Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



Tomb Raider
Artist travels world to rub celebrity gravestones
by Jennifer Parello

This article shared 3436 times since Wed Nov 15, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Scott Covert is merging onto the expressway after leaving the Westwood Memorial Park cemetery in Los Angeles. At the moment, he's too excited to talk.

'I'll call you back in five minutes,' he says. 'I just got Truman Capote and I'm so happy.'

The visit to Capote's grave signified the end of a cross-country odyssey that took Covert to the tombs of such disparate famous figures as Dred Scott and Mary Kay Cosmetics founder Mary Kay Ash. Covert drove more than 14,000 miles in less than a month in order to create the paintings of celebrity headstone rubbings that make up his new show at the Craig Smith Gallery in Harbert, Mich.

Covert stumbled into a career as a grave-rubbing artist in the mid-1980s during a visit to the grave of Florence Ballard, one of the original members of the Supremes. A longtime admirer of Ballard, Covert made a pilgrimage to Detroit to pay homage to the singer, who died at age 32 in 1976.

'But when I got to the grave I realized I'd forgotten to bring my damn camera,' Covert said. 'So, I got a piece of paper from my car and made a grave rubbing. When I looked at it, I said, 'Oh, this is genius.''

The project that grew out of that experience—named 'The Dead Supreme' in honor of Ballard—launched Covert's art career. He began traveling to cemeteries around the world, draping large canvasses over tombstones to capture the epitaphs of such famous figures as Frank Sinatra, JonBenet Ramsey, the Shah of Iran, Emmett Till, Marilyn Monroe, Cole Porter and Anwar Sadat.

Covert specializes in frottage, the technique of creating a design by rubbing a paper or canvas against another object. After priming a canvas with acrylic paint, he uses oil-based crayons to rub inscriptions of tombstones onto canvas.

Some paintings showcase a single celebrated figure. Judy Garland, for example, has her own canvas. Her name, birthdate and date of her death stretch across the white canvas like a grim marquee, decorated only with a mad scratching of black crayon and a spray of glitter. Other paintings feature a collection of deceased individuals who are connected with each other through a profession, such as sports or music. But many of Covert's most popular paintings mix the names of dead celebrities who had only a tenuous connection in life. The pairings can be funny, poignant or just plain weird.

One of Covert's personal favorites is a painting that combines the grave rubbings of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Kennedy family matriarch Rose Kennedy, who share a loose link through Cold War politics. A painting, called 'Screaming with Laughter,' mingles names of dead comedians with famous murder victims. Another pairs red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy with the Three Stooges.

Covert, who was part of New York's East Village art scene in the 1970s, began selling his frottage paintings in the late 1980s. He had studios in Paris and New York until 2001, when demand for his work collapsed.

'No one wanted a gravestone on their wall after Sept. 11. I went broke,' he said. 'So I moved back to Michigan to regroup.'

Covert relocated from 'a nest of lesbians in Beverly Hills' to his mother's hometown of New Buffalo, Mich., about 60 miles east of Chicago, and set up a studio in Michigan City, Ind. Covert's work caught the attention of Craig Smith, who operates galleries in Harbert and Union Pier, Mich.

'No one has ever seen anything like Scott's work before,' Smith explained. 'He has taken pop art and married it to an abstract expressionistic action style of painting. It's very unusual to find an artist who combines those two movements in one painting and who does it as well as Scott.'

Covert's new show at the Craig Smith Gallery features more than 30 paintings created during his recent cross-country safari. During the trip, he made dozens of rubbings, including those of baseball's Roger Maris ( Fargo, N.D. ) ; author Sinclair Lewis ( Sauk Centre, Minn. ) ; murder victim Teena Brandon, the subject of the movie Boys Don't Cry ( Lincoln, Neb. ) ; Tennessee Williams ( St. Louis ) ; Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and Maybelle Carter ( Henderson, Tenn. ) ; William Faulkner ( Oxford, Miss. ) ; actress Greer Garson ( Dallas ) ; Margaux and Ernest Hemingway ( Ketchum, Idaho ) ; Jimi Hendrix ( Seattle ) ; and heiress Abigail Folger ( Colma, Calif. ) , who was murdered by the Charles Manson gang in 1969, along with Sharon Tate.

'I always get a Sharon Tate [ grave rubbing ] when I go to California—always!,' said Covert. 'I loved her. I knew who she was before she was dead. I worshipped her.'

In Garden City, Kan., Covert visited the graves of the Clutter family, whose murder was immortalized in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. Near Leavenworth, Kan., he added the names of the Clutter's killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. In California, he completed the canvas with Truman Capote.

'I didn't know if I'd be able to get [ Capote ] ,' said Covert, 'that's why I was so thrilled that I did.'

Many cemeteries like Westwood, where Capote and scores of other celebrities are planted, refuse to tell visitors where the famous dead are buried. At some cemeteries, Covert walks for hours over acres of corpses, searching for famous names on tombstones. Through his travels, he's met many other people who like to spend time at cemeteries. Often, it's through these cemetery junkies that he learns where the bodies are buried.

'It's like a cult. There's a whole underground community of people who like to go to cemeteries,' said Covert. 'I met this guy at Rita Hayworth's grave ( in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Calif. ) . He cleans the gravestones of these old actresses. It's more of a devotion than a hobby. He bought his grave plot just because it overlooks Mary Astor's grave. He knows where everyone is buried. He asked me, 'Do you know where Mitzi Gaynor's hairdresser is buried?' He knows that type of stuff. When I met him at Rita Hayworth's grave, I knew we'd be lifelong friends. But then I lost his phone number. A year later, I ran into him again at Bela Lugosi's grave. He's friends with all the old stars. He took me to Loretta Young's funeral.'

Some stars are beyond his reach, however. They are either buried in cemeteries that do not allow tombstone rubbing or, like Johnny Carson, they have been cremated and their lives have not been commemorated with a grave marker.

'I almost cried when I found out Christine Jorgensen was cremated and scattered in the ocean,' he said. 'It broke my heart. I really wanted the first man who became a woman.'

'The Dead Supreme' runs though Nov. 26 at Craig Smith Gallery, 13648 Red Arrow Highway, Harbert Mich.

For more information, call the gallery 773-750-7528, or visit as well as . Craig Smith Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you want something closer to home, one of Covert's works is currently being exhibited at Plan B Gallery, 7453 Madison St., Forest Park. Call 708-488-1833.

This article shared 3436 times since Wed Nov 15, 2006
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

LGBT History Month: '40s and '50s instant photography gave LGBT people 'Safe/Haven' 2021-10-15
- Two men dressed in drag for a tea party, and two women cuddled up at the beach. Today these might be benign photographs but, in the early 1950s, they were memories shuttered away from public view. ...

Gay News

ART Contemporary yet timeless exhibition 'Young, Gifted and Black' arrives at Gallery 400 2021-10-13
- To be a Black art collector is to stand on the shoulders of a proud lineage. Throughout history, Black patrons have supported Black artists when nobody else did. Bernard Lumpkin—a New York City-based art patron, educator ...

Gay News

ART Van Gogh balloon celebrates installation's extension to Feb. 6 2021-10-11
- Following a maiden flight in Toronto to herald the return of the city's "Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit," Lighthouse Immersive's Vincent van Gogh hot-air balloon made its way to Goebbert's Farm, in the Kane County village of ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Songs for Nobodies 2021-10-07
- Title: Songs for Nobodies. Playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith At: Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. Tickets: $30-$89. Runs through: Sunday, Oct. 31 You won't find their names in the history ...

Gay News

Chicago Inclusion Project offers anti-racism workshops for arts organizations 2021-10-05
--From a press release - Chicago, IL—The staff of The Chicago Inclusion Project is excited to launch a new workshop and continuum developed by staff members Jessica Vann and Arti Ishak. The workshop, entitled "Being Anti-Racist: An Active Action," is designed ...

Gay News

ART Nick Cave, Bob Faust to unveil 'Rapt on the Mile' on Michigan Avenue 2021-10-04
- The Magnificent Mile has recently installed a monumental, multi-story public art installation entitled "Rapt on The Mile" that renowned artists (and couple) Nick Cave and Bob Faust created. The mural, which now wraps the 679 N. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Queer/Art,' sports items, Kevin Bacon, Indya Moore 2021-10-03
- Queer|Art—New York City's home for the creative and professional development of LGBTQ+ artists—announced the fall season of Queer|Art|Film, returning in person through Dec. 13, a press release noted. The line-up ...

Gay News

Crystal Lake's Raue Center for the Arts opens new school 2021-09-27
- On its 20th anniversary, the Crystal Lake, Illinois-based nonprofit organization Raue Center for the Arts has launched a new school. Raue Center School for the Arts (RCSA) will provide youth and adult classes in a wide ...

Gay News

Month-long Open House Chicago 2021 to feature in-person site visits Oct. 16-17 2021-09-25
--From a press release - (September 20, 2021) CHICAGO — Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) announced that Open House Chicago 2021 will again offer its popular in-person, indoor site visits, providing rare behind-the-scenes access to more ...

Gay News

ART The Peninsula hosting installation by Bob Faust 2021-09-23
- The Peninsula Chicago, 108 E. Superior St., an art installation featuring Chicago artist Bob Faust—half of a power couple of the art world, with Nick Cave. Titled "with all, and still…," this exhibit debuted mid-September and ...

Gay News

Chicago's holiday cultural and arts events to reopen for in-person 2021-09-23
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today announced DCASE fall and holiday programming as Chicago's vital arts scene continues to safely and fully reopen. In-person holiday ...

Gay News

Art Institute workers forming union 2021-09-22
- With backing for a majority of employees, organizers at the Art Institute of Chicago announced they are asking the museum to voluntarily recognize the first labor union at the cultural institution, The Chicago Tribune reported. The ...

Gay News

8th Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival on Nov. 5-7 2021-09-17
- The 8th Annual Black Alphabet Film Festival (BAFF) will take place Nov. 5-7 at the University of Chicago's Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. One of the longest running Black ...

Gay News

Chicago Dance History Project moving to Ruth Page Center 2021-09-17
- Chicago Dance History Project (CDHP)—which investigates, documents and presents the individual and institutional past of Chicago dance—plans to move into The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., as an artist in residence. ...

Gay News

ARCHITECTURE Thompson Center Idea Competition winners named 2021-09-14
- The Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Architectural Club announced the jury's selection of three winning designs for the Thompson Center Design Ideas Competition that represent three distinct, creative visions for the State of Illinois Thomp ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.




About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.