This November the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) celebrates the combination of imagination and artistry in inlaid guitars. Guitars are an iconic part of music history and will make their mark again with this exhibition that showcases more than 30 instruments. MIM is the only location in the world hosting this exhibition.
Opening Nov. 5, 2016, “Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces” presents a collection of instruments featuring inlay design created by some of the greatest contemporary North American inlay artists and luthiers. The exhibition is presented in partnership with the Maryland-based inlay company Pearl Works, with the majority of the pieces coming from the private collection of Larry Sifel (1948 – 2006), the company’s founder.
Each of the instruments illustrates the transformation of bold imagination into reality, from snarling dragons to delicate floral patterns as well as re-creations of historic artwork. All of the instruments displayed are of limited edition or one-of-a-kind creations, many of which have never before been on public display.
This exhibition consists of guitars, banjos and one ukulele, featuring inlaid artwork created from materials including abalone shell, mother-of-pearl, gold, copper, wood and others. These materials are manually fitted onto the instruments with diligent precision, transforming each one into a unique masterpiece.
Highlights of the exhibition include:
Dragon Electric Guitar, 2002
Pearl Works (inlay) / Jeff Easley (inlay design) / (Paul Reed Smith Guitars (PRS) (maker)
Designed by Jeff Easley, an independent designer, and inspired by the movie Jurassic Park this guitar depicts a close-up view of a dragon’s head covering almost 90 percent of the body.
The materials used include shells, mammoth ivory and other exotic elements. Once the design was installed on the guitar, the surface was airbrushed by Paul Boyd, a longtime PRS employee.
Martin D-50 Koa Deluxe Acoustic Guitar, 2003
Pearl Works (inlay) / C. F. Martin & Co. (maker)
This instrument’s inlaid work depicts Martin’s traditional Tree of Life design. The vine patterns are cut from dark-heart abalone shell and are outlined in mother-of-pearl.
Prior to Sifel’s involvement, the Martin guitar company was unable to expand any standard production models with this level of decoration because it could not effectively be duplicated beyond the one-off examples.
Night Dive OM Guitar, 2004
Pearl Works (inlay) / Grit Laskin (inlay design) / C. F. Martin & Co.
This instrument illustrates the process of collecting shells for inlay. The center of the fretboard depicts divers collecting abalone shells, rendered as if seen through rippling water.
Chuck Erikson, known as the “Duke of Pearl,” holds a lantern that lights the scene and gathers the shells that the divers collect. Sifel is depicted with his power saw inside a boat, and Grit Laskin, an inlay artisan, is peering into the scene from behind the boat.
The materials for this piece include reconstituted stone and Corian.
“MIM’s newest special exhibition is a superlative example of what can be achieved with strong partners who share our vision of showing how we innovate, adapt, and learn from each other through music,” says April Salomon, MIM’s executive director. “Guests will be astonished by this remarkable collection of inlaid instruments that, at once, reflect an uncompromising dedication to guitar craftsmanship and extraordinary artistic innovation.”
Dragons and Vines: Inlaid Guitar Masterpieces
Nov. 5, 2016 – Sept. 4, 2017
Musical Instrument Museum / Target Gallery
For more information, visit mim.org