MidCity has begun work honoring the late rock and roll legend Little Richard in a big way – a 40 foot by 30 foot mural. And Logan Tanner, a Huntsville artist, is responsible for it.
Many rock and roll aficionados may be surprised to learn of Little Richard’s deep roots in Huntsville, Alabama, but there is a history there. In fact, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer felt so connected to the city that he was buried here at his request. And Huntsville wants to celebrate this through art.
I meet with Logan on a drizzly Tuesday outside of the mural, which spans the east-facing side of the Wahlburgers restaurant building at MidCity.
“[MidCity] approached me and said they wanted a Little Richard mural,” says Logan as he hoists cans of paint from the back of his minivan. “This is shortly after he had been buried in Huntsville and it was still very fresh on everyone’s minds, and we figured it was a good way to let people know he has a connection to this city.”
Logan had previously worked with MidCity to honor late rapper Mac Miller during their event, Mac Miller night, where he painted a live portrait of Mac as a tribute.
“This is the biggest wall I’ve painted at one time,” Logan tells me, peering up at his project. It’s an amalgamation of several different images of the late, great Little Richard rendered in loud, harmonious colors – warm oranges, teals, and purples. It suits the dynamic personality of the prolific rock and roll singer.
While not technically Logan’s biggest mural – the psychedelic dogs in Lowe Mill take that prize – the Little Richard mural is the largest single-wall piece he’s painted. The projected time frame for this project? “Two weeks,” Logan says with a shrug, as if it’s casual. “Three, if it keeps raining.”
This chill, hyperzen attitude pervades the entirety of our interview, even as we encounter minor obstacles like rain, a shaky scissor lift, and a small hive of wasps.
“I’m not scared of heights,” Tanner explains as he keeps a tense hand on the lever, eyes fixed anywhere but on the ground shrinking below. “But I don’t particularly like them, either.”
I’m more concerned about the wasps, but Logan dismisses my fears with the same calm, even manner with which he seems to approach everything.
“Nah, they’re my friends. They were cool with me last time; we have an understanding.”
And he’s right. We sail smoothly past the wasps and up to the top right corner where Logan leans forward, pausing only once to steady himself on his feet, and begins to paint. He’s working on a ray of golden yellow that will gradually become a gradient into a bright, pop-art orange as we talk, and for someone so soft-spoken and humble, he is forthcoming about his work, what inspires him, and the Huntsville arts scene.
I ask if there were difficulties in getting this project off the ground. Logan muses for a moment before relaying the handful of steps he’d taken to get to a starting point: finishing up in-progress projects, renting his first scissor lift (though it isn’t his first time using one), and grappling with COVID-related technicalities. But after getting all of these pieces in order, Logan says it’s a fairly simple process.
“I finished the outline and the palette beforehand. There’s something nice about having everything, even the colors, planned out, and then you just come in and it’s a coloring book page. You execute, it’s very simple – it’s more meditative, I guess.”
I ask him if he feels a connection to Little Richard, and he paints a few thoughtful strokes before answering.
“I’m a fan of Little Richard. I like his popular music but I prefer his slower, more soulful pieces. And really, it’s quite an honor to be associated with Little Richard. He influenced so much of what music is – he influenced the flamboyant and androgynous looks and sounds, everyone from Prince to Michael Jackson down to the Beatles.”
This freedom of expression and boldness to be true to oneself is reflected in much of Logan’s existing work. He’s the genius behind several local murals, most recently the 54-foot long technicolor mural spanning the back wall of local tiki paradise Phat Sammy’s. When asked about the creative process behind that work of art, Logan smiles and references the Instagram-famous mermaid of the mural.
“They said I could free the nipple, but I ultimately decided against it.”
The result is a bodacious fish-headed mermaid with one arm crossed coyly over her generous chest. A little tease with your tiki.
He also painted several murals in Lowe Mill: the stairwell pieces, both dancing dinosaurs and psychedelic dog. There’s also a Gospel-based series at the Downtown Rescue Mission in the men’s dining hall, where he has one final mural left to paint: the Crucifixion.
But murals aren’t Logan’s comfort zone, which makes his work all the more impressive.
“If I had to paint anything it’d be smaller canvases like oil paintings where I can really finesse the details and stuff.”
One such piece is currently on display at the Huntsville Museum of Art as a part of their Red Clay Survey, an exhibition of contemporary Southern art. This piece is called Leviathan, and as Logan describes it, “It’s Leviathan who’s been slain – it’s the dragon that God slew. In my paintings, I work with the chaoskampf. This one is after the battle with Leviathan cut open, and the wild animals feeding on him.” An apt piece for the 2020 exhibition.
To see Logan’s Little Richard mural in person – and you really should – you can check it out at Huntsville’s MidCity district and watch the progress as he wraps it up. You can also follow Logan on Instagram to see what he’s up to and buy some of his weird, funky pottery.
“I never accepted the idea that I had to be guided by some pattern or blueprint.” – Little Richard, 1932 – 2020
Grace is the Content Director of HuntsvilleMusic.com and lives in Madison, AL, which really isn’t that far, guys.
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