Longtime Elton John collaborator discusses his early artistic process and current work.
As a lyricist, Bernie Taupin has touched the hearts and imaginations of music fans across the world through songs such as "Your Song," "Candle In The Wind" and "We Built This City." But there's a lot more to Taupin than just his songwriting; he's also affected people with his poetry, vocalizing, and artwork.
"Beyond Words: An Exhibition Of Contemporary & Extraordinary Artworks By Famed Lyricist & Artist Bernie Taupin" is making the rounds at select art galleries, with a stop at Nashville's Rymer Gallery beginning March 30, running through April 7. Taupin will be appearing there on the final two days of the showing. Taupin says it's something that has been in his heart for years.
"I was always encouraged in my appreciation of art, literature, and music from an early age," he told Billboard in an exclusive interview. "My mother was very influential of that. It was something that I always have leaned toward. I don't think it was until I came to the States in the 1970s, and I traveled through New York a lot that I got privy to seeing all the museums and all the art that they had there. I would always be attracted to abstract expressionism – especially from the 40s and the 50s. It was something that just always appealed to me, and I really wanted to try my hand at."
However, his lifestyle limited how much he could work on his longtime passion. "I led a very transient life being on the road, and I hadn't put down any roots," says Taupin. "In order to create the kind of canvases that I envisioned that I wanted to do, I would have to find a place to settle down, experiment, and play around with it – to see if I was as good at it as I thought I might be and whether I felt it was worth doing."
A move to California in the early 1990s was just the creative spark he needed. "It became evident this was the kind of place where I could do it," he recalls. "Next to the house there was a complex, and I turned it in my studio, office, and visual arts studio too. There was a large racquetball court that I turned into my studio, and that was about 20 years ago – when I first got started in earnest. Then, about 10 years ago, I became acquainted with some people who really had an eye for what I was doing and encouraged me, and I went through a lot of changes trying to figure out what I wanted to do – like any artist does. I finally hit on something that appealed to me, which was encouraging. For the last couple of years, I've amassed enough back material that we've went on the road with it. It's like being in a band – just a visual thing as opposed to a sonic thing."
He's anxious to bring his work to Music City. "It's exciting on a lot of different levels," says Taupin. "Number one, I love Nashville. It's one of my favorite places to visit. Obviously, I've got a lot of friends there. It's a musical and arts-oriented city, and that's attractive to me. The Rymer Gallery is a gallery that I have a lot of respect for. Jeff Rymer is a great guy, and he has a great eye for art. I appreciate that he wants to exhibit me in his space. We could do a larger retrospective of my work than we've done in the past, thanks to the size of his space."
Many artists feel the meaning of their art – music or canvas – is better left to the interpreter, and Taupin agrees. "Someone will come up to me and ask 'When you wrote so-and-so, what did you have in mind?' My feeling is that it's not important what I had in mind, but what you got out of it.' It's the same thing with abstract art. You have that cliched scene of people studying a picture, being totally befuddled by what it means. At the same time, it's drawing them in, and they're spending time with it. That's what's important, for people to look into something and draw their own conclusions from it."
"Beyond Words" will be on exhibit at the Rymer Gallery in Nashville from March 30-April 7.