Peer Inside the Colorful World of the Meat Puppets' Cris Kirkwood at Carly's Bistro

Categories: Visual Art
cris kirkwood - 8.jpg
One of Cris Kirkwood's watercolor paintings on display at Carly's Bistro.
If his vibrant paintings and colorful songwriting is any indication, the mind of Cris Kirkwood is a lively place indeed. Just ask the 51-year-old musician and artist himself, who tends to live in his head often.

That's not a slight against Kirkwood -- a founding member of highly influential local rock band Meat Puppets along with his brother Curt -- as he admits to doing some of his better work while living in his head, whether it was collaborating on songs or creating his bizarrely beautiful drawings and paintings.

"I really do just let the things fall on the paper as they will," Kirkwood says of the self-described ink on paper "doodlings" he's created during his lifetime. A number of these freaky-deaky drawings are adorned with watercolor for an added touch of weirdness, which you can experience for yourself via the dozen or so paintings hanging on the walls of Carly's Bistro during the month of March.

While primarily known as a bassist, Kirkwood has also spent a majority of his life drawing and doodling, especially during his childhood days. In fact, both he and his brother began exploring their artistic leanings while being raised in Paradise Valley back in the 1970's.

Courtesy of Cris Kirkwood

​"I realized as a kid that I really liked to draw, but Curt was always the arty one, and was actually into different kinds of arts. And I did stuff with him as a kid," Kirkwood says. "Curt was into drawing and was into certain animators, especially Walt Disney ones, as a kid and some of that rubbed off a little bit. But I always had a penchant for doodling, which I applied to a few things. And since then, it's just become one of the things that I just have always done, like playing music."

The art of both Kirkwood's has appeared on the Meat Puppet's various fliers, album sleeves, inserts, and CDs throughout the lifespan of the band. While Curt's colorfully minimalist paintings (seen on the cover for such discs as Meat Puppets II, Huevos, and Monsters) are more in the vein of Mexican folk art, Cris' works are far more surreal and fantastical. Populated by what could best be described an odd bestiary of monsters and creatures, its the kind of imagery you'd find in only the weirdest dreams.

"The things I draw tend to do tend to be more like comic art almost. I'm like to drawn cartoony kinda crap," he says. "It's just the stuff I've always done. Its just one of those things that I find interesting, like music, where you can let go and just apply yourself to it. At a certain point, the pen just became so comfortable in my hand."

His characters appeared on the CD for the band's 1994 album Too High Too Die, and their record label Polygram even released a promotional coloring book to go along with the disc.

Kirkwood's freaky-deaky drawings take on an even odder appearance when transformed into watercolor paintings.

"I take my drawings and then I enlarge them and paint them. Draw 'em large and paint them with watercolors," he says. "And the colors tend to all tie it together where all the little guys are brightened up and look even weirder."

The weird nature of Kirkwood's art is only matched by his unusual life. After spending years performing at Valley venues in the 1980s, the Meat Puppets rose to nationwide after being signed to a major-label record deal and touring with the like of Nirvana. (They even performed alongside Kurt Cobain on the grunge legend's venerated MTV Unplugged session in 1993).

Location Info

Carly's Bistro

128 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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