Pictura Gallery

Pelle Cass | Artist Playlist

March 2, 2022| Artist Playlist

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Welcome to our Artist Playlist Series! 

Pelle Cass has generously given us a peek into the music that formed the backdrop for his workspace as he meticulously compiled thousands of still photographs to create the rich and dynamic series, About an Hour, now on exhibit at Pictura Gallery.

He succinctly expressed how the songs on his playlist are analogous to the layered and repetitive nature of his creative process, and I personally have found even more connections to explore. The piece that he said to have been most absorbed by, playing it on repeat while he made his images from Crowded Fields, is called Canto Ostinato; and it is full of shifting accents and ostinato rhythm that communicates a sense of dynamic movement much like his images. You can also find many songs that are generally upbeat and colorful which, in my mind, mimic the bright and at times amusing nature of the figures in his photographs. 

Cass shared with us that this music captured the feeling I was trying to convey in my work: intense, dizzy, urgent, chaotic but precise.” Overall, I feel in his music selection, as in his work, there is a balance between these complex ideas that is at the same time inviting and delightful. 

You can read Pelle’s statement below and listen to the artist playlist on Spotify. If you haven’t checked out the show in person, make sure you join us Friday, March 4 during Gallery Walk at Pictura or Tuesdays-Fridays between 11am and 5pm. This show runs through March 26th.

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About the Playlist

I listen to music while I work, of course. A lot of the photoshopping I do is laborious and sometimes tedious. I love doing it, but I need something to occupy the part of my mind that is idle while my hands work. I make the best decisions about composition when I’m not really thinking about it, just doing it. So almost any music I like will serve this purpose. But I also often listen very intensively to one favorite album form many, many hours, over and over. It has to be something I don’t get tired of, obviously. 

It sometimes turns out that there is one piece I end up listening to more than anything else, and Canto Ostinato by the Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt was the case during the making of Crowded Fields. Somehow, this layered and repetitive music captured the feeling I was trying to convey in my work: intense, dizzy, urgent, chaotic but precise. The music helped me get in the mood to work, and more than that, it was the mood of my work. I’ve always liked new things, and while the piece was certainly new to me in the last couple of years, I knew it was old and reflected a moment in the past as much as it spoke to me now. I like to keep in touch with the present cultural moment, and the Canto’s date, 1976, coincides with the very beginning of my adulthood. I was 22 when it was written. So I find it’s a struggle now that I’m 67 to connect to the new. 

I’m grateful to Spotify, believe it or not, for suggesting pop songs for me to listen to that have some relation to now. And some of the songs and musicians become my favorites. I think my work vibes younger than I actually am, and it turns out that a lot of musicians follow me on Instagram. Sometimes I look up the music and wind up listening to it a lot, and once in a while a musician writes to me to use an image for an album cover. In one case, the young musician Zack Villere commissioned work for a song release and made a music video inspired my Selected People series (https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​g​4​o​X​J​z​CWFRk). This is one of the more profound moments of happiness in my career. I may feel a little disconnected from the present moment, but this was evidence that at least one person in the present moment felt connected enough to my work for it to influence his work. 

To me, this is what art is, and what art is for. It’s that I believe that an artist’s job – more than making attractive objects, promoting interesting or provocative ideas, or having a successful career – is to persuade individual people, gain constituents (in art critic Dave Hickey’s phrase), and to influence other artists and artists in other fields. If an artist is lucky, she becomes a maker of culture – the feeling of the times – and that’s the most important job of an artist and the one that means the most to me. The music on my playlist has helped me do my work in a literal way by passing the time. But it’s more than that. I may not know much about music – evidenced by my mishmash of a playlist! – but it, along with books, movies, art and the rest of it, permeates my life and makes my days.

- Pelle Cass