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Vinyl albums spin new art

Argyle Fine Art's Vinylview finds new delightful uses for old seven-inches.

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There's no question vinyl records are no longer the prevailing way for people to listen to music. That doesn't mean they're dead to everybody.

Records certainly look better in all their seven-to-12-inch glory than CDs enclosed in flimsy jewel cases. And, while CDs continue to lose the war with mp3 technology, vinyl sales are on the upswing. The Recording Industry Association of America found that sales for LPs increased by 37 percent in 2007, while CD sales dropped by 18 percent.

Adriana Afford, owner and director of Argyle Fine Art, has her own nostalgic attraction to records. Her dad was a disc jockey back in the '70s and '80s. She's since become a record collector herself.

Now Afford is having the chance to combine her two passions in her gallery's newest show. Vinylview finds artists from a variety of disciplines working to create art from vinyl albums.

Over 60 artists will be displaying pieces that range from beautiful two-dimensional paintings to three-dimensional creations that jump out at the viewer. Who would've thought a record and stylus could create a charming hat or that a 12-inch record would make good material for a sexy dress?

The show has been fun for Afford, who says staff at the gallery have toyed with the idea of a show incorporating records for almost two years. With older folks having a nostalgic attachment to vinyl and younger music fans rediscovering the pleasures of "stacks of wax," Afford says the show will attract a varied audience.

The musical element of the show is an aspect that will prove integral to its crossover potential. "How many people who go to shows go to the gallery?" Afford asks, rhetorically. She says the vinyl show compares favourably with a skateboard art show the gallery presented in the past, which garnered the attention of people who don't normally take in art exhibits.

It was the uniqueness of the show's subject that attracted Chester-based artist Malcolm Callaway to contribute to Vinylview. Known mostly for his paintings of boats and rural scenery, Callaway ventured into unexpected territory with his Betty Boop painting. He carved his 12-inch record into the shape of the cartoon character's angular head, then painted her face onto the surface.

The challenge of working with new materials made for a fun diversion from Callaway's more well-known work.

Halifax artist Dan Helle was similarly inspired by having the opportunity to work with material that he otherwise wouldn't consider. "A show like this really pushes an artist to either go that extra mile or just get nutty with the subject matter," he writes in an email.

Helle took his Bette Midler album and completely vanquished it, leaving behind no trace of The Divine Miss M. Taking inspiration from the title of a Deerhoof song, Halle created an album cover for the imaginary band The Forty Fours, a group he envisions having "a very raw, very fast, noisy punk" sound. He painted over the original artwork of the Midler album and even added a label.

The overall look is very retro, featuring a female singer in a beehive-like hairdo anda gap-toothed drummer flailing at thedrum skins.

The piece was based on an earlier sketch that Helle had done, which he wasn't fully happy with. With the new design, Helle brightened the colours and gave the image a more vintage, early-'60s look. It's an idea he may even continue to build on: "If I had the time, I would have recorded original music and pressed that to vinyl...maybe that's the next step."

Afford is playing up the musical nature of the show by having some pieces displayed at venues hosting the Atlantic Jazz Festival. The gallery will also be donating a portion of their artwork sales to JazzEast Rising, which offers musical workshops for school-aged youth.

And to top it all off, the Jazz Festival is including Argyle in its gallery crawl, where an audience can travel to three galleries to hear performances while viewing the art on display. It's a music-informing-art-informing-music-informing-art cycle, all at 33 rotations per minute.

Vinylview, July 10-August 4, Argyle Fine Art, 1869 Upper Water, 425-9456. Opening Thursday, July 10, 7-9 pm, featuring a live performance by Dreamsploitation.

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