You might think that a trip to Paris as a teenager would be the most formative experience for a budding artist. But for Jonathan McAfee, who visited the Musée D'Orsay and the Louvre with his high school class in 1998, this wasn't the case. It was a trip to a museum much closer to home, to the Art Institute of Chicago, where a giant work by Andy Warhol set him on his path to be a painter.
"It wasn't until I went to the Art Institute of Chicago and saw the life-size Mao painting from Warhol that I remember thinking that this is something I could do," says McAfee. "So I started taking every art class that my high school [Perry Meridian, on Indy's south side] offered."
You might feel Warhol's presence, which McAfee transcends with his own distinctive style, if you visited his Harrison Center for the Arts studio recently. This presence can be seen in the bold Pop-art colors he used in the composition of his paintings in progress for his new show Some Girls, which will take place at Earth House on First Friday, Sept. 2.
This presence is also there in his subject matter. The female subjects he paints on canvas, with a mixture of acrylic and acrylic house paint, look like they might have made good subjects for Warhol's silkscreen paintings. They're also the kind of free-spirited women you might have met if you had happened to be a guest of the New York City's Studio 54 discotheque back in the 70s and the early 80s — during which time McAfee, 29, hadn't yet been born. (Among the frequent patrons at Studio 54: Andy Warhol and the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger.)
Which brings us to the title of this show, Some Girls. This was the name of the Rolling Stones' disco-influenced album of 1978. The eponymous song, which seldom gets airplay on FM radio, reflects the Stones at their raunchiest.
"I'm not a huge Some Girls fan," says McAfee. "I'm more of an Exile on Main Street fan. But Some Girls came so naturally for the title of this show. Because I feel like this is in your face. It's raw. The show itself is going to be a lively party atmosphere. I've got a great DJ who's going to be spinning records the whole night... a pretty eclectic blend of records."
Listening to the right music when composing his paintings is a big part of McAfee's creative process, but he wasn't listening to the Stones' Some Girls when painting Some Girls. "Some Girls naturally came with its own music," he says. "The last series [of paintings he completed] probably would've had more Rolling Stones influence, more guitar-heavy music behind it whereas this series, each night when I come to paint, I have to have a beat behind it. So I'm listening to a lot of different musicians like Girl Talk and LCD Soundsystem and a bunch of others that just keep the atmosphere light."