Viola resident featured at Ash Flat Library

Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Photo/ Susan Funnell Pictured above is Viola resident Ben Christy, an artist in the tri-county area whose works of art are on display at the library in Ash Flat.

The Ash Flat Library is hosting a unique display of artwork created by Ben Christy, a resident of Viola.

Among the works of art and possibly one of the main works featured is a piano named Lucy.

Raised on the the Oregon coast in Portland, Christy said since he was a child, he had an interest in creating cartoons and caricatures.

“Ever since I was little, I loved cartoons, newspaper comics and things like that. I’m a big fan of Garfield and I love to draw funny cartoons for people to make them laugh” Christy said. “That’s all I ever wanted to be was a cartoonist. I never wanted to learn any other kind of art, but now I wish I would have.”

The piano, serves as a tribute to the Beatles, a famous rock band from the 1960s and hidden throughout the artwork on the musical instrument are many snapshots of the Beatles career.

Christy said he is mostly a self taught artist, although he did attempt to take some classes during his formative years, he said it simply wasn’t for him.

“I couldn’t stand art classes and I didn’t like being told what to draw, so I stuck with cartooning and it’s just something I’ve always loved. I am mainly self taught. I did take a life drawing class in college, but other than that...” Christy said.

As his talent developed, Christy said he taught others the craft while living on the Oregon coast and after relocating to Fulton County, he volunteered at the Viola Elementary School, even creating a cartoon yearbook of students grades kindergarten through sixth grade.

“It was a blast, I didn’t realize there were 196 kids when I started and it took me a little over a month to get it done. Next to the piano that was my biggest undertaking,” Christy said.

When asked how the piano project had come about, Christy said initially, it was a piece which had been requested by a business owner in Mountain Home.

“The owner of Flashbacks in Mountain Home had the piano and wanted me to paint 1960’s American rock icons. He didn’t want a whole lot of the Beatles, but I started out with ‘Imagine’ on the front. I had put Jimmy Hendrix on one side, Janis Joplin on the top and as it developed, we changed our minds because of the Beatles on the Ridge Festival in Walnut Ridge,” Christy said.

The plan was to paint the piano and try to sell it at the festival, but Christy said it was not ready in time for the event.

“It wasn’t ready in time, so I kept working on it. There are 33 songs all over it, some are obvious and some are harder to identify. For example, the Revolution 9 song, there are 199 nines hidden throughout the piano and the bench,” Christy said.

When asked how long the project had taken, Christy said he obtained the piano in June and started working in late July.

“It was supposed to be done by the end of September but wasn’t so I kept working on it at a leisurely pace. I finished it in January. I also had a couple young artists that helped with some of the parts. Their mom had hired me to teach her oldest son to draw caricatures,” Christy said. “He is 16 and is an amazing artist and when I saw him draw caricatures I was like wow, ‘I want to learn how he does it.’ His name is Kevin King and he actually did the original drawing on the Beatles on the top of the key guard. He also did most of the faces on the sides.”

In addition to the songs and other tributes to the Beatles painted along the piano are a set of LED lights which flash in a variety of colors.

Christy said although he had hoped to have 37 songs represented on the piece, it was not possible with the space available.

In addition to the piano on display at the Ash Flat Library, other works such as cartoons and caricatures are featured.

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