Nancy Stula has a way with rock stars.
Last year, when she was director of the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Stula brought in an exhibit of artwork by Courtney Love.
Now she's director of the William Benton Museum of Art in Storrs and she's lured an even bigger prize: Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. "Ronnie Wood: Art and Music" opens March 28 at the museum on the campus of University of Connecticut and runs through Aug. 10.
"Those artists really fascinate me whose work is eloquent in both mediums," Stula said. "Courtney Love's music is very raw and her images are also very raw, with lyrics on them. Ronnie takes more of the approach of a storyteller."
Wood, who attended Ealing Art College in England before pursuing a musical career, contributed 24 pieces to the exhibit in several media: pastel on board, digital and acrylic on canvas, ink on paper, lithograph, as well as some labeled merely "canvas," which present images in a variety of media.
Images of the Rolling Stones predominate, some presented as a band, some in quartets of individual panels: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Wood himself, who joined the band in 1975. "There is lots of art out there created by fans of the band. I think it's just fabulous to look at these made by one of the band," Stula said. "They're intimate, an insider glimpse, almost like family portraits."
Another section in the gallery is dedicated to nudes. One, called "Bum," is of Wood's wife, Sally, created by photographing her and then putting the photo into the Brushes phone app and manipulating it digitally. Two, both called "Falling Nude," are the result of a simple change of perspective. "They were reclining nudes, but he just turned the canvas onto another side, so now they're falling," she said.
Two "raw panels" were inspired, Stula said, by Caravaggios that Wood saw, in which exposed chalk drawings can be seen on the canvas in the midst of the finished painting. The subject of the raw panels is the Stones. In one, Mick sings in the center, a completed painting, with drawings of Jagger and his bandmates surrounding him. In another, the band performs with studies of their own faces hovering like ghosts.
The most charming element of "Art and Music" are a series of 10 pen-and-ink on paper drawings Wood made in 1974, when Wood and Rod Stewart were members of the band Faces. Wood drew a series of "A Variety of Annoyances": a man trapped in an old-fashioned beach changing tent, a hotel room full of horses, a train making a sudden stop, a preacher performing tricks, a man perusing an unmarked gravestone. Stewart wrote poems to go with them. Stula could not get the poems to use in the exhibit. In context with the poetry, the images would have been clearer, but on their own, they're silly and fun.
Stula hopes to send her exhibit on the road if other museums are interested.
She is trying to arrange a visit to the campus by Wood. He was scheduled to do a Skype session during a reception on Thursday night. That was cancelled after L'Wren Scott, Mick Jagger's girlfriend, committed suicide and the Stones postponed its worldwide "14 on Fire" tour. "He was supposed to be in Brisbane [Australia] but the band dispersed," Stula said. "He's on an island somewhere where he can't be reached."
RONNIE WOOD: ART AND MUSIC will be at William Benton Museum of Art, 245 Glenbrook Road, on the campus of University of Connecticut in Storrs, until Sunday, Aug. 10. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekends 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. Details: www.thebenton.org.