Considering he once borrowed a stage name from a Bob Dylan LP, it’s clear that Wesley Stace is indebted to musical history. Lately, though, the artist who used to perform as John Wesley Harding has been further bringing musical history into the digital age, with emoji versions of classic album art.
“When I’m on the treadmill, I often text or send emails to pass the boring time and these popped up last Friday,” Stace says. “I can’t remember why or which one was first, though I think it was maybe Velvet Underground and Nico–basically eight white squares and a banana. It made me laugh. A guest was trying to guess what they were, and that made it a fun parlor game, so I thought I’d tweet it.”
As of this writing, Stace is up to 51 entries in the series, and suggests that he is done with it. Scrolling through his Twitter account, however, you can see some of the inventive ways he’s used the pictorial shorthand to convey the images in the original art of albums like David Bowie’s Heroes and Pink Floyd’s Animals. The most lasting image of Nirvana, the cover art for Nevermind, is represented in a tweet with a bunch of wave emoji grouped around a baby head and a dollar sign.
The musician never had a specific catalogue he planned to work his way through, rather he just reached for any gem that occurred to him in the moment. The ones he chooses tend to be minimalist masterpieces he can do from memory, and the process only takes him a few minutes per cover. While the habit of deconstructing everything online for deeper meaning might lead one to question whether there is a message here about the current state of album art, or the insufficiency of emoji, there is not. It’s just a man amusing himself and others with an innocuous implement of modern technology.
“I’m thrilled to finally find a form of visual art I can do,” Stace says. “It might be time to move on, though. I’ve done this for almost three hours.”