Jerry Garcia lives on in those who play his music…but now, also in rare, exceptional and never before seen ways.
By Steve Houk
You know, it’s like he never left.
Well, hold on, that’s not really true, and if you say that to most Deadheads, you’re likely to get a dirty look at the very least, one that speaks of their ongoing period of grieving ever since that fateful August 9th 1995, a time of mourning that never really goes away. Because in reality, Jerry Garcia did leave, as in pass away, too early, and despite his well-known struggles, too unexpectedly for many to still comprehend a couple decades later. His absence is still deeply felt whenever you hear that unmistakable voice and guitar, in either Grateful Dead music or his own canon of solo work, or like just recently, a superb new collection of some of his very early jug band bluegrass music. The guy is desperately missed and always will be.
Lucky for those who continue to revere and respect Garcia, there is an almost infinite wealth of bands around to preserve his legacy and keep his music alive, from the “survivors” like Dead and Company and Phil Lesh’s incarnations to dozens of excellent Grateful Dead-related bands who certainly carry the torch properly and proudly.
But there is also a side of Garcia some fans know of but not all have fully appreciated, or been able to — his deep love of creating art, a passion he had to the point of carrying a sketch pad on tours and capturing moments and times and people and memories, with one well-known sketch being that of a desperate drowning man, clearly symbolizing his father, who had drowned on a fishing trip when Garcia was 5. But Garcia’s raw artistic abilities and vision was sometimes almost a parallel expression to his music, it was who he was offstage, yet was kept largely in the background and over the years, never widely shared.
Until now. Any representation of Garcia’s art that has come before is nothing like what will grace Washington DC beginning this Wednesday, thanks to a highly innovative art-meets-technology firm, Strax Art, the principle brand of Strax Technologies, the official worldwide licensee of Jerry Garcia’s artworks and the presenter of limited edition digital art collections and film experiences. Strax has joined forces with none other than Garcia’s daughter Trixie and Garcia’s estate to present the groundbreaking Jerry Garcia Music and Art Exhibition, hosted at The Hamilton Live in conjunction with the venue’s second annual “Days Between” Concert Series, which as many Dead fans are well aware are the days between August 1 which is Jerry’s birthday, and the 9th, which marks the anniversary of his passing. The art will be officially on view August 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 9th.
But for this “Days Between,” both Jerry fans and those who aren’t even Jerried will appreciate the level of care, innovation and just plain love of the man that went into presenting this unprecedented exhibit of the musician’s artworks, presented in new and different ways never seen before. And throughout the course of the week that the exhibition resides at the Hamilton, musicians like Dark Star Orchestra’s Jerry channeler John Kadlecik, plus Live Dead & Riders 69, Dead on Live and The Garcia Project will be playing the music of the man amidst this groundbreaking presentation of Garcia’s art.
So how did StraxArt get to be the ones who are annointed with the privilege of not only exhibiting but in many cases even discovering and curating the lost art of one of rock music’s most revered legends?
“It was an almost surreal experience how it all happened,” said Eric Singleton, CDO of Strax Technologies Inc., the parent company of Strax Art. “We first met with Trixie and we weren’t sure how the meeting was going, we didn’t know of that we were making our mark, and so I just went for it and told her how much we wanted to be a part of this project, and after what seemed like an interminable three or four seconds of silence, she turned to her associate and said, ‘Well, when are we going to start with these guys?’ ”
But that was just the beginning of this particular long strange incredible trip for Singleton and his colleagues. They had no idea what they were about to walk into when they went to meet up with Trixie and assess the collection.
“We went out to California and met Trixie in the midst of all of these unearthed treasures of Jerry’s, some were in drawers that had never been looked at since he did them, some had, well, remnants of his life, it was all like it had never been touched. She said, ‘OK well I’ll be back later, enjoy yourselves’ and we looked at each other like, ‘Wait, what?’ We preceded to pore over this hugely rare material with our mouths hanging open. We would get teary eyed often and get chills and not believe what we were finding. Hand written lyrics too, it was Jerry right there in all of the things we were finding.”
Singleton and his crew carefully gathered the treasures they found in the vast Garcia cache and have compiled what is truly a masterpiece collection, the largest one of Garcia’s art ever assembled with many pieces for sale to the public. And as a wonderful bonus, Trixie will be heard on video during the exhibit as well, bringing the aura of Jerry even more palpably into the room. It is not lost on Singleton what a responsibility and an honor it is to be a part of such a wondrous discovery, one that can be shared with those who consider Garcia to be a treasured part of their lives, even almost 25 years after his passing.
“We’re just thrilled Trixie trusted us to present Jerry’s art in a a way that would be not only dignified, but exciting and new and in some cases, unlike anything anyone has seen before.”
So, thanks to the bands that play his music, as well as people like Eric Singleton and Trixie Garcia, Jerry may be gone, but he really never is very far away.
For more information on the Days Between Concert Series and Jerry Garcia Music and Art Exhibition at Hamilton Live, 600 14th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20005, click here.