Sunday, August 30, 2015

Local Art and Culture...

Kitchen Light (Portrait of the Artist's Father), by D.K. Pritchett

Our small town has been trying to get an arts center off to a good start. Murray Arts Council in Chatsworth, Georgia, has had several small art shows, various skits, children's art activities, and a few classes for adults. Classes for adults and exhibits have been the hardest thing to maintain.

This past week we put up an art show called "Eclectic: Works on Loan from an Artist's Collection." We needed to get a show up quickly, so I offered to pull together my own art (borrowed back from family and friends), and to loan works of art that I own (having traded with other artists over the years). Most of the artists were North Georgians, who had ties to LaGrange College in West Georgia.

When I called my artist friends, several of them offered to add a few more pieces to the show. The final exhibit was a success, as much for the art, as for the mix of artists and friends who gathered to enjoy the art. A crazy coincidence: one of the artists ran into an old friend, a fellow LaGrange College student, who had gone to school with him and lived at the same boarding house in 1962! The friend and his wife had been invited to the show because they knew one of the artists, though not through the LaGrange College connection at all.

Another twilight-zone experience was that I discovered an old painting of mine that I didn't know existed. I actually argued with my sister that it wasn't my work ~ until she pointed out my signature. It was done way back in 1977, and I had simply forgotten ever doing it. Since it was my own work, that did explain why it resembled my style, though the treatment was very straightforward and realistic, the foreground a little weak and unsure (I was only seventeen). I had almost pulled the work from the show (because of the ghost-ish foreground and the old-fashioned mat and frame), but didn't want to hurt any feelings, in case the artist was someone local or the loaner someone from the arts council. We had a good laugh about this. Nobody knows how the painting came to be at the gallery.

The exhibit included art of various styles and media, but it was a good mix. It had not seemed so while I was gathering the pieces and hanging them. The show had not seemed to gel. In the light of day, with the work only partly hung, even the art seemed tired and mismatched. For one thing, spacewise, it was hard to find the right fit for each piece of art. The gallery is such an odd space, broken up by many windows, heating pipes, an old bank vault, and even a faucet. From the main gallery, the space flows through a dark, crowded, inconvenient little hallway with stairs into a kitchen space, divided by a bar or service counter; and then into another small gallery, which doubles as an office. There are copiers, fax machines, and chairs in inconvenient places.

Even so, the gallery has character. A century-old building with some inside walls of old brick and others of faux stucco, it has that wonderful atmosphere of solid old town-square architecture, antique things, and interesting history. One large, square side window is of glass-brick. The window frames are painted black.

Once the paintings and pottery were all in place and the space well filled, the show finally did seem like a "real" show. The eclectic quality of the work added to the character of the building, and maybe took on a bit of the character of the building, too. Of course, having a crowd of people who began to enjoy each other's company and to enjoy viewing and discussing the art made a great difference. There was a small catered buffet of hors d'oeuvres, elegant for our little town, and even a bit of white wine ~ unheard of for our little town. We had some background classical music playing; when it ran out, one of the artists, who had been talking to his musician friends, went out to the car, got his banjo, and treated us to a couple of folk songs.

Afterwards, the arts council members, a couple of the artists, and a few friends sat around a table and talked until closing time for the show. This morning came calls, thank yous, and Facebook photo-tagging from friends who had enjoyed the show. The whole experience was upbeat and highly reassuring.

We, as artists, need this social connection, if only occasionally, and very much need a place for connecting with other artists and with the public. It's also nice for the people to get to see different kinds of art, and to get a feeling for the different ways that life and spirit can be expressed through art. Having such a venue in a little town and rural county like ours is always a struggle, but we feel we've had a bit of success this time.

Artists who participated in the exhibit: Dick Aunspaugh, professor emeritus at Young Harris College and graduate of LaGrange College; also Ken Hamilton, Juli Sibley, and Deborah Pritchett (myself). These artists had multiple works in the show. Masato Nagai, Jin Sook Chang Lee, Terri Ransom Mathis, Laura Coleman Stanhope, and the late Andy Kerr had a work apiece in the show. All of the above artists are LaGrange College Alumni, with several also having ties to Young Harris College. Other artists, not connected to the college, include Victoria Pearmain, a Rossville artist (formerly of Massachusetts) who does amazingly beautiful landscapes; Angie Cook of Blue Ridge; Bryan McConkey and Michelle Oliver (my nephew and great niece); and Chad Ellison, my nephew's former classmate at UTK, who had done a very nice art-deco piece.

As strangely eclectic and friend-relative oriented as the show sounds, the work being shown was of very good quality. There were oil, acrylic, watercolor, and gouache paintings; hand-pulled lino-cut prints, collagraphs, an aquatint, and a dry-point print; ink brush-and-pen drawings; a cut-paper collage; a pencil drawing; and several pieces of glazed, propane-fired, and sawdust-fired pottery, including some great face jugs in the folk style.

Links to artists' pages:

Dick Aunspaugh (Facebook Fan page):

Julie Sibley:

Ken Hamilton's new YouTube feed for music:

Angie Cook:

Deborah Pritchett: (my main website), and of course this, The Talking Artist, is my art blog.

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