Guest blog by Macabre Americana co-founder (and frequent CronArtUSA Blog Contributor) Blake Pfeil
Since December 2018, my folk collective Macabre Americana has released one new song a month, each tune paired with a different social justice initiative that’s important to us. (Example: last month, we released our ode to Mother Earth on Earth Day, “Mother.”) One of the most exciting parts of releasing a song a month is the fact that we’ve partnered with six different visual artists who have all helped us design the album artwork for each release. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I knew that there was only one person who could do the artwork for “Black Dog.” Enter Ryan Cronin.
Being part of the CronArtUSA family, I’d shared many candid conversations with Ryan and his wife Melanie: dialogues about history, art, community, and mental health. Seeing as all four of these topics merged into Macabre Americana’s folky-bluegrass anthem “Black Dog,” dedicated to mental health awareness, it made sense to approach Ryan to create the album art. Ryan is an avid music lover (and musician himself), and his Americana-themed visual art always speaks volumes about the social, political, and cultural complexities this country faces every day. Paired with his own unique love of history, it felt like a match made in heaven, so when he agreed, I was over the moon. I’ve been a huge fan of Ryan’s art since I first laid eyes on it a couple years ago, and getting to partner with him on this release was like a dream come true.
When he unveiled the “Black Dog” artwork for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There it was: the chaos and darkness of Winston Churchill’s supposed mental illness, illustrated on paper, chronicling both his apparent fight with depression, as well as Macabre Americana’s own, fictionalized twist on the story, which modernizes Churchill’s own internal battles through a modern lens. Icons of war, addiction, trauma, loneliness, all pieced together on a beautiful canvas, adding a new, intricate layer to our tune “Black Dog.”
There’s a debate to the validity behind Churchill’s “black dog,” which he supposedly called his depression; and while it’s impossible to say whether or not the story behind Winston Churchill’s “black dog” is true or not (historians are divided on the issue), one thing’s for certain: it’s a palpable symbol woven into the history books which, fact or fiction, speaks volumes about the present-day mental health crisis-- and how we have the opportunity to change it through the power of human connection.
Ryan Cronin’s album artwork for “Black Dog” is available for purchase at CronArtUSA. Please contact Melanie for details: 845-430-8470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A portion of the proceeds will go to the American Federation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Initiative, AFSP's signature fundraising series which brings together friends, family, and supporters in more than 400 communities nationwide, with the common goal to stop suicide.