Elizabeth Peyton’s rise to fame was partly propelled by her energetic, painterly portraits of rock stars like David Bowie, Jarvis Cocker, Pete Doherty, Kurt Cobain and Keith Richards. But after speaking to Peyton at Bookmarc last night during the book signing for her new collection of photographs, Here She Comes Now, it’s clear she doesn’t find her muse in musicians so much as in music. And you’ll never guess what she’s listening to these days.
"I’m excited that it’s all about music, which is my biggest passion," said the native of Danbury, Connecticut, who splits her time between Long Island and Berlin, in between signing copies of the 112-page book published in July by German art press Walther König.
Edited by Peyton and Danish curator Johan Holten, and featuring texts by Holten and Vogue magazine contributing editor Dodie Kazanjian, Here She Comes Now reveals the stylistic breadth of Peyton’s musical passion, bringing together her well-known rock star portraits with depictions of opera singers like Jessye Norman, Jonas Kaufmann and Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld captured in the midst of a live performance.
Recently, on a friend’s recommendation, she’s been listening to Jackson C. Frank, the late American folk musician who never rose to fame during his hard-knock life, but whose songs have been covered by Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel, Fairport Convention and Counting Crows, to name a few.
She’s also listening to Russian opera, and in particular, Prince Igor, a four-act opera about the military campaign of the eponymous Russian prince against tribal invaders in the year 1185. It was left unfinished by 19th-century Romantic composer Alexander Borodin and later completed by his contemporaries Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov.
Peyton’s recent and esoteric music listening choices are a far cry from Babyshambles. They reveal the kind of sprawling curiosity befitting an artist who, according to New York Times art critic Robert Smith, "helped open the floodgates to the painterly, outsiderish, illustrational, art-smart figurative styles that by now has become a crowded genre."
Listen to Frank’s "Milk and Honey," which appeared on the soundtrack to Vincent Gallo’s 2003 art house film, The Brown Bunny. And watch an orchestral and choral performance of "Polovtsian Dances" from Borodin’s Prince Igor, conducted by Valery Gergiev.
Photo of Elizabeth Peyton by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin