Inspired by Jon Langford

Icons as Inspiration

Students from Hillwood High School and Nashville School of the Arts created the following works inspired by Chicago-based artist and musician Jon Langford. Students came to the museum to view Langford’s work and visit with Langford himself. They gained insight from his personal story and learned about his inspirations and his artistic process. Students returned to the classroom with Langford’s work in mind, to create the pieces presented in this gallery. Each piece is accompanied by the student’s artist statement describing the work.

10,000 Years

Alec Smith
Nashville School of the Arts

Painting on wood was an unexpected joy for me. The control over the texture and the amount of mediums that can be used successfully on it was very enjoyable.


Destiny Phillips
Hillwood High School

My Jon Langford piece is centered around the bass guitar because that is the instrument I play. Since we were required to use music as the theme, I put a little of myself in it. The lyrics also mean a lot to me in a different way. Jon Langford’s style was difficult but fun to try out. My own style uses more blending and thin lines while his is bolder colors with differing line widths. It was an interesting experience and a great learning opportunity.

Belly of the Beast

Lily Carter
Nashville School of the Arts

This art is inspired by Jon Langford who normally has a main focal point and lyrics surrounding it. My art has a pig as the focal point because when I heard the lyrics “the belly of the beast” I thought of a pig. I decided to tear up my background because that’s how the artist, Jon Langford, makes his art personal. The pig in my art does not have an eye which represents how blind the music industry is to true talent. On multiple occasions I have heard stories of musicians who have gone to record labels and they have turned them down only to see them, later, making tons of money. The medium that I use to complete this art was acrylic paint, glue, and glitter.

Belly of the Beast

John Curtis
Nashville School of the Arts

Keeping in mind the theme of commercialism, the idea of comfort over integrity, and the premise that, all too often, genius will be overlooked for what sells, my piece uses the lyrics of Jon Langford’s “Winter” as an analogy for my argument. The lines go as follows: “I saw the belly of the beast, It was warm and open…I crawled inside.” In the context of the aforementioned themes, the belly of the beast represents the comfort found in money. In the case of the new potent musicians putting on the yoke of a larger label, the label’s reputation and financial security seems comfortable from the outside. However, once inside, the young artist quickly finds how viscous and restricting the label actually is. The last segment of lines I chose were: “An ocean of being with no sin in them.” This is reflective of the state of modern country, a miasma of people that have not lived to the same degree as those before them. An entire market of people with weak souls and weak lyrics, not into the life of a traveler or poet, but instead, of a formula-governed product.

Bikini Kill Feels Blind

Sophia Swanson
Nashville School of the Arts

My wood panel piece reflects the song “Feels Blind” by Bikini Kill. I deconstructed the lyrics and created a photograph to represent how this song perfectly sums up the sense of alienation young women have when society forces a mindset upon them. Their music is a narrative that gives a form and home to the turmoil and experiences of youth.

Using 35 mm film photography, I stages the model with sheer white fabric distorting the eyesight but still allowing her to see. I printed the photograph onto the wood panel in a darkroom using liquid light developing technique. For the lyrics I used white paint marker.


Jade Burghart
Nashville School of the Arts

I often find myself fascinated by what people can come up with; a platform with horses bordered by lights and pictures of it spinning?

I’ve used the carousel as inspiration for a notable amount of art projects, this one now included. For this piece, I used a dark purple background to bring out the white letters and border. The ribbons on the side are meant to resemble curtains, thrown aside for the main event. The middle was supposed to fade gently into lighter violet, but I settled on a light circle in the middle of the board. My intention was to have a midnight inspired backdrop for the carousel, but it ended up looking for unearthly and space-like.

The lyrics I used are from “Carousel” by Melanie Martinez. It’s a somewhat haunting song with a nice melody.


Jessica Cardonas
Nashville School of the Arts

My painting is a portrait of the rapper/singer M.I.A. The lyrics that I included in my artwork, which are from Jon Langford’s song, “Drugstore,” accurately describe M.I.A.’s music and personality. Her music is loud, edgy, shocking, fun, and controversial. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which is why I admire her.


Masami Agari
Nashville School of the Arts

Jon Langford’s art inspired me to focus on simple figures and death that slowly eats away at a person. I incorporated wood burning and carving to accommodate the medium and acrylic paint as detailing. I used his song lyrics from “Drugstore” to give more life to the paintin

Elastic Heart

Elizabeth Nim
Nashville School of the Arts

In this artwork, I used Sia’s “Elastic Heart” for inspiration to respond to Jon Langford’s art. The heart was drawn to look like elastic rubber bands as the centerpiece. It was mainly focused on the chorus, where the overall meaning of the song was emphasized.

Empire of the Senses

Bridget Curtis
Nashville School of the Arts

This work of art created in response to Jon Langford’s exhibit, features a scene inspired by the 1969 mood landing. The lyrics come from “Empire of the Senseless,” which was a song created by Jon Langford’s band The Mekons.

Fallin' in Love

Melanie Dickerson
Nashville School of the Arts

This piece was inspired by the king himself, Elvis Presley and one of his most famous love ballads, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” I used blue and yellow primarily in the piece and made and used an Elvis stencil to spray paint him on the wood. I also wanted to reflect on some of Jon Langford’s work in my own piece which is why I gave it a more worn and aged look.

Fly Me To The Sun

Miranda Renzi
Hillwood High School

In my piece “Fly me To the Sun”, I manipulated the surface of the image to replicate an old print. My idea came from watching the birds in the wintertime, and how they seemed to live throughout the cold winter months when the sun barely shines, and how their songs were a complete contrast to the scenery around them.

Front Light

Huy Nguyen
Hillwood High School

The process of doing the piece was different, since the piece is digital. It was a bit difficult to choose which image of Mr. Langford would fit in the scenery. The attention was to be focus on the lyrics about how Mr. Langford came from Wales and ended up in the United States. Somewhere in his heart, there must be a time that he felt completely lost in this foreign land.


Blake Lannom
Nashville School of the Arts

Jon Langford inspired me with his skeleton cowboys and sad lyrics. I decided to use a particular lyric from his song “Funeral.” I wanted to express feelings of internal aching which is why the heart is painted with different shades of blue with a rainy hole inside of it.

Girl With Guitar

Savanna Hudson
Nashville School of the Arts

I was inspired by Jon Langford’s rustic looking artwork, so I decided to sand down my picture when I finished it. I also like the way his picture looked like actual photographs. That’s why I wood transferred a picture of me playing the guitar. The lyrics I chose was the chorus of Bruno Mars’s song called “Today My Life Begins.” This is one of my favorite songs because I love the message.

Hold Me Down

Jaya South
Hillwood High School

“Hold Me Down” symbolizes the fearlessness and devotion one must feel to attempt to succeed in the music industry. The statement challenges standards imposed on upcoming artists by the music industry.

It Don't Mean A Thing

Natalie Bullion
Nashville School of the Arts

I wanted to represent the union of rebellious culture that American and the UK have through Jon Langford. I wanted to express the pretty things we associate with the soft, slow guitars of country music. I wanted to express the edgy and heavily distorted, speedy sounds of punk, and the careless attitude that punk rock bands like The Mekons had.

Juke of Jamaica

Kiaya McKissack
Hillwood High School

I used John Langford and Jamaican culture and music for my piece. Using bright sunset colors, it gives the piece an authentic reggae feel to it. I also enjoyed adding the stripes and dots to the female figure because it is supposed to make the figure have a fierce look.

Light Me On Fire

Jackson Jalomo
Hillwood High School

“Light Me on Fire” depicts a figure surrounded by all-encompassing flames, a metaphor for the repercussive nature of the relationship between the fiery passions of a musician and the burdens of fame. The color blue is a representation of how artistic expression of emotion can overcome the hindrance of fire.

Man's Head or His Heart

Joshua Myles
Nashville School of the Arts

When I began this piece I looked at the way Jon Langford told a story. His art is full of great expression created by his destructive scratching and cutting. I utilized this to create a bold piece that tells an emotional love story, while still capturing my style and technique.

Music Will Never Die

Dylan Butzler
Hillwood High School

Every style of music, whether we like that style or not, is a work of art. Music has the ability to display many emotions and feelings, leading us in so many ways. Be it love or hate. It was through my love for music that I was able to relate to his art style. I feel that his artwork is unique due to his reliance on lyrics and song style. I mimicked his style and used that idea in my own ways. I made the original print out using Adobe Photoshop. I left it very simple yet radial. This left room for me to further the detail using paints and pens. It allowed me to add my own unique style and vibrancy.


Donisha Hayden
Nashville School of the Arts

For the Country Music Hall of Fame Project I chose my all-time favorite Artist Chris Jay. AS soon as I was assigned this he was the first person I thought of. I asked him for his permission to use a picture and one of his songs and he said I could. I decided to use his first song “Nebula” so I could have a space theme. This project has been the hardest portrait I’ve ever done. I dabbled with media I am not comfortable with such as pastel and paint. I really wanted to honor the main I thought has the best voice in my generation and I hope I did just that.


Eric Terry, Jr.
Nashville School of the Arts

I call my painting Oubliette because it’s a secret dungeon that can only be accessed through trapdoor. Trapdoors are the main theme for my piece; the lyrics by Jon Langford are from a song he wrote called “Trapdoor” and the center image is a spider known as the Trapdoor Spider. Every part of my painting is hand made with acrylic paint, from the borders to the spider itself. And the reason I chose a spider for the painting was weird and childlike, but when I first heard the song I thought of the itsy bitsy spider song. More specifically I was inspired by the lines, “Done the Trapdoor, down the drain.” The trapdoor part inspired the Trapdoor Spider image, and the lyrics, down the drain, reminded me of the spider going down the water spout. The idea was very simple and creative to me so I decided to work with it.

Pledge To Us

Cassie Chandler
Nashville School of the Arts

My piece was inspired by Jon Langford’s use of skeletons and the American Spirit. The layers of red, white, and blue represent the American Spirit and that however damaged or smothered it may be, it still shows through. The praying skeletons represent how deep our Spirit is ingrained in us.

Queen of New York

Tina Nyugen
Hillwood High School

It was easy to come up with the ideas and layout for the piece, however-it was very time consuming. Doing the details and adding pattern was a little tricky. I wanted it to have a variety of designs. In creating my piece using certain patterns over and over again relates to the patterns and sounds of music to create rhythm. Creating a sense of unity was the most important component. Creating unity within my piece was hard to do, but the use of repeating designs gave my piece a sense of balance. Using the principals of design brought it all together.

Retro Requisite

JoAnna Davies
Hillwood High School

My Jon Langford piece was inspired by retro microphones and hairstyles. I used warm colors (red, yellow, and orange) to contrast with the cool color, blue. The cable of the microphone crisscrosses across the girl’s head and neck to draw attention to the entire figure, and I lengthened the neck to act as a divide between the fire and the water. By enlarging the microphone, I emphasized it as the key component in the entire piece.

Susanna's Dream

Cora Wingate
Nashville School of the Arts

The inspiration for my piece was artist Jon Langford. Although I did not use his lyrics, I tried to implement his style into my art. I used acrylic paint, white-out pens, and sharpie marker. The song I chose was “Oh Susanna,” by Stephen Foster.

That Country Music Feeling

Burton Willis
Nashville School of the Arts

The symbols and colors represent the country and the musical aspects coming together. The song “Say it with Music” by Berlin Songbook is used to represent the feelings and emotions expressed from country music. The arrangement of the song is the background to bring all the elements together.

The Death of Country Music

Blakelyn Hare
Nashville School of the Arts

I chose to incorporate Jon Langford’s “The Death of Country Music” into my piece by using the lyrics, bones, and a skull. The medium I chose was Prismacolor pencils and acrylic paint. I was inspired by Tootsie’s and chose to use it as my focal point.

The Response

Odalis Carrillo
Nashville School of the Arts

In response to Mr. Langford’s work I created something irrelevant and impossibly unrelated. His work focused on the deadly and macabre of the creative restrain on the music industry pressed upon by the rule makers, the big labels, and the expectations set upon by popular culture and demand. In an attempt to make something which correlated with his theme I found myself purposely creating that which wasn’t restrained by the instructions of the assignment, it is simply the product of deep free range of both creativity and impulse. It was about responding to this creative oppression by doing the opposite. In other words you told me what to do and I chose not to do it.

Thunder Lord

Tyler Davenport
Hillwood High School

“Thunderlord” is a combination of digital and pens and markers. I developed this idea based off of a song by Jon Langford called “Drone Operator.” This was the first time I had done a piece like this, and it was challenging but I am definitely pleased with the outcome.


McKenna Perry
Nashville School of the Arts

My piece was inspired by the song “Teeth” by The Mekons. In the song the artist metaphorically represents the pain of war, money, and oppression with set of teeth. I used this and thought of painting a man’s face with expression of pain and him showing his damaged, chipped, and broken teeth to represent the suffering of this world.

Try To Forget

Summer Kyzer
Nashville School of the Arts

My work explored the relationship between the power of song lyrics and art. With the influence of Jon Langford, brilliant artist and songwriter. My painting is created from a sheet of wood with many colors carved into each other. On the right had side a beautiful bird is meticulously carved to where the wood pattern can be seen through at spots. At the bottom there are flowers, also carved, with accents of blue in the petals. Starting from the top left going down there is the lyric, “Try to forget, never forget.” Trying to forget the past, a person cannot because the past is something that makes us who we are today. The bird symbolizes moving towards the future, but never able to forget the past.


Noah Sjoblom
Nashville School of the Arts

Derived from a common hymn, lyrics from “Will the Circle be Unbroken” have reappeared in country/folk songs ranging from “Can the Circle be Unbroken,” by A.P. Carter, to “Daddy Sang Bass,” written by Carl Perkins, and sung by Johnny Cash. Both songs have been covered by many popular country artists such as Michael Martin Murphy, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

In A. P. Carter’s rendition the lyrics tell the story of a man grieving over the passing of his mother, and the emotions he felt over his mother completing the circle of life “unbroken.” In an attempt to make a connection with Jon Langford’s affinity to skeletons, I proceeded to create a piece that encompassed Jon Langford, a skeletal figure, and lyrics that hold weight in both the country music world and the cycle of life.


Brittney Tran
Hillwood High School

For my piece, I had difficulty creating this design, but after a bit of frustration, I went for it. I chose to use the primary colors and black and white. The background is colored blue to almost resemble the earth; the roses show the beauty whereas the web holds everything together. My piece shows how, throughout the world, music is shattered around us. On the corners of the design, I based it off of the symbol you would see in string instruments like the cello.


Nora Butler
Nashville School of the Arts

This piece is supposed to represent how the earlier musicians felt when the big music industries came in and attempted to get rid of them, their name, and their style.


Hailey Overstreet
Nashville School of the Arts

My work explores the wooden block as a new medium. I have never worked with carving before, so I felt like this was a new challenge to grow from.

With influences from sheet music, I kept with variations that are generic enough not to take from anything, but to resemble everything.

Ever since I was young I have been fascinated by the simplicity of the eye, and baffled by the popularity it has drawn among individuals. What starts out as a scientific diagram of the eye could soon become finessed into an emotional expression in one piece, leaving only a sense of sympathy and the prospect of a new understanding of the human mind. What changes a simple eye to something so much more? Is it the experiences people find in their daily lives? Music delves into the depths of emotions, eternally linking people and places with memories of other times. You could wonder what the song of someone’s soul or heart is. Often time, I think, the most common answer any young child or waning figure can give you; the eyes are the windows to the soul, that the music so resonates with.

As eyes and songs reconfigured through emergent and critical practice, the viewer is left with a hymn to the limits of our existence.

Will You Love Me In Valdaro As You Do On Mars

Cher Von Tiedemann
Nashville School of the Arts

For my piece I pondered different public domain songs primarily about eternal love. The skeletons of Valdaro came to mind as this symbol of eternal embrace and love, but it needed a form in life to hold any weight. I chose an old photo of David Bowie and Mick Jagger to represent these hearts still beating as one. The reason they’re burning in hell is for you to decide.

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