Visual Art

Punk Rocker, Artist Tim Kerr Brings His New Work to {neighborhood} This Weekend

As part of an ongoing series of art receptions at Bishop Art's design store, {neighborhood}, co-owners (and husband and wife) J.P. and Erin Hossley welcome Austin’s Tim Kerr Saturday night. Kerr is a legend in the punk rock world with his time in punk/funk act the Big Boys, but he’s known around the world for his artwork. With a style of art that looks like a cross between pop art and indie comics from the ’70s, Kerr’s work is colorful, thoughtful and easy to digest. His approach is Your Name Here, encouraging you to express yourself.

This year, an exhibit of his work has been in the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. We recently chatted with Tim about his approach to art, how he got involved with {neighborhood}, being on Dave Grohl’s HBO series Sonic Highways and why people get cold feet with the DIY ethic.

How long have you painted?
I have been doing some sort of art since before kindergarten and playing music since elementary school. 

How did you get involved with {neighborhood}?
Someone made a comment to a show they were posting on Facebook. The comment said, “You should get Tim Kerr,” and then tagged me on it. Their response was to say that yes, they should. So I messaged them. The Rosa Parks museum solo show happened through Facebook as well. Someone posted a picture of a big map piece they had bought from me that had women that had not given up their seat before Rosa Parks. Next thing I know, it’s been shared by the museum! I wrote to say how honored I was and thanks, and they said they had been looking at my work and wanted to invite me to do a show. 

How did your passion for skateboarding affect your world view — and your art and music — when you were younger? From what I know, when you're skating, you have to redefine everyday things you see. You don't see a sidewalk as something to walk on; you see it as a smooth surface that could be long enough to pull off a trick. Does that mindset still apply to what you do today?
Well, you have to realize that I was playing music and doing art way before skating. I had a skateboard in the ’60s with clay wheels and I skated on the sidewalk and imagined I was surfing. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so by my freshman year in high school, I was surfing. I moved up to Austin in 1974 to go to college and started skating again because urethane wheels and better trucks had just come out and I could not go surfing every day anymore. Urethane wheels and better trucks made it possible to skate more terrains. That is what made people start looking at things different as far as the possibilities of skating. It is true that once that door has been open to see like that, you can’t really shut it. Same thing with photography when you start seeing things as photos or the way light is falling on something or with music when you realize that all sound is valid. Once you open up to these things, your possibilities broaden by leaps and bounds. Why would anyone want to shut off possibilities? 

With the concept of Your Name Here, meaning you can do this, what do you think holds people back from picking up a paintbrush or a guitar? I think people are afraid that what they make won't be any good. But you have to suck at first so you can build from that. I think the biggest problem is that most people, after kindergarten or first grade, try to measure what they have created to someone else’s creation or what peer pressure you sadly fall for.

Something valuable that J. Robbins from Government Issue/Jawbox told me years ago is that you can create your own style by learning other people's songs, but playing them in your own way, based on your skills. Eventually, you create your own style. Would you agree with this approach, whether it's writing songs or painting?
Don’t follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought. Also realize you are constantly learning and should always be learning.

Have any people approached you to say they saw you in the Austin episode of Sonic Highways?
Not much. I think what Dave is trying to do with that series is a good thing. He is opening the door for folks to find out about others, and other styles, that they may not know about. 

Speaking of Sonic Highways, at the end of the Austin episode, there is a concern addressed about how music/art scenes are being pushed out because of urban renewal and gentrification. It's been happening in every major city in the United States. But miraculously, music/art scenes find new life in other parts of town. With what you've seen of punk/hardcore and art scenes over the past 40 years, what do you think stifles artistic expression?
First of all, this has been going on as long as there have been cities. Most people who choose this type of life gravitate to the areas that have cheaper rent and resources. At some point because of this, that area becomes sought after and rent goes up. Most that were living there can now not afford to live, shop or eat in their neighborhood. They move and the cycle begins again. As far as stifling your creativity, that depends on why you are doing what you do in the first place.

Tim Kerr’s exhibit will open at {neighborhood}, 411 N. Bishop Ave., between 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday.
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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs