SOMERSET -- Somerset's two-day outdoor music festival Master Musicians Festival which is held each July is more than just about the music.
Capturing the spirit of the music festival is something visual artists have done on canvas for years now. Last year's headliner, John Prine, was immortalized not only in a close-up portrait by Josh Mitchum, but also on the side exterior wall of Jarfly Brewing Co.
Now, Jason Isbell's guitar is getting turned into a work of art.
Isbell, with his band the 400 Unit, were the featured performers at the 26th-annual Master Musicians Festival (MMF), but the featured artist was Josh "Spanky" Bunch of Corbin.
Bunch, a friendly and humble fellow when he speaks, sees the opportunity to contribute a one-of-a-kind piece of art to a festival like MMF to be auctioned off to help support the non-profit effort as a blessing.
"God has been great to me. In the last few years so many doors have been opened," said Bunch. "We have had the amazing opportunity to get the work out there in meaningful ways."
Bunch's brand has grown through networking, and pointed to current State Supreme Court Judge Debra Lambert, a familiar face in Somerset, as an advocate of his.
"It is an amazing feeling to have that kind of support," he said. "Friends and benefactors like Debra are truly stakeholders in any good thing I accomplish, in any good thing we do together. ... I'm so grateful to Debra and the MMF board for believing in me."
Tiffany Finley, MMF Board President, noted that "someone nominated Bunch" to be this year's MMF featured visual artist, and the suggestion was a good one.
"We loved his work," she said.
It was a match made in heaven, as Bunch loved the work MMF organizers have done over the years as well.
"I love MMF!" he said. "I am a huge fan of Kentucky's great music festival. The event is so well rounded and organized. The music and energy brought together is like homestyle cornbread and beans -- it fills you up and feels you up. You won't mistake that you are at an event put together by music lovers. MMF has grown to be a mark of distinction on our Ol' Kentucky landscape."
He was inspired to create a painting of Isbell's guitar, a personalized Gibson design. Like every MMF-commissioned artwork, it was auctioned off to the highest bidder.
"Jason's music is so very textured, thoughtful and transportive, it was easy to draw inspiration from his lyrics and life," said Bunch.
Bunch paints in mixed media with layers of varnish. "I usually use acrylic products as a base," he said. "I like the vibrance of acrylic colors and finishing the piece with resin."
His hope for the painting is to "see it be a worthy vessel for MMF in raising support for this unique Kentucky event we are so proud of."
"The biggest challenge was the self-imposed pressure to create something at the level MMF and Jason deserve," said Bunch. "I hope we got it right. I turned on Jason's music and used it as a soundtrack.
"I wanted the painting to hint at a deeper story ... an imperfect path to purpose. I wanted this guitar to do a little walking and talking. Instruments are buoyant. They are vessels of both light and dark.
"In Jason's music many things are naked," added Bunch. "His work is emotional. He is an heirloom artist. His work will be handed down like an old quilt from generation to generation. It will outlast the trends."