“Rock Gods:” Celebrates National Rock n’ Roll Locally

By Gabrielle Fellows

On May 29 at 6:30 p.m., the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center will be opening its doors to the history of rock n’ roll art and photography.

“Rock Gods” consists of black and white photographs of popular musicians by photographer, Janet Macoska that have been colored by cartoonist and neo-pop painter, Chris Yambar.

Around 200 photographs were colored by Yambar in a four month period using a reverse-painted glass technique that Yambar calls “a secular stained-glass homage to the rock gods themselves.”

Alongside the artwork will be live entertainment from The Pickups and The Tribe of Eos.

“Rock Gods” is a partnership between The Mahoning Valley Historical Society and Artists of the Rustbelt, an organization that promotes and organizes regional artist markets. Artists of the Rustbelt is currently in the process of molding the group into a non-profit arts incubator.

The show focuses on the talents of the three artists running the show: Macoska, Yambar, and Tony Nicholas.

Macoska’s photographs have been published in the likes of Rolling Stone, Vogue and The New York Times, as well as been used in various rock n’ roll documentaries. Her work is displayed permanently in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and has been used by many national rock acts as album artwork.

Nicholas, a Youngstown native, studied studio art and photography at Youngstown State University. He was adjunct faculty at YSU and has been president of the organization Artists of the Rustbelt for the past three years. Nicholas is known for his concert photography and has had his work used on many regional band CDs and promotional material.

Yambar is a well-known artist, comic book creator, indie publisher and children’s book author. He is most recognized for his work with “The Simpsons” and his own comic, “Mr. Beat”.

Macoska requested that Yambar color her black and white photographs for the exhibit, saying “Chris Yambar is a madman.”

“His use of color never fails to amaze,” Macoska continued. “It adds a whole new dimension to my photographs, one that collectors like a lot.”

Yambar said he is excited about showing the rock collaboration to the public, especially at the Tyler History Center.

“I was raised on classic rock music. Queen, KISS, Beatles, Sex Pistols, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper. Next to coffee, these performers were my creative drugs of choice … I can’t imagine painting without their influence blaring in the studio,” Yambar said. “ The leadership [at the Tyler] is very smart and they have a beautiful building. The Historical Society and the Artists of the Rustbelt built a huge bridge to connect the artists and the public. They use it to bring the public into the new Tyler building. It’s grabbing attention … and using it to make history.”

Only 300 tickets are available for “Rock Gods.” Tickets are $10 a piece and include a limited edition signed poster and a drink voucher. They can be purchased through the Mahoning Valley Historical Society by calling 330-743-2589.