David Welker is the widely-known artist who designed the famous “Rift” album cover for Phish. He’s partnering with HeadCount as an artist for the #GoVote campaign, too. In this interview, Welker tells HeadCount about his show at the Bottleneck Gallery in Brooklyn, his passion for the masterpieces of Dvorak, and his belief in the importance of youth voters in politics.
HeadCount: Please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
Welker: My name is David Welker. I’m an artist and musician based in New York City. My life and my work is heavily influenced by Cultural Anthropology, 20th Century Surrealism, Underground Comix and the modern Low Brow or Pop Surrealist visual aesthetic otherwise known as Conceptual Realism. Music is the driving force behind my art.
The cover of Phish’s “Rift” is one of the most iconic pieces of art our scene has ever known. How did you get that opportunity and what other opportunities has it led to?
I sent a postcard to the Phish mailing list back in 1992. A week later I got a call from Trey asking if I’d like to do an album cover for them. The next day I was in Burlington eating spaghetti with the band and discussing the theme of the album. Over the next month I worked closely with Trey and Mike to develop the art. Although this piece could have paved the way for an illustration career at the time I somehow found myself in the world of private landscape mural commissions for over a decade afterward. It wasn’t until 2009 that I finally found my way back into the illustration and poster market. I’ve since managed to do art for some of my favorite bands and it’s been one of the most rewarding phases of my entire career. My poster art caught the attention of premier art reps Bernstein & Andriulli and I’ve been under their fantastic representation since 2010.
I’m developing my gallery repertoire in between poster projects nowadays, although I see many of these illustrations as cross overs or transition pieces to the fine art realm in and of themselves. My most recent show at Brooklyn’s Bottleneck Gallery was essentially a series of adaptations of recent poster projects. I’m always trying to blur the line between fine art and commercial illustration and I see it all as a part of one artistic journey.
What music most inspires you?
For me Antonin Dvorak is the father of modern music and probably the single greatest creative influence in my life. The pieces he wrote while in America just before his death in 1904 were some of the most far reaching musical journeys any composer has ever created. The American Quartet, The New World Symphony and his supreme master work the Cello Concerto in B Minor are to me the most transportive and emotionally engaging pieces that exist in the history of music. He so far transcended all the musical genres of his time as to have forged a new language altogether. Every movement in his Cello Concerto in B Minor suggests a narrative, a visual, a raw emotion, a time and place, an event, a heartbreak, a triumph. It never stands still. It never repeats for the sake of repetition. It moves and transports the listener continuously along a visceral, emotional, narrative path. It so aptly describes the time and circumstances in which it was written as to give the listener perhaps the most pure glimpse in to the past of any medium of communication.
Can you tell us a little about your #GoVote artwork?
I wanted to make a piece that conveyed action, motivation and optimism.
Why did you get behind HeadCount and this initiative?
Headcount reaches young music lovers. There is vision in this scene. The world is evolving in positive ways despite much resistance and ignorance. It sometimes seems like factions in this country would like to take us back to the dark ages, but younger voters are looking for true cultural progress.