The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


John Fahey's paintings collected and published

American guitarist's latter era paintings published by Inventory Press

The first monograph collecting a selection of John Fahey’s paintings is being published by Inventory Press and Audio Visual Arts. It brings together 92 abstract works in paint and spraypaint, with essays by No Neck Blues Band founder Keith Connolly and critic Bob Nickas.

Fahey began making pictures in the late 1990s, a childhood hobby he’d dropped when he began to play guitar. Towards the end of his life, having largely disowned his musical output, he began making art, which developed into an obsession. Fahey painted on the road and in the hotels and motels he was living in at the time. He gave his paintings away, bartered with them, or just as often, discarded them. In the book’s essay by critic Bob Nickas, Fahey’s former wife Melody recalls one of his common creative processes: “He made these small paintings by putting the powder into wet phone books and then he’d stomp on them...” she says.

The pieces included in the monograph were chosen from around 130 works, unearthed in Salem, Oregon around five years ago. New York's Audio Visual Arts gallery curator Justin Luke said: “Around 2009 I was having a conversation about Fahey with an artist I’d been working with called John Andrew. We were both old fans of Fahey’s and knew he’d painted. Andrew had lived in Portland in the 90s and been to performances where the paintings were being sold at the merch table instead of CDs. He’d spoken to Fahey about including the works in a show he was organising, but it never happened.”

Luke and Andrew then contacted Fahey’s estate to ask what had happened to the paintings, and were directed to an old roomate who had bought them and, as they later discovered, had them stored them under a bed. “We made a trip out there to view the works and were blown away,” says Luke. “Since then I’ve been working with the paintings,” he says, “helping them to be exhibited and placed into collections.”

Some of the works are now in private collections, and others are being stored and are for sale in New York. More info on the book, John Fahey: Paintings, is online here, and you can view a gallery of work from it here.