the Ibanez guitar. There is the harmonic thing happening. The unbelievable vibrant colors. It’s a special moment that SceneFour has gifted me to experience.
The Time Shredder: I’ve been working for four years on a story about a distant planet and a hero who plays guitar. He’s been gifted with a special guitar which can transport him to another world and time and he is put to task to save the universe. This guitar comes to life when he plays a special melody and chords. Only he is gifted with ability to stimulate the guitar. We never came up with something visually for the story like this art piece, but here it happened. When I saw it for the first time I said “That’s our time shredder!” That’s what we call it in our story. It’s a guitar that shreds time. I’m so happy that this piece has sold out its limited edition.
Enlightenment: From the moment I saw this piece, I knew it represented an kind of enlightenment in the midst of a beautiful chaos of colors. A wonderful rorschach-like vision of musical creativity in action. You can actually see a figure in the lower middle of the canvas with his hands over his head, seemingly controlling the moment.