By Mike Finkelstein
Bruce Springsteen used to tell a story about how his father, tired of hearing him practicing electric guitar in the bedroom, never wanted to know if it was a Gibson guitar or a Fender guitar. To him it was just a “God-damned” guitar. For budding guitar slingers like Bruce, Gibson and Fender were the two top shelf considerations in an instrument. Though there are many more guitar makers now, these two remain the most desirable for those who know. There is nothing that looks more iconic than the solid body, single cutaway shape of a Gibson Les Paul. In clever fashion, Gibson has been lending this shape to artists to create something special for the community and tying it in with local charities.
On Wednesday night at Hornburg Land Rover on Sunset Strip, ten more giant guitars were unveiled as a third installment of Guitar Town on the Sunset Strip. Guitar Town is a philanthropic project of the Gibson Foundation under the wing of the Gibson Guitar Company. The format gives local artists a 10-foot tall Les Paul shaped replica guitar to work with. Then, drawing on personal musical inspiration the artists go to town on their new canvases. After the guitars are completed, they are displayed on the Sunset Strip or any of several other special locations, and then auctioned off for charity.
The Sunset strip in West Hollywood has now hosted Guitar Town three times. Given its intimate history with the music industry and the clubs on the boulevard, the Strip could, at times, lay as strong a claim as any to being ground zero for rock ‘n’ roll. That said, Guitar Town has also been on display in Nashville and London, for country and rock ‘n’ roll considerations, in Waukesha, Wisconsin (the hometown of Les Paul, who pioneered the solid body electric guitar), and in Miami. The GT project is an obvious boon for the artists involved, for the charities, and for a while, the public gets to enjoy some very diverse, unique, larger than life, and beautiful artwork.
The electric guitar has turned out to be one of the more powerful tools of personal expression ever seen in popular culture. A good idea can grow enormous when electric guitars become involved. So, it follows that a huge electric guitar would make a perfect canvas for an artist to develop a local or musical theme for a street display. Much as an actual electric guitar can blow a song up for a musician and reach listeners everywhere, the huge guitars in Guitar Town draw the viewer in from far away and reveal more detail up close.
The new guitar art ranged from album cover graphics (Love’s Forever Change), to vivid acrylic portraiture (Joan Jett), to gorgeous mosaic (Jose Feliciano), to actual statuary (Debbie Harry), to actual semi precious stone, seashells, and model seabirds (Alanis Morisette’s Utopia album). All of these guitars are attention grabbers and several are downright stunning. Anyone who can find the time in the near future should check the guitars out along the Strip. It is the perfect place for ten larger than life guitars.
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