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There are so many Bob Dylan songs that just about anyone can instantly recognize.
Now, the man whose appeal spans generations is the subject of a new art exhibit premiering in Boston.
A New York-based artist manipulates images using Photoshop and color printers to make original pieces of art. Her latest collection is titled, "LIT: A Portrait of Bob Dylan By Lesley Schiff." The exhibit is opening publicly Friday in a temporary, pop-up museum in the new Van Ness building, right behind Fenway Park.
Schiff gained unprecedented access to Dylan's personal archives for the project. She created more than 200 pieces of art using photos of Dylan, sometimes superimposing lyrics and objects over the images to create a portrait of the musician beginning as a young man, and running through the years.
WBUR's Morning Edition crew met Schiff as she was unwrapping the art, getting ready to install the pieces for the show, and we asked her about the process of creating this visual biography.
On her creative process for this exhibit
Lesley Schiff: "Well, there’s three prongs to the project: there’s Bob, there’s the lyrics and there’s the icons, which are the sunglasses, the tambourine, things that we all know. And then I got the concept that each one of those things was an aspect or a facet of the portrait. I took a year doing the research in their archives and then selecting the images for the objects and then what songs. Then, every time I had him [Dylan], let’s say at 21, I listened to music that he wrote at that age. When I moved to 25, when I moved to 35, as he got older I listened to the music that was going on at that time. I didn’t want to interfere with Bob’s words and so I wanted the art then to be simple."
On her artistic journey with Bob Dylan
LS: "The most fascinating thing that happened to me as an artist was that, in Bob’s yearbook it said he was in, I think the Latin club and the history club or something in high school and his music reflects this really vast understanding of world history. And so that’s what was happening to me, working on it, he’s taking me all through my study of art history. He was sort of opening a door to me as an artist of developing my expression, and doing things that I’d always, ‘Oh, I love that about aborigine art, I love that about Rembrandt, I love that about Japanese art.’ And all of a sudden, because he’s all over the world, I’m going all over the world and drawing out from that memory bank that we all have of things that impress you. So, the adventure of the project itself, at a certain time I didn’t want to stop."
On her ‘ah-ha’ moments going through the archives
LS: "First I say, ‘Is it going to work right with the tools that I use?’ And then the other thing was, when I was realizing I was going to get to do it, I thought, ‘This guy [Dylan] has probably been more photographed than anybody on the planet. He doesn’t need anybody else to take a picture of him.’ And since I don’t take pictures, I make pictures, I said, I’m going to look for the inside portrait. Where’s that guy that conceived all that incredible language and put it to music? … You got to see him for the first time otherwise, I fail."
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