Christine Kuhn says people are used to going to record stores for art.
"They just expect the art to be on the records," the Lexington artist says in her north Lexington studio.
For the next month, customers at CD Central will get to see some art while they search for tunes as the shop presents Records Reimagined, a show of album cover art created by artists from a broad spectrum of disciplines, including tattoo art and street art.
CD Central owner Steve Baron says the idea for the show came from Shake It Records, a Cincinnati shop that presented a similar show.
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"I loved the show," Baron says. "It gave me the idea that this is something we should do here because Lexington has a lot of great visual artists."
Artists were invited to participate by re-creating the cover of a favorite album or creating art with the album as inspiration.
The show comes as vinyl records are enjoying a revival in sales; some people say part of the appeal is the large canvas that the record album cover provides for art, compared to compact disc covers that live up to their format name and the thumbnail images that usually accompany digital albums now. Whether it's the old band portraits of albums from the 1950s and '60s or the psychedelic covers of 1970s West Coast rock, albums have always carried strong visuals, sometimes from well-known artists including Howard Finster and Robert Mapplethorpe.
One piece in the show riffs on Mapplethorpe's cover for Patti Smith's Horses: John Howard's image of a very busty Smith. Other artists in the show have reworked covers by KISS, Stevie Wonder and Sonic Youth. Artist Pat Gerhard created a three- dimensional multimedia cover that would make the infamous Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers cover look like a flat piece of cardboard.
"I tried not to set too many parameters," Baron says. "I just said, 'Pick an album and do something with it. Create a piece of art based on that idea.'"
He did set one parameter: the 12-by-12-inch space of an album cover.
"Some people asked if they could make it larger, and I just really wanted to stay with that size," Baron says.
Blake Snyder Eames confesses that she was one artist who tried to sway Baron.
For a previous show, she had created a large representation of Elvis Costello with his eyebrows arched on the cover of his 1981 album Trust, and she tried to talk Baron into letting her enter it. He said no, so that sent her digging into her and musician husband Willie Eames' collection of 1,500 albums. She thought she might be interested in the colorful, detailed cover of Prince and the Revolution's Paisley Park, from 1985, but then she locked in on a detail on the back of 1961's Do the Twist with Ray Charles: a diagram that illustrated the title dance.
"This is what inspired me," Eames says in her Old Vine Street studio.
Her piece, which was in progress Tuesday, incorporates the bold, pink text of the cover and the diagram, which she loves for its detail and simplicity.
"I tried to do the dance," Eames says, grimacing.
She gives Baron props for highlighting visual artists for an audience that might not always be tuned into it.
"He is the epitome of the locally owned business," Eames says.
Baron says he consulted with Kuhn — who is creating a three-dimensional piece that will feature sliced-up record album covers on a moving turntable — on how to approach artists.
"He wanted to get it right," Kuhn says. "He really is part of the community, and he wanted to do this and make sure he didn't do anything wrong."
In addition to well-known names in traditional arts, Baron brought in tattoo artist Kevin Hamilton of Bleed Blue Tattoos, who reimagined covers for Duran Duran's Hungry Like the Wolf and albums by Rush and Blue Oyster Cult. Street artist Dronex reimagined the cover of AC/DC's 1981 album Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, with corporate icons in place of the original icons on the cover.
"We wanted to say, 'Here are the possibilities,'" Baron says. Reflecting on the pieces he had received by Monday afternoon, Baron says, "I love it. Everyone has brought in something really inspired."