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Miles Davis: The Most Interesting Man in the World

With a new exhibit of the jazz master's paintings opening in Napa, his family reminisces about his amazing proclivity for every single thing in the world.

The Napa Valley Museum exhibition features 35 original paintings by Miles Davis. Here's a preview of the work on display.
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The Napa Valley Museum presents Miles Davis: The Art of Cool, a special exhibition of 35 paintings by Davis opening June 8. Some in the public might be surprised to learn that Davis was a painter as well as a musician, but according to his son Erin Davis and his nephew Vince Wilburn Jr, Davis was a man of many talents. Basically, all of them: To hear them tell it, there was almost nothing he wasn't good at. Miles Davis was:

-A prolific painter.

Wilburn: "He'd have Erin and me running all over L.A. getting canvasses and brushes, and we'd come back and he'd have his overalls on looking at something he'd just painted laid out on the dining room table. We have everything from doodles he did on napkins to full-blown, fifteen-foot canvasses. When you think about the way his mind and his creativity worked, it's all there on the canvas. You can see it."

Davis: "He'd hang paintings off the balcony to dry so he could look at them upside down, horizontal, whatever. He was always visiting different museum and different artists in every medium. He just started painting because he loved it and it blossomed into a whole other face of his career. The average fan just knows his music, but when you look at his art you realize it's crafted the same way. There are colors throughout his music that you can see on these canvases."

-An ardent sportsman.

Davis: "He owned a couple of horses and he had a silver bowl full of ribbons from them. One day I saw him riding and he was clearing two, three foot jumps. He'd try to get me to ride those things but I didn't want anything to do with it."

Wilburn: "He loved boxing and he was an avid swimmer. He was always the first one up in the morning and the last one to go out at night. The only thing I can't imagine him doing is surfing."

-A tireless academic.

Wilburn: "One day he was talking about the stars and all of a sudden he sent us out to get this gigantic, top of the line telescope so we could take it down to the beach. Once he set his mind to something he always wanted to do it top-notch."

Davis: "Once we were watching auto racing and he turned to me and said said, "Did you know this is the highest level of auto racing in the world?" And he started explaining everything about it he'd learned from all the auto racers he knew from around the world. He always knew enough about everything to show me the ropes of it."

-Basically, everything known to man.

Wilburn: "You're talking about a man who would change his clothes four or five times a day; he was the best chef I ever knew; every day with him was like an amusement park ride."

Davis: "He was known for his fashion sense, his taste and style, he loved art, Ferraris, you name it. His music overshadows everything else he's ever done, so I'm really excited for the exhibit, because I loved everything he did."

Miles Davis: The Art of Cool runs June 8 to July 28 at the Napa Valley Museum.

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