Curated by Chris Johanson
The Salem Singers is made from an archive of images found in and around Salem, Oregon between 2000 and 2010. The images have been edited as narrative elements and evidence of a life that ended in the Pacific Northwest of America in the 1980's.
In my creative practice over the last twenty-five years, consisting primarily of sound recording, song writing, and performance, my work as a musician has been informed by abstraction, repetition and disintegration, ideas more common in visual mediums. As such, a good deal of the visual work I have made has been done to support musical ideas, designing cover art, posters and other ephemera. It has been a great experience to have this opportunity to explore sound and image in a new way.
A folk song is a song originating among the people of a country or area, passed down by oral tradition from one singer or generation to the next, often existing in several versions, and marked generally by simple, modal melody and stanzaic, narrative verse.
Folk songs begin as narratives, communicated over time by many singers. The origins of the story blur with each singer's own delivery. They become degenerated over time - misheard, forgotten, and misunderstood. Out of this disintegration, another place emerges, where reality and fable are combined. In this process of oral tradition, where history is absurdly shaped by a cultural whispering game, when the logical progression of time and space is hijacked by memory, cultural folklore becomes a pathology of memory.
by Chris Johanson
I first met Tom Greenwood about six years ago at Valentine's in Portland, Oregon. He was helping Liz Haley and Jason Bokros, who were in the process of transforming this dank storefront downtown into a bohemian arts pace/bar/sandwich shop. Tom opened up a temporary music store upstairs in the loft where he sold hard to find recordings from bands he had met from around the world. It was filled with these one-offs and beautiful art editions. He was also creating these musical happenings around town with local and traveling bands. He has an incredible eye and ear for manifesting memorable situations. I quickly learned by his energy that he was all about making creative things happen, on his own and collectively.
The music world is more aware of Tom than the art world. He has been publicly involved in music since the 1980s. His current project, Jackie-O Motherfucker, has toured internationally for many years with a continually mutating cast of collaborators. Jackie-O Motherfucker consists of music, performance, graphic and packaging elements, flyers, posters, albums, tapes, and various other ephemera.
This exhibition focuses more exclusively on the visual side of Tom's work, which he has been doing with equal dedication all along. For me, the central aspect of Tom's art is the interconnectedness of all his creative processes. Tom has been a rag picker as a way to make money for years. It's an art of patiently looking through masses of materials for objects with special value. He has a strong belief in chance and free flowing possibility. There is a keen interest in letting all the disparate elements that are around him and swimming in his mind find new fresh or unpredicted orders. His music and visual art vibrate a quality that chance, patient selection, and intuition have come together to create something new, something old, something that feels right. It is a feeling of repetitive openness to possibility and meditative flow, a philosophical moving away from any kind of established comfortable formats. Saying no to formalized song structures in his music, steering clear of the familiar territory, letting a free form improvisational energy move it where it will.
Born in 1966, a child of the high Dakota plains, Tom Greenwood showed inter-media tendencies early on. While in high school he divided his time between visual arts (winning a scholarship from Kodak for his photographic work) and sonic arts (playing Purple Haze at biker rallies). He bounced around art schools of the frozen north before ending up on the streets of Minneapolis, where he took his degree in Media Arts.
After spending the end of the 80's immersed in the aesthetic milieu of rural scum rock, creating the splendid Project A-Bomb record label in the process, Greenwood drifted into the open bowels of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Tom found work as an art director and participated in the Maynard Monroe-curated group show, URBAN ANALYSIS (with Nan Goldin, Rene Ricard, Lady Pink, etc).
Greenwood ended up in Portland, Oregon in the mid 90's, where he head birthed the seriously disturbed musical project that continues to this day - Jackie O Motherfucker. An extraordinarily mutable feast, Jackie O's music encompasses everything from industrial ho-hum to acid-volk ready-mades, and has included hundreds of participants over its lifespan. Under the influence of mysterious Northwest bohemians (often associated to some degree with The Holy Modal Rounders), Greenwood studied how to spin garbage into garlands. This technique proved invaluable when he drifted back to New York City, where he connected with Thurston Moore, who encouraged his conceptual moves.
In the 21st Century, Greenwood has created dual vistas of strangeness, all of them whistling like the rings around the o-mind. The musical projects - Jackie O, the U-SOUND series, various shows and galleries - have blended into the visual ones, and splattered in a million unexpected directions.
-Byron Coley, Deerfield, MA, March 2008
Chris Johanson is a multi media artist living in Portland, Oregon. He first started exhibiting in San Francisco, where he lived for fourteen years. He has had the good fortune of showing his art all around the world in many different contexts. He is very happy to have the opportunity to be involved with CUE Art Foundation in the sharing of the art of Tom Greenwood.