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Bernie Taupin: Beyond the Song

Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery by Bernie Taupin. Photo courtesy Holden Luntz Gallery
Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery by Bernie Taupin. Photo courtesy Holden Luntz Gallery

If the name Bernie Taupin doesn’t immediately ring a bell, that’s OK—his body of work is so ubiquitous that it is surely ingrained somewhere in your memory, serving as backdrop for the most iconic moments in your life. The famously private creative genius and lyricist behind most of Elton John’s solo songs (think “Rocket Man”, “Tiny Dancer,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Your Song” just to name a few) is a global sensation whose talents extend far beyond the recording studio.

Yes, he just received The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Yes, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Songwriters Hall of Fame. Yes, he won an Oscar for Best Original Song. And yes, his memoir “Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton, and Me” was a New York Times best-seller.

But what really gets him excited is his work as a visual artist.

“Art is such a huge part of my life,” Taupin says. “I was schooled in the arts by my mother and grandfather, and I’ve been creating artwork since the early ‘90s. I spent so much time in the ‘70s in New York with very little money, so the places that were invigorating for me were museums—they were free and warm. The Museum of Modern Art was my teacher, where I really got to appreciate contemporary and abstract art.”

Originally from England, Taupin has been living in California for decades and considers himself a true American patriot. In fact, much of his mixed-media work incorporates the American flag and can be seen in his earlier Sleeping Beauty series where he uses found objects and weaves them into and around the flag, creating what he refers to as his “wall sculptures.”

“My idea for Sleeping Beauty is that the American flag gets knocked down, pulled down, and destroyed, but it always comes back. It is always resurrected and people find new ways to admire and believe in it,” Taupin says.

For this year’s Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary art show, now open at the Convention Center, Holden Luntz Gallery is showcasing 15 of Taupin’s mixed-media prints from his Bernie Taupin—Two Sides of the Sixties series. Here, he repurposes famous photographs taken by his friend Terry O’Neill of people like Audrey Hepburn, John Lennon, and Paul Newman.

Taupin uses techniques like webbing and weaving to incorporate objects (sometimes as mundane as candy wrappers) into the background of these photographs to create entirely new pieces of art. Afraid that history is being forgotten or inaccurately remembered, he uses his work to explore the ideas of resurrection and repurpose. For Taupin, his visual art creates a musical archaeology.

“They were tremendous fun to do,” Taupin says of this series. “I embellished the photographs and resurrected them in the humorous and realistic sense of what they represent.”

Taupin’s work has been represented at the PBM+C fair several times over the years. In fact, he recently partnered with the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County and served as their featured artist for a fundraiser for the Perry J. Cohen Foundation at the Kravis Center.

“Bernie loves ‘Americana,’ and he’s a real cowboy at heart,” says Nick Korniloff, the director of PBM+C. “He is a multi-talented visual artist who loves iconic history. His work that is on display here at PBM+C is of the world’s most recognizable stars. It’s pop culture from an era that has passed but shouldn’t be forgotten.”

While Taupin is the first to encourage individuality and finding one’s own voice, he too started his artistic career by emulating his heroes like Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock.

“His work really is global and translates to everyone,” Korniloff says. “Who can say that their lives have not been touched by Bernie Taupin?”

Taupin’s work will be featured at Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary through March 24. artpbfair.com

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