Dressing up the King in ‘Black Velvet Art’


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There he is for all to behold, the King, with microphone in hand, on a black, velvet background. The image of Elvis is beyond tacky, the art form is the epitome of kitsch. Black velvet and art are terms that seem mutually exclusive unless, of course, you are a devotee of these works that have a rich and, surprisingly, diverse cultural history.

Much of that history comes together in the book “Black Velvet Art” by Eric A. Eliason with photographs by Scott Squire (University Press of Mississippi). Eliason, an English professor at Brigham Young University, and Squire, a Seattle-based photographer and filmmaker, track black velvet art’s beginnings in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and its growth along the U.S. border in Mexico, especially Tijuana, which is now considered the capital of black velvet painting.


So feast your eyes, if you dare, on our gallery of images from Eliason and Squire’s book.

--Jon Thurber