As a teenager growing up in the 1960s, Terry Adkins, a fine arts professor in the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, was influenced by the major cultural, political and social events of the era -- and the music of Jimmy Hendrix. Adkins’ recital, “The Principalities,” which opened April 26 at Galerie Zidoun in Luxembourg, features that era and the singer, songwriter and guitarist, who died in 1970 at age 27.
Adkins’ work examines Hendrix from the perspective of his short stint in 1961 as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. Adkins casts Hendrix as an angel descending to earth described by Dionysius the Areopagite in his De Coelesti Hierarchia (Celestial Hierarchy) as being from the sacred order of the Principalities, who are princely angelic soldiers who govern the earthly realm of generative ideas.
Adkins presents his mixed-media work using architecture, sculpture, photography, video, drawings and sound.
Hendrix’s “creative imagination, charismatic persona and avant-garde fashion sense all changed my life,” Adkins says. “His progressive politics and otherworldly musings ushered in my manhood and expanded my consciousness.”
Hendrix’s profound effect on Adkins is reflected in the installation.
“I developed a heightened awareness of Eastern poetics by becoming a student of his compelling lyricism and a full-fledged pacifist upon hearing his Machine Gun,” Adkins says.
Six versions of Hendrix’s song opposing the Vietnam war are incorporated into “The Principalities” installation along with Martin Luther King’s “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” speech.
It’s been a busy time for Adkins, with exhibitions in 5 other galleries and museums worldwide.
Currently, he has a suite of prints, “The Philadelphia Negro Reconsidered,” exhibited on campus at the Amistad Gallery in DuBois College House.
Adkins’ work is also part of a group exhibition, “True North,” which opens in May at the Anchorage Museum of Art.
And, in July, Adkins’ work will be the subject of a 30-year retrospective, “Recital,” at Skidmore College’s Tang Museum.