Gretchen Bennett captures the softer colors of Kurt Cobain
Nothing says Seattle as much as Kurt Cobain. In a recent series of drawings, artist Gretchen Bennett has interpreted the iconic rocker through...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Gretchen Bennett"Hello," 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through April 12, Howard House, 604 Second Ave., Seattle (206-256-6399 or www.howardhouse.net).
Nothing says Seattle as much as Kurt Cobain.
In a recent series of drawings, artist Gretchen Bennett has interpreted the iconic rocker through two filters. First she chose stills from YouTube and the Gus Van Sant film "Last Days," and then she painstakingly drew over projections of them with colored pencils. Each piece took about four days.
The resulting nine pictures depict a very private Cobain, reaching out to say "Hello" — the title of the exhibit, taken from the lyrics of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Earlier this week, Bennett talked about the project.
Q. What drew you to Cobain/Nirvana as a subject?
A. I've been living with the culture Kurt Cobain grew up in and helped create. I lived in Seattle when Nirvana reached its zenith.
Q. How did you pick your stills?
A. I used YouTube as a resource as well as the Gus Van Sant film "Last Days." One is about light and gesture and posture — that was YouTube. And the stills from Gus Van Sant's film are about silhouettes and darkness ... I looked for patterns and gestures — Kurt Cobain has a way of moving. ... I turned the plaids bloody and on fire. ... And, it was interesting how the drama and trauma came together with ideas of the Pacific Northwest, that voice Nirvana gave to this place.
Q. Why did you choose to work with colored pencils?
A. I appreciated the fact that it ended up with a very soft delivery. I think the medium is exciting for me — both collecting digital film and working with colored pencils.
Q. They look hauntingly beautiful and personal; what message were you trying to give?
A. I didn't want to say celebrity worship or obsession — but I thought about that because they surround this subject matter. I think of these pieces as alternative views, personal views, my personal framing. For me, it's almost self-portraiture or landscape. It's a way of contextualizing myself in this landscape.
Q. Your use of white space is interesting.
A. I didn't want to show Kurt Cobain's face. It's more of a gesture, because if it's more of a gesture, the viewer can project on it or read on it. If it's more open, it's more powerful.
Q. Did you listen to his music while you were working?
A. Yes, I listened to "Something in the Way," "Love Buzz" and "You Know You're Right." I also listened to Neil Young, Patti Smith, Kiki & Herb and Rodney Graham.
Q. Your work has been quite varied; how does this relate with your past pieces?
A. This is more contained. ... This time I didn't have the sprawling city but the glow of the computer screen.
Q. Do you have more Kurt Cobain work to come?
A. I think there is more to come. There will be generations that spring off this. ... I want to keep commenting on this, but I want to maintain the reverence I have for the subject matter. ... I also don't want to dwell here. I want to keep moving. I have to keep telling my story.
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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