"An artist is an artist, no matter what form the canvas takes," a pretentious man once said. It's one of those statements that may sound pompous (and is), but is no less true. Over the past fifty years there are endless examples of musicians establishing successful careers on the stage, then find themselves switching gears and starting over with paint and canvas (Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Bono, Bob Dylan). Local guitarist Marcus Renninger -- of the vintage pop band Fingers of the Sun -- feels that an artist's transition from sound to sight is more graceful than you might think. "They're pretty much the same thing," Renninger says, discussing the paintings he will unveil tonight at Mario's Double Daughter's. "With a song, you might start out with a structure, but then you go over it and over it again, until finally all the little pieces lock in place. It's a slow process of obsession."
While the music of Fingers of the Sun is heavily influenced by (yet never derivative of) '60s radio pop and '90s shoegaze, Renninger's paintings are also transparently paying tribute to his own aesthetic heroes. "I wanted to develop my skill as a painter in the classical sense, before moving into more impressionistic stuff," he says, commenting on his portraits of pop icons like David Bowie and characters from the Wes Anderson and Woody Allen movies.
"Most of the portraits that were done in the 1600s were financed by the church or the state, and there was definitely a certain amount of celebrity attached to those monarchies; the same type of celebrity that is now attached to pop culture," he adds. "So I'm continuing that tradition, hoping to sharpen my technical abilities before I become more experimental."
Like most serious artists, Renninger has carved out a lifestyle that allows ample time to devote to creativity. And whenever he'd exhausted the momentary limits of his guitar, he would turn his remaining energy to paint and canvass. "I first got into painting around the time I dropped out of college," he recalls.
This was the summer of 2008, and the decision to abandon higher education provided Renninger with more free time to spend inside his own imagination. While he had been drawing since the age of two, Renninger was now taking the craft more seriously, contemplating style and technique. The 2010 decision to form the retro-pop band Fingers of the Sun was great for Marcus's incendiary gift for the guitar, but was somewhat suffocating for his time at the easel. As Fingers became more in demand, the math of a day-job + performing in a hit band didn't leave many hours for side-projects. Then last November Renninger experienced another downsizing of commitments, one that afforded him more time for his love of the visual arts.
"I was fired from my job last winter, and then I took a month and a half off," he explains. "I just hid inside and worked on paintings. The majority of the paintings that will be shown this Friday came from that time."
A free reception for Marcus Renninger's show starts at 6 p.m. tonight at Double Daughter's.