Erin Maura Wells

"I Just Want People To Care Like I Care."

Sometimes music, and the artists who create it, can be as defined by the visual aspects of their work as the sonic ones. From the artwork on album covers and CD jackets, show posters, music videos and promotional photographs used to promote an artist, all of these elements seek to define an artist and their music. In some cases, these visuals can even have a more dramatic impact than the music itself.

Who can forget the great posters for promoter Bill Graham's shows at the Fillmore? Or how the photography of Charles Peterson helped define the Seattle sound and the very image of grunge? Are there any more iconic images than Bruce Springsteen on the "Born in the U.S.A." album cover, or the Beatles on "Sgt. Pepper" or "Abbey Road"?

The great scenes that have become a part of musical mythology are often the results of the image makers as much as the music makers. The music of Motown, London, San Francisco or New York broke into the world because someone took their passion for those musical expressions, and expressed it to others in such a way that they wanted - needed - to become involved themselves.

Artist Erin Maura Wells has been painting the musicians around her local New Brunswick and Asbury Park, New Jersey scenes, bringing the live on-stage energy of their performances to the canvas. Presenting her work in a gallery setting, the goal of any artist who wants to bring her work to the public, is just the first step. Just like music is often enhanced by its packaging, Wells' creations require a soundtrack to be fully appreciated.

On July 11, Wells will present her first artist showcase, where her paintings will be on display at New Brunswick's Gaebel's bar and lounge. The Red Bank resident will not only highlight her poster-quality work featuring her favorite locals in their colorful splendor, she'll present three of those bands, Spiraling, The Churchills and Dibs, performing the rock sounds that have so inspired her.

Chorus and Verse had the opportunity to interview Wells prior to the show to ask her about the challenges of putting together such an event. We also discussed her artwork and the music that she surrounds herself with to bring it to life. We touched upon her debut event, and what great things she's hoping it brings for both her and her scene.

Let's start off with a portrait of the artist. Give us a little background about yourself; where you were born and raised, where you've gone to school, and what you do outside of your painting.

I was born on Christmas Day in Hackensack, NJ and grew up in West Milford, NJ. When I was in high school, I was not the best kid in the world, so I went to live with my father in Sea Bright to gather my ambitions, goals and sanity. After graduating from Shore Regional, I studied fine arts at Brookdale Community College.

Outside of painting, I have a great job at Ray Catena Lexus supervising the customer service department. I also study martial arts and spend most of my evenings in rock clubs checking out bands.

How did your interest in art develop and how did it progress from just a hobby to the point where you're displaying and promoting your work? Have you taken lessons or had any formal training?

My interest in painting started when Shore Regional hosted an art show and I, of course, wanted in. I had never painted before, but I borrowed some paints and a canvas. I stayed up all night and painted the cover of "The Best of Bob Marley the Wailers". Ever since that night, nothing has excited me more than creating a piece. Years later, surrounded by artists, writers, musicians and photographers, I finally want to share my work with them and others.

Did the connection between art and music happen for you immediately? When did you first start doing paintings of bands around the scene, and what were some of the early reactions from the musicians who saw your work?

I've always been a huge fan of music and my paintings reflect that; from album covers to portraits of my father playing the guitar. My brother, James, was in the band Clever Hans and while attending shows, I couldn't help but be amazed by the way they moved. It inspired me, so naturally I painted them. I needed even more inspiration, and the New Brunswick music scene was definitely not running short of it.

I found nothing but support from the local musicians and, on a side note, I find that they always like the ones of themselves the best.

Do you actually create while at live shows, work from photographs, or just from memory later on? How long does it usually take for a piece to be completed, and are you usually happy with the initial result or find yourself reworking it over and over?

I don't paint or draw during shows, but I keep notes as ideas comes to me. I'm huge on my "idea book". I usually work from photographs after shows, though, which I find on the bands' websites. I thank everyone who brings a camera to a show.

The time it takes to fully complete a piece varies greatly. I've finished them in nights and sometimes in weeks. It really depends on my mood and my schedule. Sometimes I will lose interest in a painting and it will take a change in my perception for me to finish it. I just go back to an unfinished piece when it's time.

What medium do you prefer to work in? How would describe your style, and are there any artists whom you draw inspiration from?

I prefer to work with acrylics, for the simple fact that they dry fast. I'm impatient.

My style, I guess, if I could make up a name for it, could be considered pop-impressionism. I'm a huge fan of all the impressionists and Picasso.

Talk about your local music scene. Where do you usually like to catch live shows, and who are some of your favorite bands? What do you look for in a subject that you want to capture on canvas?

I think the local music scene is great. I am blessed to be involved. I feel that I have made a family. I love the Court Tavern [in New Brunswick, NJ] and the Saint [Asbury Park, NJ] is great, too. I'm so thankful for the clubs that don't sell out and hire cover bands.

I have so many favorite local bands: Dibs, Spiraling, The Churchills, Hero Pattern, Readymadebreakup. I love them all.

Talk about the event that you've assembled at Gaebel's in New Brunswick, NJ, on July 11. How did you go about putting together this combination art exhibition and music showcase, and how receptive was everyone involved to participating?

I had an art show on a smaller scale two years ago and Clever Hans played. For this show, I wanted to share my art like musicians share their music. Since I was painting bands, it only made sense to incorporate the two. Everyone is so stoked to help. It's really been an awesome experience. Beau from Dibs and James from Clever Hans have been huge helps.

This is your first time as a promoter. It is more exciting or nerve-wracking preparing for the event? What are you hoping that attendees will take away from the evening?

I love putting together this show, but it's a lot of footwork. I'm starting to get nervous, but I think I've done all the right things, so it's really not worth worrying. Worse comes to worst, my friends and I will have a great night. What more could you really ask for?

I want more people to experience what I get to by involving myself in local music. It's a great group of people doing great things. Incredible!

There have been certain artists and photographers who have become well-known for defining the look and style of their music scene. Do you feel that you have the potential to serve as such as mirror for the bands in this area? What do you hope that your work stays about the music being created here?

I am defining the look for this music scene. Plain and simple. As distorted as it might be, this is what I see when I'm at a show. And, I'm proud of the bands and the work I've done putting this show together.

Do you think that this event will be a one-time deal, or is there the potential for future shows in the future? Have you gotten a feel yet for the level of interest in being able to combine art and music in this way?

I plan on doing this again with other artists and bands. I get tons of ideas all day long and I haven't been able to apply even half of them to this show. So, I'm sure I'll have another.

Does the fact that New Brunswick is a college town make it easier to put on an event like this here? What would you say is the state of the live music scene and the artistic community around the area?

It really doesn't matter if it's a college town or not. It's summer. It's a ghost town during the heat. I lived in New Brunswick for a year and want to finish that chapter with this show.

The state of the scene changes all the time and New Brunswick is lucky to have any clubs at all that have bands playing original music.

What are your goals artistically, and what would you like to be able to do with your artwork in the future?

My goal is to capture feelings with my paintings and bring them to life, to have people understand what I see and hear. I'm currently working on a piece of my roommate and when she saw it, she cried. She had no idea why. I guess she just cared like I care, about her and the art that she inspired.

I just want people to care like I care.

Sunday, July 11
Erin Maura Wells Artist Showcase
with Spiraling, The Churchills and Dibs
at Gaebel's Lounge
85 Church Street, New Brunswick, NJ
Tel: 732.247.3131
9 pm, 21+, $6

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.