The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 26th

Record label merges music with art

LIGHT Art + Design will be showing original iconic art work from some of its most famous albums from popular artists, such as Superchunk, Arcade Fire and Spoon.

The exhibit will run until Aug. 9 and will have an opening reception Friday featuring music from Chapel Hill rockers Shark Quest.

“We knew fans of these albums would love it,” said Maggie Fost, head of the Merge art department and creative director for the anniversary art show. “Seeing these images ‘in the raw’ affords insight into what drew our bands to this work before it became an album cover.”

The show will feature artists nationwide, ranging from designers with years of experience in graphic and music design to emerging artists who worked on specific projects for Merge albums.

LIGHT Art + Design gallery manager Sarah Elbetri said the gallery was thrilled to be involved in this celebratory exhibition.

“They’re encouraging all of this great music and art here, so I think that these things just help bolster Chapel Hill, Durham and Carrboro as being a place that is great for artists,” she said. “That’s what’s so neat about this and what’s so fun is to really try to bolster the artists living here.”

This show is part of the Merge 25 celebration, during which Merge Records has reissued classic albums, given out thousands of prizes and held a 25k road race. A weekend-long concert series will be held as well, with Merge bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, The Mountain Goats and Lambchop performing, among many others.

But the inspiration for the gallery show was a no-brainer, according to Fost.

“The cover art functions as the visual representation of an album or collection of songs,” she said. “As this show reveals, musicians are often talented visual artists, as well. If they’re not, their girlfriends might be.”

This is similar to the case of artist Ashley North Compton, who created the cover art for Wye Oak’s Shriek. The fiancee of band member Andy Stack, Compton worked closely with the band to create a cover for the album she described as beautifully complex.

“I heard (Andy and Jenn Wasner, the other band member) talking about the concept of the album, and I approached them last fall,” Compton said. “We started working together back and forth emailing, just sharing visual ideas and conceptual ideas that way.”

Although an accomplished designer and illustrator, Shriek was the first album art she ever created and was a process that she felt was fulfilling. While experiencing it digitally was exciting, she said she was perhaps meant to experience it in its physical form.

“I feel honored,” she said. “I’m excited to see the other works and I’m curious about how they are going to mount and show these works.”

Fost said Merge records mirrors that excitement.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have tons of fabulous art grace the covers of our records,” she said. “We were thrilled to have a reason to bring a bunch of it together under one roof to share part of the Merge culture in a different way.”

Contact the desk editor at


The Daily Tar Heel for December 1, 2021

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive