Episode 045: Paloma à la Guitare
In which we discuss basketball, tell-all memoirs, and executors
Back in the day when I was playing ~250 shows a year as a gigging musician, I was what you might call a swingman. The term comes from basketball: someone who can play both the 2 (shooting guard) and the 3 (small forward). Useful, that.
It means I usually played both keys and guitar in whatever band I was in. Sure, twice as much gear to carry, but it meant I was rarely out of a job.
In the years since, I’ve spent much more time at the piano. Writing, practicing, etc. Every now and then, though, I get the itch to strap on the ol’ Strat and pretend I’m Ritchie Blackmore or Eddie Van Halen or Yngwie Malmsteen.
So inspired, I needed to find a guitar painting as the basis for this week's beat. I decided on one of the hippest, low-key music paintings: Françoise Gilot’s Paloma à la Guitare.
The subject of this painting is Paloma Picasso, the daughter of Gilot and Pablo Picasso. Born in 1949, Paloma [whose name means peace] brought her own art to the world in many forms, including a popular jewelry collection for Tiffany & Co. She was the subject of a number of her father’s paintings, including Paloma with an Orange and Paloma in Blue. Unsurprisingly, this is my fav painting of her.
[It’s the guitar. Or maybe the sweet feathery hat.]
So back to the artist—and Paloma’s mom—Gilot: what a life! Likely best known for her long stormy relationship with Pablo, she was a superb artist in her own right.
Gilot’s career took off after she left Pablo, aided in large part by her very honest and reasonably sympathetic best-selling memoir “Life with Picasso”.
Oh, and she later married Jonas Salk. Boy, Pablo and Jonas are two very different cats. Wow.
GIlot just passed away in June at the age of 101.
Again: What a life!!
Reduction notes: this was a tough one to decide on. The background for the painting is turquoise, but I couldn't have a turquoise background with a turquoise shirt – it just doesn’t work here. I need the composition of these reductions to be very separate and delineated when I am envisioning the music. Does that make sense to anyone besides me?
The painting is so laid back, and Paloma’s look is so off-in-the-distance-not-really-there, that the whole thing needed to be seriously subdued.
No place for EVH or Yngwie licks here, just some pretty straight-ahead, vaguely Spanish-sounding acoustic guitar.
Other than drums and percussion and sound effects, everything in here is played on stringed instruments: acoustic and electric guitars and bass. Hmmm, maybe the background drones are some sort of synth patches jumbled together and slowed down. But mostly guitar, anyway.
The bass has a lot of air in it. I wanted something really soft on the low end. Couldn’t be percussive at all, very mellow. It's kind of difficult for me, I’m usually all about the bangin beatz®, but the cool feel works here.
And that bluesy lick halfway through the bridge…I love the idea of Paloma digging into that while she's sitting for the portrait because she's so bored.
Speaking of children of famous artists, I’ve always imagined that it must be interesting to act as the literary or artistic or musical executor to one's parents.
Christopher Tolkien had a long and extraordinary career as his father's literary executor, for example. His histories of Middle-earth are remarkable works of editing.
But those Picasso kids... Man, how many unknown Picasso paintings might they have lying around the house, each one of them worth countless millions of dollars?
Things are a little tight this month? Grab the thing sitting behind the bureau on the third floor, send it to Christie’s.
I mean, I know it's probably not like that, but it sure could be.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and bluesy licks], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.