Former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted spoke to 94.3 The Shark radio station about his first major international exhibition of his contemporary art, titled "Rawk", which is debuting at the third edition of Art New York at Pier 94, opening Wednesday, May 3, and continuing through Sunday, May 7, to kick off New York Art Week.
Jason began painting in 2005, after a series of shoulder injuries and subsequent surgeries left him unable to play his instrument. The work began as a hobby, and it wasn't until a year later that he considered showcasing the results.
"It is another chapter, certainly, going into the visual arts like this," Newsted said (hear audio below). "The enthusiasm is really important. You have to show people that you're excited about it for them to be excited about it. And it's no pretend or anything, it's just how I am — I'm psyched about things, I immerse myself in them, I become obsessive about them. I let them become me, I become it. That whole thing has to happen in order to get somewhere. That's how I've always played my game, and it's worked out pretty good for me. I've gotta stay intense and keep chasing it. I try not to ride on my laurels."
He continued: "I'm proud of my past, I'm proud of what METALLICA does now, and I'll always be a part of that and always be a part of their support system. Those things are positive things, so I just try to kind of keep on that trip. And this art thing, I chased it pretty severely in 2009, '10 and '11, had my first show in San Francisco that was just kind of a smaller show. But now I've been given this opportunity that fell from the sky to go and show these pictures to people and talk about music again and all that. So I'm grabbing this by the horn, throwing up the horns, making it all happen."
Others have taken notice of Newsted's gift, including his ex-bandmate, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich, who brought his son to the opening of Jason's 2010 exhibition.
"I want to make sure to show great respect right now and give props to Lars Ulrich for introducing me to art route, or outsider art," Newsted said. "He is the individual human that opened that door for me. He showed me my first Jean-Michel Basquiat piece in person that he owned a painting of it in the kitchen, that type of thing. So I think he may be a little surprised that I grabbed on to this and proud of it at the same time. He came to my exhibition in San Francisco in 2010, and I'm really hoping that he comes to this one. I'm gonna send him an invite."
Jason told Guitar World magazine that Ulrich "was exposed to some really cool works early on because of his international upbringing. I remember one of the first times I went over to his house, he had all of these framed pictures in the game room that looked like children's art. He told me it was actually art by grown people with mental impairments. It was so new to me and was really interesting. Then we go upstairs and there's that [Jean-Michel] Basquiat painting ['Profit I'] he eventually sold hanging up above the stove like some fucking knick-knack. [Laughs] It was so huge, and the simplicity and complexity of it was so appealing. Through Lars, I was able to be introduced to a lot of different people."
Some of Newsted's paintings now go for tens of thousands of dollars. "Most of my work is abstract, mixed-media," he said in a 2013 interview. "Giant pictures about five by ten feet; plastic and acrylic. I also do some sculpture. I have eight or nine hundred pieces since 2004 and have studios in three different cities across the country. Some of my pieces go for maybe $150 for a little picture and some are $40,000 for a giant one. So there's something for everyone." Newsted said he was very influenced by Basquiat, Jean Dubuffet and Picasso. "Those guys are my BLACK SABBATH, MOTÖRHEAD and RUSH of painting," he said.