Blondie: Panic of Girls

2011

Chris Stein, guitarist and so-founder of Blondie, discovered the work if Chris Berens.

“He contacted me to tell me so, we started talking by email and never really stopped.”

At some point, Debbie Harry caught up and joined. They talked a lot about music, art, children, and the daily concerns of musicians and artists.

“My work is much less interesting in that respect, I experience the adventures in my own head. Pretty exciting things are happening there, but in reality I spend 12 hours a day with a brush in my hand on a windswept industrial estate in the fringes of Amsterdam.”

In December of 2009, Berens had a show in New York.

“During our visit to New York Chris [Stein] invited us to his home, a lovely train ride outside of New York, but a snowstorm occurred, Chris was with Debbie in Manhattan at the time and couldn’t go home, so we met up at Debbie’s house.”

They talked art some more and the common ground between their artistic approaches and drives. after a while  Harry and Stein asked if Berens would be open to the idea of creating the cover art for their upcoming, yet unfinished and unnamed album. They were in the midst of recording a bunch of songs and had narrowed the album title down to a short list.

“By the time I got home, they had decided on the album title and I immediately went to work.
I sent them all the new drafts and progress, and they sent me rough recordings and different mixes of new songs. I didn’t listen to the lyrics, but I just played Blondie during the weeks I was working on it. Both new and old material. At the end of each day I forwarded the progress. The next morning I could often count on a detailed email as a comment.”

The large female figures on both covers, front and back, resemble Debbie. During their brainstorming sessions they all preferred to call the tall female figure on the front cover ‘Blondie’ and the portrait on the back ‘the Soul of Blondie’.

“I took a lot of pictures of Debbie on the day we met. I had printed them all out and hung them up throughout my studio. So in essence, the female figures are based on Debbie. For the front cover, at least what is visible. Her eyes and a hint of a mouth. The figures surrounding her have no special meaning, except for the five human figures surrounding her. That’s the rest of the band. The one clad in black has a tale of its own.”

“‘the Soul of Blondie’ [the final title of the painting is Blonde in the Soul] was based on pictures I took of Debbie, when she had just woken up and gotten out of bed. She felt no need to put on any make up or comb her hair. One of the many examples of what a wonderful, uniquely special person she is. In fact, she rooted for this painting to be the front- and only- cover and also preferred my messed up hand-writing to my semi neatly drawn letters.”

For the whole of the project, Berens was appointed art director. All of the art and typography is either by Berens’ hand, or inspired by it.
The cover artwork for Panic of Girls’ first single “Mother” was revealed on May 5, 2011. It displays a band picture digitally manipulated to resemble a Chris Berens painting, like the artwork for its parent album. Elements of the Panic of Girls cover art are used. Also the text is inspired by the original writing by Berens. [source]

Approaching Blondie as an artistic character and persona, Debbie had, for the length of the Panic of Girls world tour, taken on the looks and appearance of the ‘Blondie’ figure of Berens’ cover art. See also this video clip.

See the original work Panic

See the original work Blonde in the Soul

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