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Scott Avett preps for first museum art show

"Scott Avett: INVISIBLE" shows Oct. 12 through Feb. 2 in the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

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Scott Avett Art
David Menconi, Out
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RALEIGH, N.C."Scott Avett: INVISIBLE” shows Oct. 12 through Feb. 2 in the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. While it is suitable for all ages, some works of art in the show do include nudity.

To prepare for his first-ever museum show at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Scott Avett had to pack up some supplies at home in Concord to bring over to Raleigh. And as soon as he walked into his studio, Avett did a screen-print while he was there because that’s what he does – make stuff, whether songs or paintings, often unconsciously.

“I recorded a song idea the same day, too,” Avett said in an interview. “Nothing too focused, just something I did and put away for later. I have thousands and thousands of fragments, some of them great ideas, but ideas are a dime a dozen. The hardest thing is to follow through and make it happen, whether it’s paintings or songs.”

Scott Avett in his studio, 2017, Courtesy of the artist, © 2019 Scott Avett; Photograph: Airtype Studio
All the same, he’s done pretty well on both fronts. “Scott Avett: INVISIBLE” collects more than two decades worth of visual artifacts, many of them super-sized portraits of himself and his family, and all of the work is quite striking.

And yet Avett is better-known as a singer and songwriter with the Avett Brothers, his band with younger brother Seth Avett. Since the early 2000s, the Avetts have evolved from a scruffy folk-punk trio to a majestic arena-rock big band. They’re a regular top-10 fixture on Billboard’s album chart, and they’ve headlined some of the world’s biggest festival stages.

Their last time playing the Triangle was New Year’s Eve 2017 at PNC Arena. In a nod to the Avetts’ old club-sized roots (Raleigh’s long-gone Sadlack’s was one of their earliest venues), the show featured the trio of Scott, Seth and bassist Bob Crawford leaving the main arena stage to play two songs on a pop-up stage out on the concourse.

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While music is Scott’s primary career, in some ways it’s a less natural fit for him. He earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art from East Carolina University in 2000 and has never stopped painting. In addition to cover art for Avett Brothers albums, he also did the portrait cover for Brandi Carlile’s Grammy-winning 2018 album “By the Way I Forgive You.”

Another of Avett’s album covers is in the “INVISIBLE” show. The cover of the Avett Brothers’ 2009 album “I and Love and You” (their mainstream breakthrough and first gold record) is a stark, dark oil painting that looks as if it might date back centuries.

“My objective with that one was to make a painting you could not place in time, like a Caravaggio from the 1600s,” Avett said. “I wanted it to look like you couldn’t tell when it was painted, like you could look at it in a thousand years and not place it in 2008.”

Scott Avett,Sheep/Wolf, 2013,linoleum block print, screen print,and acrylic on paper, image 8 1/2 x 12 1/2 in., paper support 15 x 16 in., Courtesy of Frank Edwards and the artist, © 2019 Scott Avett; Photograph: Lydia Bittner-Baird
The “INVISIBLE” opening follows an intensive season of touring for the Avett Brothers, who were on the road most of the summer into fall gearing up for the release of their next album, “Closer Than Together” (also due out in October). There will be some scattered live dates this fall, including their traditional in-state New Year’s Eve show at Greensboro Coliseum. But mostly, Avett is hoping to recharge enough to get the creative juices flowing again.

“Right now, I could not write a song if my life depended on it and it’s kind of impossible to even imagine,” he said. “But I’m not concerned. Fall and winter have always been prolific times for me, yielded a lot of creation. We’re actually ready to make the next album, even though this one isn’t even out yet, so it’s on. It has to be.”

David Menconi was a music critic and arts reporter at the News & Observer in Raleigh for more than 25 years. He has written for Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, New York Times and salon.com. His books include the 2012 biography Ryan Adams: Losering, A Story of Whiskeytown (University of Texas Press), and his next book will be a history of North Carolina music for UNC Press.
He also hosts “That Old North State Radio Hour,” a weekly show about North Carolina music, on Capitol Broadcasting's That Station, 95.7-FM in Raleigh, from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Download the That Station app or stream online at thatstation.net to listen.
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