Michael Lichter honors a fallen friend with his exhibit at Sturgis
If it only had a voice, the tales “Viola” would tell. The rigid Pan would say it wasn’t always a Panhead, that once upon a time a Shovelhead hung in its 1950 H-D frame. The motorcycle would let you know it’s named after a Grateful Dead song, “Viola Lee Blues,” because her owner, RichiePan, was a big Deadhead. “Viola” would tell you she’s been ridden hard but lovingly for 25 years and about the times she’s broken down only to be built back up again. The weathered Panhead would tell you about her “Bride of Frankenstein” shifter knob and the bride’s story of resurrection represent her well. She’d sing the song of its owner, Richard “RichiePan” Panarra, and how creativity seemingly flowed from his hands, be it oils on canvas or ink under skin. “Viola” would close by saying how much she misses her owner, a sentiment shared by many who called RichiePan friend.
Because in the sea of polished pieces and immaculately engraved motorcycles of Michael Lichter’s “Skin & Bones: Tattoo Inspired Motorcycles and Art” exhibit, “Viola” stood out on her center stage stand, wearing its scars of the open road with pride. Oil pooled under it, drops of the motorcycle’s lifeblood like tears for its departed owner. Fittingly, “Viola” looked like she’d just been ridden to the Black Hills.
“It felt almost like sacrilege to wipe some of the grease off the bottom when I was shooting it,” said Lichter, the famed photographer and curator of his 16th motorcycles and art exhibit at the Sturgis Rally.
The seeds for featuring RichiePan’s work in Lichter’s annual Motorcycles as Art exhibit had been planted years ago. But the Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s exhibit hall that houses the display is huge and would require an immense portfolio to fill its walls. RichiePan had been working diligently to fill those walls.
“Richie would send me samples of what he was working on and I would write back with encouragement, and if anything, urging him to work more on his irreverent art that came right from his heart,” wrote Lichter in the show’s mission statement.
Unfortunately, RichiePan’s life was tragically cut short last year. This didn’t stop Lichter from honoring his spirit with the 2016 Motorcycles as Art show.
“Over the past year, I communicated with Richie’s wife, Cindy Panarra, and it was decided to go ahead with the exhibition Richie so wanted to be part of. You can imagine how difficult this must have been for her, going through an amazing amount of paintings, drawings and sketches to get it all organized. Thankfully, she had a lot of help from Tommy Andriessan, Tom Birardi and other friends to make all of this happen. While there wasn’t quite the number of pieces we had originally planned, there was enough to fill at least half of the gallery and so to celebrate Richie and his life’s work, the theme “tattoo inspired” was arrived at, the title “Skin & Bones” settled on, and other artists were invited to contribute art and motorcycles to finish it out,” stated Lichter.
“I love Rich very, very much. But luckily, I’m not the only one that loves him very much. He had great friends and family, friends who came out here today,” said Cindy Panarra to the crowd gathered at the exhibit’s opening party.There’s plenty more to this story. Read the full article in American Iron Magazine issue # 343! To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit Greaserag.com. Follow American Iron Magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! To subscribe to the PRINT edition, click here. To receive DIGITAL DELIVERY, click here.