Elton John's songwriter to unveil new visual art at exhibit

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Bernie Taupin is known for his longtime musical work with Elton John, but the British songwriter's visual artistry is stepping into the spotlight through an art exhibit.

Taupin's artwork called "Bernie Taupin: The Artist, The Raconteur & His Blowtorch" will be unveiled at the Galerie Michael on Friday. The exhibit will feature 20 unseen, life-size sculptures and artwork made from barbed wire, shattered guitars and various American flags.

The exhibit runs until June 30.

"This is inspired by things that inspire me," said Taupin, who is credited for co-writing an array of songs with John including "Rocket Man," ''Bennie and The Jets," ''Tiny Dancer" and "Candle in the Wind." He is portrayed in John's new biopic "Rocketman." He's also written for Alice Cooper and Willie Nelson, and released three solo albums and two others with a band called With Farm Dogs.

Taupin has been creating visual art since the age of 17, and he says his work has appeared in museums and exhibits throughout the U.S. The 69-year-old said his visual artwork is an extension of what he spent his life creating through words.

"This is a comprehensive overview of my work," he said. "It's certainly one of the largest that I've ever presented. This is very much me in the moment."

Taupin said veterans and family members of veterans who were killed in action donated the flags to him. The flags include images of Captain America and Johnny Cash along with chicken wire.

Some of the flag artwork on display has a clean or weathered look. He intentionally burned pieces of the flag during his creation process to show the different elements of American patriotism.

Taupin said using the flag was an obvious choice, calling it an "iconic" artifact. The British-born songwriter said he is fascinated with the American flag because it is a "thrilling representation of the drama that this country is built upon. The good and the bad."

"It's got so much history attached to it," he said. "For me, it's a very heroic symbol. I always say it's been battered and burned, but it has this ability to come back and unify people. Inspire people. Hopefully within the framework of my work, that's what it's doing."

Taupin also created visual art with thought-provoking messages without the flag. He has a piece of artwork with Woody Guthrie's "This Machine Kills Fascists" famous line, while another piece read "I Don't Play Rock 'n' Roll" with an assembly of broken guitars underneath the message.

Michael Schwartz, founder of the Galerie Michael, called Taupin one of those "rare creative geniuses."

"I thought to myself, 'How will his art compare to the level of his genius and his writing music and poetry?' But I was shocked," said Schwartz, whose 40-year-old-plus fine art gallery has featured works from Rembrandt including originals from Picasso and Renoir.

"(Taupin's work) has the same vibration," he continued. "It has this unique quality of somehow being able to communicate on an inner basis. A visual basis to people."

Taupin said his approach toward writing songs and creating visual art is totally different.

"One is visual, one is sonic," he said. "One is created in a much more visceral atmosphere than the other. The art is very loud and noisy. When I write songs, it's very quiet and tranquil. It's as simple as that."

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31

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