How has music influenced your artwork and if you listen to music in your studio as you work, what are you listening to and why? Charles Gute

Charles Gute

I think there’s always been some lurking suspicion in the back of my mind that composers are the real “artists,” and visual artists are just posers. This may just speak to my own insecurities, since I left music school to become a visual artist. During the late eighties I had a real crisis in my work, in which I couldn’t see the point of making anything unless it would have the formal beauty and power of, say, a Beethoven symphony. Eventually I resigned myself to reproducing Beethoven’s works and iconography using kid’s craft materials, which seemed like an honest solution, if nothing else.

untitled (Beethoven bust), 1992
Courtesy of Patricia Sweetow Gallery, San Francisco
Play-Doh, 12 x 6 inches

Recently I had the opportunity to work for 6 weeks in a studio in the woods of New Hampshire. For some reason I just couldn’t get enough early Terry Riley in that setting: Poppy Nogood and A Rainbow in Curved Air, over and over. There was also a CD library with works by previous residents, which I raided regularly, discovering some new favorites: Rebecca Moore and Joshua Fried come to mind.

A lot of my work these days is text-based, and I find that I can’t listen to any music with lyrics and work in the studio at the same time. So I have a huge playlist on the iPod with instrumental-only stuff, which lately I just put on shuffle. It can be a bit schizophrenic — Town and Country to MJQ to Bach to Henry Flynt to Morton Feldman to To Rococo Rot — but it seems to keep me awake.