Mickey Hart feeds off rhythm, both in his music and his art.
The Grateful Dead drummer’s decades of experience with that band and its predecessor, Dead and Company, have influenced his painting.
“It’s a synesthetic moment,” he said. “This is my life and this is what it looks like and sounds like in music. they’re both part of the same thing: looks and sounds. The rhythm is the same thing. I approach it the same way I approach the Dead. First you have to have your skill and once you have the skill, you can throw in the rest.”
Hart and his abstract paintings will appear at the Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza in Buckhead March 24 from 2 to 4 p.m., when fans can meet him and purchase some of his art.
Hart’s studio at his home in Sonoma County, California, includes both a drum set and Rainbow, an apparatus that allows him to paint in a freestyle manner. Rainbow allows him to attach a canvas and then turn it in any direction to manipulate where the paint will go.
“It holds all the media I paint on,” he said. “The paint-mixing process is very important, long and tedious. Then I approach each creation with a sense of thought about how I’m going to create it. Then I pour these mixtures of paint in different ways. Then I manipulate them using gravity, so it’s really a gravity-based technique. and over the years I’ve developed a language with my paints. It’s just the rhythm of it. I play; I paint. I paint; I play. These images are what goes on in my head sound-wise. It’s a visual of the sound in my world. I improvise.”
Hart got into painting “by accident” about 15 years ago when he was shopping at a store with his daughter, Reya, then about 11.
“I just started messing around painting skeletons,” he said of the Dead’s signature image. Hart started out by painting with a brush before switching to a pouring method.
“(There) is a lot of emotional, rhythmic, flowing movement to it — a lot of light, a lot of colors, It’s wild,” he said, adding with Rainbow it’s an athletic, acrobatic type of painting. “... So I’m able to create these images. Once they’re semi-created, then I will vibrate the frames vigorously, sort of drum them into existence or to life. That allows all my method of mixing paint to have so much detail. It’s a lot of detail.”
Hart, who along with the rest of the Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, has also had a successful career as a solo musician and even author. He’s published four books and released about 15 solo albums, including 1991’ “Planet Drum,” which remained at No. 1 on the Billboard World Music chart for 26 weeks, and won the first Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.
Though this is Hart’s first art show in Atlanta, he visits the city at least once a year while on tour. Dead and Company will visit Atlanta’s Cellaris Amphitheatre at Lakewood June 29 as part of its 2019 tour. Also, Hart wrote the music for the city’s 1996 Summer Olympics. He’s even worked with archivists and ethnomusicologists at both the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution, both in Washington.
“The preservation of indigenous music has always been a priority for me,” Hart said.
Another pet project of his is working with scientific researchers to show the effects music and rhythm have on the brain.
“It’s very important because the brain is everything,” Hart said. “What the brain says the body does. Usually these dementia are caused by the break in the connection to the brain. So rhythm seems to reconnect those broken synapses and you feel good about it. So music therapy and rhythm therapy are very important to us. Now we know we have the science to validate this. In rhythm you’re exerting gamma and beta waves, which allow the brain to concentrate. It produces higher conscientiousness. That’s the good stuff and the good juice for us.”
David Holden, who leads sales and gallery development for Wentworth’s entire operation and is the director of its Phipps location, said because this is Hart’s first art show in Atlanta, it “could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to meet him and view and possibly buy his artwork.
“He’s sort of a legend and it’s very exciting,” Holden said. “We’re very pleased we were able to get him to come to Atlanta. People have grown up ... knowing his music and will get to see a completely different aspect of his genius, of his work. So I think that’s pretty cool.”
Wentworth is even hosting a preview show of Hart’s art March 16 from 5 to 8 p.m. Though Hart will not attend that event, if anyone acquires one of his pieces while at the preview show, they will automatically be invited to the VIP reception to meet the artist prior to the regular show March 24, Holden said.
“I think it’s going to be a fun show,” he said. “His following is a great group of people. I’ve been to a couple of his events and it’s just a great atmosphere.”
Hart is looking forward to it.
“I want to see the people and have them enjoy these paintings,” he said. “I love Atlanta. Beautiful city. I want to put these creations into circulation. Painting for yourself is great and I enjoy it, but it’s really cool to share them. It’s like music. There’s only so much you can do sitting in a room practicing.”
The gallery is located at 3500 Peachtree Road, Suite E31 in Atlanta. For more information, visit www.wentworthgallery.com.