Artist Tom Noll was putting the finishing touches on a 10-foot-tall guitar sculpture last week, a brightly painted montage of a dozen rock and blues musicians, each playing a Gibson Les Paul.
Noll’s work is one of 30 big and small guitars that are the artistic centerpieces of a charitable fundraising effort called the Waukesha Guitar Town Project, in the place where guitar and musical innovator Les Paul was born and is buried.
Noll is an enthusiastic Guitar Town participant, an artist known locally as the rock ‘n’ roll musician painter who sells prints of his oil portraits worldwide. He’s also a Les Paul fan, having painted the Wizard of Waukesha earlier, a painting Paul autographed on one of his trips “home.”
“It was a natural,” Noll said about the guitar project. “What I love about it is it’s going to be public art.”
When he lets his imagination run beyond the strokes of his paintbrush, he pictures himself on his Harley-Davidson riding down Waukesha’s Main St. and seeing his distinctive piece prominently displayed along the street.
Like Noll, nine other artists won commissions to turn oversize fiberglass guitars into public artworks for installation primarily in downtown Waukesha. Their completion deadline is May 15.
Twenty other artists turned in their artistically finished regulation-size Gibson Les Paul guitars last week. They’ll be shipped Monday to the Gibson Guitar Corp., where hardware will be installed. The guitars will then be returned to Waukesha. The Gibson Foundation is behind the GuitarTown concept and a partner in it, having named seven other GuitarTown cities, from London to Los Angeles.
This story was reported by Laurel Walker of the Journal Sentinel.