Internationally recognized as a member of the Grammy-nominated folk-rock band The Avett Brothers, Scott Avett (born 1976) has also been a visual artist, focusing on painting and printmaking, since he earned a BFA in studio art from East Carolina University in 2000, the same year he founded the band with his brother Seth.
Avett says he considers himself an artist first—above all else—but most people who know his music are often surprised to discover he’s an accomplished painter and printmaker who has been making art as long as he’s been making music.
Until recently Avett kept the art-making part of his life more private, as a respite from his life as a performer. “One of the things that I love about painting,” he says, “is that I never consider myself to have an audience … I think everyone on the planet is a fan of painting because everyone is a fan of visual stimulation, but I’ve had freedom in the world [of painting] because I’ve kept it to myself… As musicians, a lot of times we find ourselves getting cornered and wanting to shake free.”
When asked if there is a relationship between his music and visual art practice, and if the works share similar storylines and subject matter, Avett replies: “I used to say that my painting and music were parallel, that they traveled alongside each other and never merged or bisected. But I was wrong… they live together.”
Like his songs, Avett’s paintings speak to universal issues of spirituality and struggle, love and loss, heartache and joy, as well as more personal stories of career, family, and living in the South. These are psychologically charged and emotionally intense portraits focused on his family and himself—often intimate, vulnerable, and sometimes uncomfortably truthful portrayals.
The exhibition also features prints and paintings related to Avett’s musical career, including portraits of band members, and artwork for album covers and concert posters. An audio “sketchbook”—a compilation of iPhone voice memos and “song sketches”—reveals an intimate view of Avett’s creative process and the ongoing relationship between his music and his art.
In the video below, Avett talks with Linda Dougherty about art in the NCMA galleries and influences on his own work.
Linda Johnson Dougherty is chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the NCMA.
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