Jim Thorpe artist creates poster for famed rock group
The year was 1988 when an emerging New York artist named Victor Stabin, now of Jim Thorpe, sat down in a New York City bar with a saxophone player from a band called Los Lobos, a Mexican-American rock ‘n’ roll band from Los Angeles.
Last June, and 35 years after their meeting, Stabin attended the band’s concert at Penn’s Peak and reconnected with Steve Berlin, the sax player. Following a conversation that centered around Stabin’s artwork, the band visited his gallery in Jim Thorpe at the artist’s restaurant, the Café Ariel. They loved his work and commissioned Stabin to make them a poster in tribute of their 50 years of musical touring.
“I hadn’t done anything privately commissioned in 15 years,” said Stabin, who had previous experience working with a rock band. He had designed an album cover for the rock group, Kiss titled “Unmasked” that was released in 1980.
Stabin has lived in Jim Thorpe for 20 years and is well-known in town for not only his artwork and restaurant, but also for the gig he has parking “28 visitors’ cars in a half hour” during the fall foliage weekends that bring thousands of people to the area every year during the month of October.
He studied at the Arts Student League in New York and his creations and illustrations have received prominent acclaim as a 20th century surrealist depicting reality as something dreamlike and illogical.
Stabin was not directed to create a specific concept for the Los Lobos poster by any member of the band.
“The concept was mine. I decided to use the wolf; Los Lobos in Spanish means ‘the wolves’ and it has an historical symbolism for the band.”
In the summer of 1984, Los Lobos recorded their first major label album titled, “How Will the Wolf Survive?” National Geographic had published an article about the group’s struggle to find success in the United States as a rock ‘n’ roll band with Mexican roots.
In 1987, Los Lobos attained international recognition after the band recorded its version of the song, “La Bamba,” originally sung by Ritchie Valens, who died in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. The band was nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
To enhance his visualization of the concept for the poster, Stabin researched illustrations.
“I Googled pictures and drawings of a wolf howling at the moon,” he said, “but of course, I had to associate the animal with a musical theme. I used the head of a wolf on top of a full moon. His teeth are protruding over the neck of a guitar.” Stabin included artistically designed letters to spell out the band’s name.
He was under a deadline that did not allow him much time to complete his project. “I had about a month, but before we had a finished product, I had to send the poster to Los Lobos so that each member of the band could sign it. The poster is now a limited edition that they will sell at their 50th anniversary concert tour venues.”
Stabin described his creative method for the poster as more of a street art technique, a genre by definition that is for public display and makes a personal statement - in this case about the early struggles for recognition by Los Lobos and ultimately to represent their perseverance and international success.
“It’s a form of advertising, but not as raw as cartoon art,” he said. “I refined it to create what is uniquely mine that comes from my passion to represent the band.”
When band members saw Stabin’s painting of a Ferris wheel scooping up fish in the seat buckets as it rotates through sea water, they suggested that he contact the music group Phish, an improvisational band inspired by the Grateful Dead.
“I just might pursue that idea,” he said with a laugh.
Stabin’s “Fish Ferris Wheel” is part of his Turtle Series, which he describes as “mostly autobiographical allegories,” mostly painted in oils on linen.
Also part of the series is “Daedal Doodle: The ABC Book for the Ages” which is a collection of images that invite school children into a world of “unimagined possibilities” as he calls it. He was asked to teach a class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York about the making of “Daedel Doodle.”
What’s ahead for Victor Stabin is unknown and he seems to like it that way, but for now he will continue to expand his art gallery and bring pride to Jim Thorpe. It’s been suggested that he create a new poster with an appropriate symbol that represents his hometown community.
“I am seriously considering that idea. Perhaps a black bear would be a central part of the theme and if we can sell the poster and also turn it into a billboard to help the tourism market, we could raise revenue to make improvements around town which could include refurbishing sidewalks.”
He may have worldwide popularity and a rock band status, but his gallery, restaurant, and now, an idea to create an original artwork poster as an illustration of Jim Thorpe, Victor Stabin is giving back his appreciation to the town in which he loves to live.