Art, Music and the Creationist

What do you get when you give a Creationist a paint brush? In this case, a billboard-sized John Denver album cover. (Joe Taylor painting, Crosbyton, Texas)

Funny how a man and his mule can set out to find something – say a Creationist – and run in to something completely different – like a magnificent painter of album covers.

Some times, they’re the same man.

As I traveled across the USA in my wagon filming the Lost Sea Expedition series, I interviewed all manner of folks – straight off my mule wagon. I didn’t have a film crew, support team or advance crew to run ahead of me to set up any of this. I just set off with a bit of movie-making gear and let the trip evolve organically, one twist and turn at a time. Not tied to any schedule, I felt like a man walking across America with a wagon full of time.

Bernie and Polly take a roadside break
Mule Polly and I take some time from filming the “Lost Sea Expedition” to check out some road side historical markers. They explain how, in the 1540s, Coronado passed through this part of the Texas panhandle in his failed search for “Cities of Gold”.  I maintain that time is the figurative “Golden City” that many of us are searching for. (Blanco Canyon, Texas)

The luxury of having all this time was that I was able to sit down with folks. Hear them out. Listen to their views and ideas. Some days I could finish an interview in 2 hours. Others times, well, it took a few days to get down on camera what I was looking for.

One of my favorite characters I met during the Lost Sea Expedition is Joe Taylor.


Mule Polly is greeted by two young admirers outside the Mount Blanco Fossil Museum
Mule Polly is greeted by two young admirers outside the Mt Blanco Fossil Museum. Joe owns the museum.


Joe Taylor. Here, he is sketching out his view of the 6,500 year old world for me.
Joe Taylor. Here, he is sketching out his view of the 6,500 year old world for me.

Joe is a Creationist. I interviewed him and he told me his views on the 6,500 year old world. That footage (along with origin stories by scientists and Lakota elders) became part of the Lost Sea Expedition series.

After my interview, he told me he wanted to show me something. He steered me to a large room at the back of the museum. It was lined with paintings taller than I. He pointed to the sign next to one. It read:

Art and Music: Before Joe Taylor was into the art of paleontology, he was a billboard painter in Hollywood, California. Taylor painted hundreds of these huge billboards of popular recording artists from 1973 to 1983, and managed to save a few of them. After the boards had been on display for a month, they were painted over. They are all oil on metal or masonite. This is the only collection of these paintings in the world.

Turns out, in the days before large scale color printers, the only way to make large-scale copies of albums was to paint them. Joe had been a top painter with his own billboard painting company “Album Art”.   His work appeared in the largest record store at the time, Tower Records on Sunset Strip. The signs were  hung out front to signal the release of a new album.  A month later, they were painted over when a new album was featured.

Much as I loved them, Joe’s amazing paintings didn’t make the Lost Sea Expedition series. But who cares. To me, they were the beautiful by-product of taking lots of time to hear folks out. I thought you’d enjoy seeing them.


All they need now is an audience. Joe's painted album covers.
All they need now is an audience. Joe’s painted album covers. They are Waylon Jennings’ “The Ramblin Man”, Three Dog Night’s “Cyan”, Joe Cocker’s “I Can Stand a Little, James Taylor’s “Walking Man” and Olivia Newton John’s “Mellow”.


James Taylor “Walking Man”. The theater chairs give a sense of scale to how large these paintings are.


The Ramblin' Man as painted by Joe Taylor. Look carefully in the bottom right corner, and you can spot Joe's signature
The Ramblin’ Man as painted by Joe Taylor. Look carefully in the bottom right corner, and you can spot Joe’s signature.
Young American and Old American: Joe Taylor's painting of a David Bowie album cover in front of a mastadon skeleton in Joe's museum.
Young and old America: Joe’s painting of David Bowie’s “Young American” appears to peer out from under a mastadon skeleton in Joe’s museum.


Art & Music: Joe's Hollywood career before Texas


Mule Polly and I spent a few days with Joe before we headed out. We are still in touch.

You can learn more about Joe and his museum at the Mt Blanco Fossil Museum website. You can even check out more of his album art here.




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