Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Artist's Talk by Ebet Roberts Friday

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 10:16 AM

  • Ebet Roberts

Ebet Roberts had lived in Europe a good part of her young existence, but came to Memphis when she was 10, not even imagining there was a punk-powered cultural shift that would change her life.

The young student in the 1960s was possessed of a love for art and culture steeped in the cultural diversity of her travels. She attended Hutchison (class of ’63), loved painting and drawing, and took art classes on Saturdays. It was natural for her to enter what was then the Memphis Academy of Arts where she graduated in painting.

The study of photography would not become an option until the next year when Murray Riss established the photography department in 1968. Roberts studied with Riss anyway, developing her skill and interest. She explored photo collage and manipulated photos and lithography and worked on combining processes. She was also thinking about going to New York.

“I've always been drawn to New York,” she says. “It offered not only art but a lot of cultural diversity, which I really seem to thrive on. That's what pulled me there.”

So, she went, wanting to paint and photograph. She certainly didn't have the expectation she'd set the world on fire with her work, but fate will have its way. She was asked by a musician friend to come take pictures of his band, which was opening for Mink DeVille at CBGB’s. Roberts happened to be eager to take photographs of Willy DeVille and his wife, Toots, both particularly memorable characters in a late-1970s New York music scene where characters were everywhere.

Willy told Roberts, "Come to Max's [Max’s Kansas City club], bring your camera, take pictures, and then come back stage and take more." Roberts agreed, got some photos, and in no time was getting attention. "This woman came over," Roberts says, "and said 'Hey, I work for Capital Records. We just signed Willy this week and these pictures are great. I have to see them.' I literally stood there arguing saying, 'I don't do this for a living, this is just ...'"

Her protestation went nowhere. Her photographs, on the other hand, took off.

  • Ebet Roberts

"They started hiring me for their licensing stuff and then hired me for their other artists," Roberts says. "At the same time, the whole scene was happening, '77 at Max's and CBGB's. I just wanted to document the whole thing. That's how it escalated and then I started doing a lot of work with the Village Voice and a small music magazine called Trouser Press."

And did she know that she was documenting a significant time in music and culture? "I had no idea, none whatsoever," Roberts says. "It just felt like it had to be documented because it was such an amazing scene. But I really didn't realize it was a game changer. I remember working with The Cure for, I think, for a week, when they made their first trip over. The shows were mostly deserted and I was just thinking the band was absolutely great but never in a million years imagining they were going to be huge."

But in short order, Roberts was in the thick of it, recording the musical luminaries that everyone was talking about and listening to. Her photos were in Rolling Stone, MOJO, Spin, GQ, Playboy, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, People, USA Today, The Village Voice. Her work is in the permanent collection of The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, Seattle's Experience Music Project, The Grammy Museum, and The Hard Rock Cafe.

Being around all that celebrity didn't faze Roberts. "I was much more interested in the photography than anything," she says. "I liked photographing musicians and artists because they're interesting and I was comfortable around them."

The biggest challenge was often that the more well-known the artist, the less time she had to be with them. "Taking photographs is a two-way process," Roberts says. "I like getting to know somebody and let them know something about me so that they could trust me, that they could be open. But sometimes I'd just have five or ten minutes."

But if that's all the time she's got for a shoot, she makes the most of it — just as she made the most of the unexpected opportunity that changed her life from that of a struggling artist waiting tables to a world-renowned photographer and chronicler of American culture.

Roberts will give an artist talk at Memphis College of Art during a Baccalaureate service on Friday, May 10th from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. It’s open to the public, but seating is limited. "Antepenultimatum: The Spring BFA Reception" will be held following the lecture, with a slideshow of the artist’s work in Callicott Auditorium.

  • Ebet Roberts

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Coming Up: Works of Heart

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 2:51 PM


editor Jon Sparks and his wife Maritza Davila are longtime supporters of Works of Heart, an annual benefit for the Child Advocacy Center.

Sparks remembers when the event was held at Oak Court Mall and the Brooks before it settled in its current base, the Memphis College of Art.

The next Works of Heart is set for Saturday, February 10th, 7-10 p.m. at MCA.

How it works is that about 100 area artists are each given a wood heart about a foot square, then, says, Sparks, "They can do whatever they want, or not use it at all." The works are then auctioned off.

Sparks says that some artists' work is more popular than others. Works by Dolph Smith are particularly sought-after.

Some works are decorative, some are corny and sentimental, others are bizarre. "It's a fascinating variety," says Sparks.

"evolving pieces" by Shannon Cable
  • "evolving pieces" by Shannon Cable
"Piece of My Heart" by Larry Anderson
  • "Piece of My Heart" by Larry Anderson
For Davila and Sparks' own contributions, Jon says Maritza does the heavy lifting on the works. She carves the heart; he provides the words and photos. This year's piece involves tiny books, each containing a haiku, written by Jon, with images. The books' binding was hand-stitched by Maritza.

As for the party? It's hosted by Joe Birch. And Sparks says, "It's always fun, always jammed packed."

Tickets for Works of Heart are $75, $200 for the VIP Big Heart Lounge.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Desmond Lewis' "Heavy-Laden"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 10:46 AM


Today is the last day to see Desmond Lewis’ excellent exhibition "Heavy-Laden" at the Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art  at the U of M.

Lewis' work “explores the often-overlooked industrial contributions of African Americans in the construction of the United Stated over time and considers the metaphorical characteristics of the materials used.”

He took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me. Here is part of that exchange.

Dwayne Butcher: Your MFA thesis exhibition is titled "Heavy-Laden" and explores the contributions of African Americans in the construction of the United States. How did you begin working on this project and what kind of research did you do to prepare for the exhibition?

Desmond Lewis: This project is a culmination of a very intimate relationship that I have developed throughout graduate school with steel and most recently, concrete. I make a metaphorical connection with the steel of industrial structures and the industrial labor that African Americans have been apart of in the United States. Steel is important in holding up a building yet it is covered by a concrete façade that has been heavily massaged to appear aesthetically pleasing. Thusly, the viewer fails to realize the importance of that central steel core that is truly holding up the building.

African Americans share a similar type of relationship like steel and concrete of buildings. African Americans have and continue to play an important part in contributing to the industrial construction of the United States yet their efforts are largely unnoticed. My work seeks to carve away at this façade to expose the steel that is crucial to the strength of the column. The intense commitment needed in working with steel and concrete as materials combined with the daily challenges of living as an African-American male in the United States led me to embark on this project. I feel safest in the studio from the racist ideologies of America, so I constantly pushed myself to pure exhaustion in making this work. Research wise, my thesis committee (Greely Myatt, Dr. Earnestine Jenkins, and Dr. Patricia Daigle) directed me to a variety of resources and concepts to prepare me in embarking on this massive scale of this project.

Were there any specific African Americans that you came across in your research that stood out for any particular reason? How did this impact your work?

Not so much specific persons as the general connection that African Americans have had with industrial materials from slavery to the present day. There were several scholars that I looked heavily at for inspiration such as Cornel West, Booker T. Washington, Dennis Dickerson (Out of the Crucible), Douglas Blackmon (Slavery By Another Name), and Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow). All of these scholars have written about or commented on the industrial contribution of African Americans to American society.

How did you first begin working with concrete and steel? Were you working with any tradition art materials before working with the industrial materials used in the exhibition?

Throughout graduate school, I worked with steel, as I love fabrication and the pure physical challenge. Concrete is a fairly recent inclusion in my work. I felt like the steel was missing something conceptually in my work so I started working with concrete. Steel is a traditional art medium in my opinion.

Has working on this exhibition led you to contemporary African-Americans artists who are thinking about the same things you are?

Theaster Gates is probably the closest artist that I can think of that is working on similar issues in a sculptural manner.

Who are other artists that you are looking at currently?

I look at a lot of artists mostly for insight on their process such as: George Smith, Theaster Gates, Melvin Edwards, Richard Hunt, Garry Bibbs, Jane Manus, and Bernar Venet.

Your thesis exhibition also includes a public work in the Orange Mound community. How did this project come about? Was it always thought of as something for your thesis exhibition?

The public work in Orange Mound came about after I completed a project in Soulsville in which I was able to see how a functional sculpture in a minority community could help an area. You can find murals all over Memphis in minority communities, but sculptures aren’t really prevalent in these areas.

While in graduate school, I did a lot of research about the history of Orange Mound and historical importance with African Americans. I felt like I needed to do something sculpturally in the area that is culturally rich but societally oppressed due to a variety of factors. I then met Linda Steele and she helped to make this a reality by finding a space and the finances for this project. It was always thought of as a part of my thesis exhibition as I knew that I wanted to focus on engaging steel and concrete with the community to no longer function as confining mechanisms for African Americans but provides a "value added" component to the community.

How did you get to the University of Memphis, where did you go to undergrad, and how has your time been in the MFA Program?

 I finished undergrad at Tennessee State University. Immediately after undergrad, I started graduate school at MCA and then transferred to the University of Memphis in the spring of 2016. My time in the MFA Program has been life changing. I have had the chance to travel all over the country to attend conferences and exhibit numerous gallery and outdoor works. Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to work with some very amazing companies and organizations that ended up sponsoring my MFA Thesis Exhibition. The companies that sponsored my exhibition are West Memphis Steel, Orange Mound Gallery (Linda Steele and Paul Thomas), Tennessee Sling Center, Razorback Concrete, Williams Equipment and Supply, and MCR Safety.

What are your current short-term and long-term plans now that you are about to graduate?

I’m headed to the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices in Birmingham, Alabama, in a couple of weeks. I’m giving a presentation, exhibiting in the student exhibition, and competing in the Student Cupola Contest at the conference. After that, I received a scholarship to go to Haystack School of Crafts in Maine. I’m still searching for teaching jobs as well. The main focus of my work for at least the next year will be public sculptures for low income and minority areas. I plan to continue to exhibit a lot so that takes a lot of time with travel. As of March 1, 2017, I was in 6 shows, so I hope to hit my goal of 15 shows this year. I have only taken 2 days off from my practice in the last 4 years so I don’t anticipate me slowing down anytime soon. Also, I am working on finding a space to build a studio in Memphis where I will build my large-scale work. Even if move to get a teaching job across the country, I will commute to my large studio in Memphis at least once a month to continue that side of my practice. Long term, I’m only 23 so I’ll keep my options open.

What is it about Memphis that makes you want to have a studio here, even if you may leave for a teaching gig?

I think there is a lot potential in Memphis to do some great sculpture in underserved areas. Memphis also provides me with the opportunity to hire younger people that might have really challenging home situations to teach them new skills that may provide them with a new outlook on life. The city of Memphis is also centrally located to a lot of major cities within an 8-10-hour drive and is only 3 hours from Nashville where my major steel processor and family are. The central location of the city is fairly important to the continuation of my large scale sculpture practice.

Images Courtesy of the Artist.


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Friday, March 10, 2017

Jeff Koons Piece on View at the Dixon

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 3:12 PM


This week, the Dixon installed Jeff Koons’ sculpture Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet). The work is on loan from the Diane B. Wilsey Collection and will be on view on the museum grounds until August 21st.

Love him or hate him, neo-pop artist Jeff Koons is the most well-known living artist in the world. His work sells for substantial sums. He currently holds the word record auction price for a living artist. Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at Christie’s Auction house in New York City in 2013 for $58.4 million.


I love Jeff Koons. His kitschy, self-merchandising work is completely pedestrian. Consisting of enormous bright, shiny toys, cartoon characters, and balloon dogs, it is perfectly made for our current Instagram world.

Former Dixon director John Buchanan hooked The Dixon up with San Francisco socialite Diane Wilsey. The Dixon has been working with Wilsey since last summer to acquire the piece. The Dixon has worked with Wilsey on previous projects, so there were no issues in having the valuable piece on loan for the next six months.

Chantal Drake, Director of Communications at the Dixon, states that in the short time that the piece has been on view, there have been many kids in their seer sucker rompers and spring dresses posing in front of the egg. A Easter Egg hunt is scheduled for April 15th and will prominently feature Koons' iconic work. According to Drake, the piece is in one of the most beautiful outdoor environments in Memphis, “so that makes programming (around the Koons sculpture) easy.”

I think it is absolutely amazingly awesome to have a Jeff Koons piece in this city. Kudos to the Dixon for making this happen. As I said, I love Jeff Koons work. I will be sure to wear my seer sucker shorts to the Dixon this weekend and check it out.

Smooth Egg with Bow (Magenta/Violet) images courtesy of the Dixon.

Balloon Dog (Orange) courtesy of Don Rockwell.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Locate Arts Talk at the Dixon

Posted By on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 at 8:20 AM


Carolyn and Brian Jobe are the power couple behind locatearts.org, a website dedicated to fostering a unified statewide art scene in Tennessee. Today at noon, they will be presenting on the state of art communities across Tennessee as part of the Dixon’s Munch and Learn Series. They each took some time out of their busy schedule to answer some questions from me via email. This is part of that exchange.

Dwayne Butcher: How long have you been the proprietors of Locate Arts and how did the idea come about?
Carolyn Jobe: When Brian and I lived in Texas, we were inspired by how the whole state was considered a strong contemporary art force, and by the role glasstire.com plays in connecting the cities’ scenes. One of our favorite things to do was check Glasstire’s exhibition listings and take a day trip to a neighboring city with a game plan of what to see. We got to know the art scenes and cities and it felt nourishing to our art practices and personal lives. We grew up in Tennessee and, between the two of us, have lived in all four major cities, so we always knew that Tennessee’s contemporary art scenes had a similar kind of potential to make a big impact. The cities just need to be in the practice of talking to each other.

Locate Arts was officially started in January 2015, but we got the ball rolling after conversing with Lain York of Zeitgeist Gallery around Thanksgiving in 2014. Brian and I had talked for years about a website that would connect all of Tennessee’s contemporary art scenes. Lain, who is a wise advisor, encouraged the website idea and mentioned that Sam Yates at UT Knoxville had been talking about how there ought to be a Tennessee Biennial. We thought about pairing the website and the biennial, which would expose Tennessee’s contemporary art scene locally, and promoting it nationally and internationally. So we talked to Sam and he was supportive. Then we talked to groups of people in each of the major cities to gauge interest and started planning initiatives.

Brian Jobe: Locate Arts has always felt like an extension of our lives. We love connecting people and uncovering things that may be overlooked. The web resource at locatearts.org has been a deeply gratifying project to launch and we hear frequently from artists and others that it’s become indispensable to them. Secondly, we are close to announcing details on the upcoming statewide biennial exhibition, slated for Summer 2018.

Has it been a challenge to work across the entire state, keeping up with current trends, openings, and artists? It seems like a daunting task.
It’s a challenge, but it also feels second nature to us and has been so exciting to be a part of. We learn more every month about artists (those we know and those we are introduced to) and venues and that information allows us to connect people to other artists and opportunities with increasing facility. Moreover, it allows us to see the unique strengths and tendencies of each city and region.

Althea Murphy-Price
  • Althea Murphy-Price

Have you felt that the individual cities have been hesitant to work together to unify the statewide art scene? Or have they welcomed the dialogue?
It seems less like hesitation than a lack of intentionality. It’s definitely more instinctive to be plugged in to the place you live and work to make that place thrive. What we observed by living in places like Texas is that interconnectedness through dialogue and shared opportunities can forge the feeling of a larger state scene. This “strength in numbers” approach drives our desire to link up all conversations within Tennessee’s art communities and present a state scene to the nation and beyond. We generally get the sense that each city is curious about what’s happening in the rest of the state, but we feel like the web resource gives legs to that interest and can provide concrete ways to start conversations.

CJ: We think that even if the cities themselves have a friendly rivalry, the contemporary art communities are more than willing to rise above. It feels like we all share a common bond of creating something that is pushing against the norm and trying to be innovative.

Locate Arts: Each city has its own unique strengths. Here’s a little of what we’ve observed:

Memphis has such a rich history of being an established art center with the scope of its collector base and commercial galleries, 100-year-old collecting museum (the Brooks), multiple MFA programs, and energy behind newer initiatives like Crosstown Arts.

Nashville has maintained a long running art scene, but is currently experiencing a significant volume of growth (both the influx of artists to the city as well as an expanding quantity of venues). The overall population growth of Nashville is certainly responsible in part, but the current groundswell of energy in unmistakable.

Chattanooga is a scene defined by the strength of their studio community, with its warmth and openness. Chattanoogans have also exhibited a willingness to travel frequently in engage with the scenes in Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta.

Knoxville is anchored by the UT School of Art and the scope of that program, with exceptional educators, visiting professionals, and students. Knoxville has long felt like a great place to make and exhibit experimental work and this feeling is sustained by the quorum of alternative spaces along the N. Central corridor just north of downtown (i.e. Fluorescent Gallery, Striped Light, and The Central Collective).
Jared Sprecher
  • Jared Sprecher

One of the most important aspects of your site is the artist registry. It has been a vital resource for me returning to Memphis after over three years of being away, as it allows me to see what has been going on with artists and see what is happening across the state. Can you talk a little bit about the artist registry and the selection process of getting a profile listed on the site?
We’re so glad to hear that the artist registry has benefitted you! We hear similar things from so many artists who had no idea they had so many peers in the state.

BJ: It’s something we’re told quite often and supports our idea that contextualizing the talent across the state is vital for Tennesseans and visitors. Anyone is welcome to apply to the registry and we have a web form on the site for applications. Those applications are reviewed quarterly by our Registry Advisory Committee, a group made up from among our Official Advisors from across the state (and does not include us). We feel good about the selection process being in the hands of a talented panel which allows us to focus on the direction and administration of Locate Arts without being cast in the role of curators.

What is the best way to get an event listed on your site? Are there any particular requirements for the show?
Locate Arts: It’s very simple to submit exhibition information through that web form on the site and we love being able to promote the full scope of contemporary art currently on view. The exhibit should be contemporary in nature (or if the work is from the 20th century, should pertain to the present), should ideally be submitted in advance of the opening, and may even be submitted far in advance if the details are already known. We would list an artist studio as an exhibition venue and are concerned primarily about the work itself. We do not list artist opportunities, calls, or the like so that we can have the site function with clearly articulated roles.

Locate Arts is presenting at the Dixon as part of their Munch and Learn series, Wednesday, March 8th 12-1pm. Are you going to be talking about anything in particular?
BJ: We anticipate some in attendance who are unfamiliar with our work, so we’ll begin with an introduction. We’ll discuss the website and the range of its functionality. We’ll talk about the state and the unique qualities of each city/ region pertaining to contemporary visual art. And, we’ll give updates on the upcoming statewide biennial exhibition, and other recent big announcements/ changes.

CJ: We’ll also be talking about the role contemporary art plays and why it should be valued as a resource. It’s great to see the Dixon programming compelling contemporary art shows.

Coriana Close
  • Coriana Close

What are some of the highlights that are happening in each of these communities?
Locate Arts: There are so many crazy and exciting exhibitions in each city, we couldn’t even begin to name them. But you can always check our “Top Pick” on each city’s exhibition page to see w hat we think you shouldn’t miss.

What are some of the challenges these communities have to deal with when trying to create and maintain a thriving visual arts community?
Locate Arts: The art communities in Tennessee can continue to expand for a host of reasons, but when artists as well as arts institutions look to communicate and collaborate with scenes around them in addition to nurturing their own growth, something really, really good will come of that.

Who are some of the must-see artists that are currently working across the state?

Locate Arts: There are so many it’s hard to know where to start, so we’ll just limit it to one person per city.

CJ: Memphis: Lester Merriweather
Nashville: Karen Seapker
Chattanooga: Sarah P. Smith
Knoxville: Jered Sprecher

BJ: Memphis: Coriana Close
Nashville: Alicia Henry
Chattanooga: Jessica Wohl
Knoxville: Rubens Ghenov

You are both artists, how has it been to maintain a studio practice while working on Locate Arts?
BJ: I feel like I’m living through a time where I get to listen to so many artists speak about their work (and all at a moment where the world of geo-politics is upside down) that I just want to listen and process. I’m still making work, but feel certain that the way I want to engage the public through sculpture and installation is in flux.

CJ: I take the long view with my practice. I will always paint, because it is a language that I can’t stop exploring. Things are slower right now, but I know I’ll have more time at another stage in life. When I do get to the studio, I am very thankful for the time. Recently, I’ve had studio visits with David Wolff from Knoxville and Douglas Degges and Sarah P. Smith from Chattanooga. Getting input from these thoughtful artists encourages me to continue the work.


Friday, March 3, 2017

All the Art Fairs

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 3:40 PM

  • Siems

It is currently Armory Week in New York City. The 11 art fairs, consisting of hundreds of galleries and thousands of artists, are spread across Manhattan. Memphis’ own David Lusk Gallery is participating in Art on Paper. Full disclosure, I am represented by DLG and have eight pieces in this fair. Other artists from the gallery that are participating are Maysey Craddock, Anne Siems, William Christenberry, Kathleen Holder, Tyler Hildebrand, and Tim Crowder.

  • Crowder

  • Crowder

Can we talk about how badass Tim Crowder’s work is at this fair?? Because it is.

I was unable to go to NYC this year for the fairs, but when I have gone, it is always AMAZING. So. Much. Art. A welcome visual overdose. It is always wonderful to be introduced to artists and galleries you never heard of before and finally get to meet those that you have. You can see some absolutely horrendous art work where you feel that you may have a chance to make it after all and see current trends. This year, there seems to be an overwhelming theme of protest. Including mine.

Pulse is not around this year, but NADA joins in on the action. Spring/Break is always a favorite to check out. They have moved to a Times Square office tower from the worn down Farley Post Office. The post office made for such a wonderful exhibition space for this fair. Hopefully, with the move, it does not lose any of its buzz.

The other fairs are ADAA Art Show, The Armory Show, Clio Art Fair (which is really an anti-art-fair fair), Independent, Moving-Image, the mini art fair Salon Zurcher, Scope, and Volta. For an artist, something that is amazing is to click through all of the participating galleries at each of these fairs. Make note of which ones that you would like to visit, or ones where you think your work would fit in their catalogue. I have met some incredible artists and made some great friends by stalking them first online. Most of these galleries and artists have social media accounts. Follow them all. Reach out to the artist with a simple “I like your work.” I have been included in many shows just by doing these simple things.

So, when is Memphis going to start an art fair?

Images courtesy of David Luck Gallery

  • Hildebrand

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Art Stuff To Do this Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Richard Knowles Legacy Project
  • Richard Knowles Legacy Project

When I was a freshman art student at the University of Memphis, I was fortunate to be able to take a drawing class from Richard (Dick) Knowles. He would come into class and walk straight into the storage closet and shut the door. Knowles would start to talk to us about our projects as if he were in the classroom. After five or ten minutes he would test our visual memories by having us draw what he was wearing that particular day, to see if we were paying attention to him during the three seconds it took to walk into class and in the closet. I always thought this was an odd exercise.

HE WORE THE SAME THING EVERYDAY. A blue long-sleeved button down tucked into blue jeans. The particular shades of blue were the only thing to ever change, and that was only because they would fade over time in the wash.

Knowles, who passed away in 2010, is being recognized with the inaugural Richard Knowles Legacy Project currently on view at Circuitous Succession. On Sunday, February 26, 2-6pm, there is the closing reception, and his partner Carol Knowles, former Memphis Flyer art writer, and Larry Jasud, retired Professor at the U of M, will be giving a gallery talk about the life and times of Dick Knowles. There are so many stories about this man, it should be a fun event sharing these with those that knew him best.

Katie Murray
  • Katie Murray

• The Memphis art scene is notorious for not showing up and supporting art exhibitions on a regular basis. This is even more so if the exhibiting artist happens to be from out of town and especially if the work in the exhibition is not about Memphis in any way. Well, this is the case at Tops Gallery for its opening tonight. "Katie Murray: That Shadow, My Likeness" is an exhibition of a small group of photographs centered around her community in Queens, New York. There is also a video inspired by the footage Murray shot of her husband’s audition tape for the metal band Slayer. What is not to like about that? The opening reception is tonight 6-8pm, 400 South Front Street.

Last week I mentioned the current exhibition at Orange Mound Gallery, "The Black Experience. Tomorrow 2-4pm there will be a Q&A with the participating artists in the exhibition. There will also be two guest speakers. Dr. Ernestine Jenkins will talk about Black History in America, and Dr. Simone Thomas will talk about her book, 365 Days of Black Men in History.

Cat Pena
  • Cat Pena

• Have you been to the Edge district recently to see all the improvements to the neighborhood? They have repaved and painted in new bike lanes and parking spaces. There are also, what seems like hundreds, of large planters everywhere. I do not even know where to drive on the street anymore. Go find out yourself this weekend as Cat Peña’s installation There’s More to be Proud Of at the corner of Marshall and Monroe will be on view to the public. The piece is an homage to the neighborhood as Automobile Row from 1911-1950’s.

Image Credits:

Dick Knowles installation courtesy of Circuitous Succession.
Katie Murray installation courtesy of Tops Gallery.
Cat Peña digital rendering courtesy of the artist.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Resources for Artists

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 2:40 PM

  • Dwayne Butcher

Being an artist is hard work. Minimal opportunities for funding, exhibitions, resources, and employment exist for us creatives. Those that do exist are being threatened as we speak. That is why today’s ArtsMemphis event at Memphis Made is so important. I thought it would be useful to the Memphis visual art community to compile a quick list of resources. Being in the studio, as difficult as that is, is just a small component of being an actual working artist.

Visit the ArtsMemphis website for information on grants and RFQ’s for public art projects. Attend one of their many workshops for help on how to best write a proposal seeking these opportunities. Other local visual art resources include the UrbanArt Commission, Crosstown Arts, the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, and the Downtown Memphis Commission.

There are countless websites and organizations that cater to visual artists on the national level. While the effectiveness of the College Art Association’s annual conference can be debated, the resources they offer cannot. There are job postings and exhibition opportunities listed. They also offer help with building a resume, which you may find useful.

NYFA is a must. Any and all visual artists need to know about this resource. If you do not know about it, click the link, now. They offer resources for professional development, the business of art, curatorial services, and loans and funds. Again, a must go-to resource.

Full disclosure, we moved to Baltimore as my wife accepted a position in Career Services for Visual Arts at MICA, She put a lot of work into most of the resources available on their website. There is information available for Building Your Professional Package, Internship and Job Search, Grants, Residencies, and Graduate School listing.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts offers emergency grants for artists living, working, and paying taxes in the U.S. Applicants seeking funds must have committed performance or exhibition opportunities, providing specific dates at the time of application.

Bay Area Art Grind has been a great resource for me for eight years, when they first started and were known as the SJSU Art Blog. It is not as active now with ongoing opportunities, but they still have an incredible selection of links in the Artist Resources tab.

Now, their website makes me want to throw-up, but the Artist Help Network is an amazing resource for Art World Mailing Lists. They also have many other resources that are useful.

Getting Your Shit Together is probably the best name for a website of all time. GYST offers subscription based services, but they do have plenty of free information on artist’s statements, grant proposals, and website services.

I have several websites and blogs that I try to visit every day for art news, reviews, and commentary, Hyperallergic, Two Coats of Paint, and Art F City. Follow their contributors on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as they continuously post images and info about exhibitions and artists you would never know about otherwise.

Again, this is just a quick rundown of the sites that I visit most for opportunities and visual art news. This list is nowhere near comprehensive. There are countless others. Post yours in the comments below!! Though there are few resources available to visual artists and we desperately need more artists working not less.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Make Art Great Again

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 2:19 PM

I hate Trump. We are less than a month into his presidency and I think I am going to have a heart attack at how enraged I get just listening to his voice. The press conference this week just about sent me to Regional One. My social media timelines can be summed up with three words, “What the fuck?” The art world is responding. The scene in Memphis is no exception.

Toni Roberts
  • Toni Roberts

Melissa Farris
  • Melissa Farris

At the beginning of February, Marshall Arts was host to an exhibition that I organized of protest signs that were used in Women’s Marches around the country. Through the weekend, the exhibition "Nasty Women," is on view. Nasty Women is an exhibition curated locally by Chelle Ellis and Danielle Sumler as a response to the Trump presidency, “because sitting around and bitching was never an option for us,” according to Ellis. Some of the proceeds from sales of this politically charged exhibition are going to Planned Parenthood, over $1,700 thus far, another $600 coming just from a donation/tip jar collected at the opening reception. The work can be seen at the gallery Friday and Saturday, 6-9 pm and Sunday, 9 am-1 pm, and by visiting nastywomenmemphis.com. There will be a Q&A with the curators and artists during opening hours Saturday.

On view at the Orange Mound Gallery is "The Black Experience, a Rebirth of Black History Month." The exhibition examines the notion that “although we’ve had a black president for 8 years…we still don’t celebrate Black History Month beyond the use of predictable image and icons.” The exhibition is to celebrate African American history old and new. The show includes the work of well-known Memphis artists Jamond Bullock, Lurlynn Franklin, Lawrence Matthews, Lester Merriweather, Carl Moore, et al. Started by Linda Steele, OMG is located in the Lamar Airways shopping strip, and has been the host of several important community events recently. They are currently only open by appointment, so be sure to follow their schedule of events.

Black Experience
  • Black Experience

Black Experience
  • Black Experience
Since I returned from Baltimore seven months ago, there has been no exhibition potentially more important than the Fidencio Fifield-Perez installation at the Memphis College of Art. An undocumented immigrant, his work is strong and impactful. He is an alum of MCA and returns for a lecture March 2nd at the very exact time of 12:15pm. The opening is scheduled for March 3rd, 6-8pm. He was profiled recently in the NY Times as part of the American Dreamers series, stories from young immigrants who were spared from deportations and permitted to work during the Obama administration. Do not miss this exhibition. It is currently on view now until April 18th.

One of the many disastrous things Trumps plans to do as our illegitimate president is to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). On Monday, February 20, 4-6 p.m., ArtsMemphis is combatting these threats with hosting a postcard writing event at Memphis Made Brewery, that includes beer!! The Art Center has donated supplies to create the postcards and ArtsMemphis will provide all necessary information needed to write the cards.

Image Credits:

Black Experience courtesy of Carl Moore.

Toni Roberts and Melissa Farris courtesy of Dwayne Butcher

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Art Apprenticeship Offers Outlet for North Memphis Teens

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 3:34 PM

Apprentice Ca’Terrya Hilson works on screen printing during an exhibition hosted by the Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Center. - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Apprentice Ca’Terrya Hilson works on screen printing during an exhibition hosted by the Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Center.

Blocks away from Northside High School, girls aged 15 to 19 spent several months learning art and other skills from mentors at the Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Center in North Memphis.

The program began in March 2016. The next month, the number of girls went from eight to seven when a 15-year-old apprentice in the program died violently.

Mentor and visual artist Drea Powell said that the death was sobering to the girls. For some, it fueled them, while others wanted to retreat.

Creating art and journaling served as outlets for the girls. The work made them confront their feelings about their friend's death and other issues they were facing.

Visual artist Brittney Bullock, who served as project lead, said she first developed a professional relationship with CDC Executive Director Quincey Morris while working at Crosstown Arts. Bullock then volunteered for the CDC and continued to attend the monthly neighborhood partnership meetings.

When the community engagement grant was offered Bullock asked Morris if the CDC would apply. Bullock said Morris initially said “no” because she had no one to manage the project. The two landed on the apprenticeship model after talking about their interests (Bullock’s in community engagement work and youth development and Morris’ in community development and providing resources).

Khara Woods, a local designer and photographer, served as a mentor to the participating girls.

“Watching them grow has been amazing,” Powell said.

Through the apprenticeship, the girls were paid a stipend and worked four hours on two Saturdays a month. The grant money ran out in September.

When they decided what to work on, the girls landed on screenprinting. They learned how to set up the entire process and work with different colors for prints.

Apprentice Ca’Terrya Hilson hangs a screen printed piece to dry during an exhibition hosted by the Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Center. - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Apprentice Ca’Terrya Hilson hangs a screen printed piece to dry during an exhibition hosted by the Klondike/Smokey City Community Development Center.

A show and sale of the prints was held on October 29th at the CDC.

One piece reads “Reach for the stars” — a note of hope and possibility — and shows a chorus of hands reaching towards a group of stars. Another reads “Our Lives Matter,” a way for the girls to personalize the Black Lives Matter movement. A third reads “Fear - Violence = Peace.” Peace is represented by the peace sign, while violence is symbolized by a gun.

Throughout the CDC’s office are large sheets of white paper listing the skills the girls worked on during the camp, such as branding and product development. The lists were flanked by large prints of the girls and their mentors.

Part of the apprenticeship included the girls visiting the studios of professional, working artists to show that entrepreneurship and working as an artist could be a viable path.

The mentors even brought in their work and showed client receipts as part of that process, Powell said.

“Evidence was important,” she said. “To build trust and show it could happen.”

Sixteen-year-old Ca’Terrya Hilson applied for and was accepted to the program after hearing Bullock speak about the opportunity at the Boys & Girls Club.

Hilson said she had not previously worked with art, but found painting to be her favorite part of the experience.

She said that working the apprenticeship was a good experience because it allowed her to try something new and because, “I’m a quiet person and I learned how to communicate and talk to people.”

Morris said that she continues to follow up with the girls, to encourage them ib things such as taking their ACTs and applying to college.

Morris said with additional funding she would like to continue the program and expand it to more girls, and eventually boys.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Night Women by Delita Martin

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Night Mother by Delita Martin - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Night Mother by Delita Martin

For the upcoming print edition of the Flyer I wrote about Eso Tolson's "Spectacular Vernacular" exhibition now showing at the Memphis Slim House.

Another local art exhibition that incorporates text to tell a story about African-American life is "Night Women" by Huffman, Texas-based mixed-media artist Delita Martin.

From the exhibition’s statement: [Martin’s work] “deals with reconstructing the identity of Black women by piecing together the signs, symbols, and language found in what can be called everyday life…”

Effie: She Sees The Truth by Delita Martin - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Effie: She Sees The Truth by Delita Martin

Many of the portraits, inspired by vintage family photographs, feature the women superimposed over colorful, large graphical patterns, a nod to Martin's printmaking background. Others include cursive text or safety pins and other household objects.

These objects are nondescript, but the subjects, these women, are not. From each set of frames, the women make eye contact with the viewer drawing them in to learn more about their stories, their histories.

At Annesdale Park Gallery through November 9th.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

SWEET by Brantley Ellzey

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2016 at 1:56 PM

The frontage of 422 N. Cleveland St. at Crosstown Arts for Brantley Ellzey's SWEET. - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • The frontage of 422 N. Cleveland St. at Crosstown Arts for Brantley Ellzey's SWEET.
With the orange and pink graphics (designed by Loaded for Bear) on the exterior of Crosstown Arts, one gets the feeling immediately that he or she is being transported back in time to a vintage candy shop.

The purity of the 22 pieces in SWEET, which artist/architect Brantley Ellzey spent a year working on, are a reaction to the contentious climate that the country finds itself in.

Over the past 15 years, Ellzey typically has done commission work consisting of rolled magazine, book, and other printed pages, something he refers to as “time capsules.” SWEET has the artist drilling down to the most simple form of his practice in terms of color and composition. Instead of patterned papers, he uses blank sheets of individually hand-rolled construction paper.

Ellzey sought out the inspirations derived from growing up in late 1960s Osceola, Arkansas — things like the Sears “Wish Book” catalog (also in a nod to the neighborhood’s affiliation with Sears, now Crosstown Concourse), childhood books, and the interior design and home decorating magazines that his mother received.

Other inspirations: Mary Blair, who worked for Disney studios, whose folk art and imagery Ellzey realized had inspired the way he perceived the world growing up. (Blair also designed “It’s a Small World.”) Also, modernist architects George and Ray Eames and Alexander Girard. In particular, Girard’s textiles are an obvious source of inspiration for several pieces, with bright, one or two color columned or checked patterns.

All of the pieces in SWEET are horizontal and face up except the Pixies (a reference to Pixy Stix), which on its base nearly reaches the room’s ceiling; Homer, which is a donut; and Honey, Honey, which is modeled after a honeycomb with rolled paper tubes facing outwards toward the audience.

There are grapes (with groups of rolled paper tubes in different hues of purple in the shapes of bunches), licorice, pink glittery spun cotton candy (surrounded by a contrasting cotton candy machine base designed by Perry Sponseller), and Laffy Taffy.

Homer by Brantley Ellzey - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Homer by Brantley Ellzey

The aforementioned Homer is an oversized homage to The Simpsons' family patriarch and his love for the pastry. In real life, the piece is an inflatable pool raft with rolled paper paper-mached to it, topped with with three kinds of glitter replicating a donut, purple icing, and delectable sprinkles.

Homer includes a placard humorously forbidding both touching and eating the object.

All in all, SWEET accomplishes a tricky feat — invoking whimsical escapism while at the same time maintaining a high level of sophistication.

Through November 5.

Carnival by Brantley Ellzey - ELLE PERRY
  • Elle Perry
  • Carnival by Brantley Ellzey

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cory Dugan's “Hapax Legomena”

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 1:14 PM

Cory Dugan is a Unicorn, at least to me. He was the founding editor of Number: Inc. in 1987 and was the very first art critic for the Memphis Flyer. He has also contributed articles to The Commercial Appeal, Memphis magazine, Art Papers, ArtNews, and New Art Examiner. He has exhibited his work in what is now every defunct art space in the city, including the Memphis Center for Contemporary Art. Remember that place??!! He even lived in NYC in the mid-'80s after receiving his BFA from the University of Memphis, working as a graphic designer. So, to me Cory Dugan is a mythical creature. When I was in undergrad in the late '90s, I thought no one was more important in the Memphis art world than Cory. For a little worthless artist like myself, these were/are legendary attributes. I wanted to be an artist and an art writer, Dugan was both. Just take another look at the title of his current exhibition, “Hapax Legomena.” He knows all the big words.


So, how did he know what a hapax legomenon, pl. hapax legomena, is to begin with? One night, a little over a year ago, he was drinking in his studio, which is really his entire apartment, and the dictionary screen saver on his iMac came on, as he was sitting there thinking about the world, he noticed the words hapax legomenon scroll across the screen. He thought to himself, “what the hell was that?” So he sat there staring at the screen saver until it appeared again. After a quick google search he found it meant “a word that occurs only once within a context, either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or in a single text.”

Dugan, as an artist and a writer, has always been interested in language. A previous series of work, “The Last Words,” consisted of a filing system that included the last word in every section of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Gathering all the hapaxes of Waiting for Godot, Holy Sonnets, and the dramatic works of William Shakespeare, which partly comprise the 17 works in this exhibition, has to be much harder to attain than simply using typewriter and index cards. “No.” Dugan states, “there is an app for that.” Well, that makes it easier. Especially since some of the pieces in the exhibition use hapaxes from the Hebrew New Testament and the Greek Bible. The words, as Dugan says, “are completely visual to me.” With the Shakespeare text, he created his first video art work, incorporating elements from Orson Welles' Othello. "The dramas seemed to suggest it; Shakespeare needed it," Dugan added.



He understands that researching and using hapax legomena is “completely nonsensical.” There are several academics that have thrown themselves into the study of the term. There is even a bitter debate among scholars whether or not Shakespeare is using hapax legomena or a nonce, meaning a made up word? Cory believes these are hapax legomena because these words have now entered our lexicon, words such as honorificabilitudinitatibus, big words. But he knows no one really cares. “Why would you?” he says and continues by saying this is exactly why he does it. 

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Vid-O-belisk, I Never Knew You

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:28 PM

When news broke this week that Nam Jun Paik's massive "Vid-O-belisk" is in the process of coming down, no longer to hold its traditional place in the center of the Brooks Museum of Art's rotunda, I felt a mix of emotions. The first of these was relief, because I have long held a grudge against the "Vid-O-belisk" for being, IMHO, not a very good work of art from an otherwise great artist. The second emotion I felt was nostalgia for my stint working as a caterer at the Museum, because "Vid-O-belisk," with its squiggly neon and antique video art, was a functional compass for us servers. "Go to the table nearest the red owl thinger," we would instruct each other. 

With that in mind, I Facebook chatted local painter and my old catering co-worker, Dimitri Stevens, and we remembered the "Vid-O-belisk" in all its clunky glory. Here is what we recalled:

Nam Jun Paik's "Vid-O-belisk" (2002) - BROOKS MUSEUM OF ART
  • Brooks Museum of Art
  • Nam Jun Paik's "Vid-O-belisk" (2002)

Eileen: Hi, Dimitri! How are you on this day? A day when the "Vid-O-belisk" is no longer the first thing you see in Memphis' biggest art Museum?

I'm doing fine Eileen. It's a little hollow inside the Brooks now-a-days.

Eileen: Well, we'll always have our memories of working catering events at the Brooks, trying to dodge the massive tower of antique TVs in the middle of the rotunda.

Dimitri: The neon will be remembered as well.

Eileen: You're right. The best thing about the ol' "Vid-O-belisk" were those little neon squigglies attached to the side of the TVS like a case of viral worms, which the catering staff affectionately named things like "Pineapple Parrot." Can you remember any of the names?

No, I'm not too savvy on the names, but the squiggles seemed to range from stick figures to simplified architecture.

Eileen: There were definitely some music notes on there. And a weird eye. I'm partial to the Pi symbol and the lil neon buddha. What message do you think Nam Jun Paik was trying to send with this tower of junk TVs and random symbols?

Dimitri: I was thinking it's about accumulated cultures through technology.

Eileen: That's probably it. We used to cater a lot of weddings that happened around this monument to accumulated cultures through technology. In your honest opinion, would you invite the "Vid-O-belisk" to your wedding?

Dimitri: Definitely. I don't have any big wedding plans yet, but it was an overall beautiful piece.

It wasn't my cup of tea, but I know it brought joy to many. Thank you for taking this moment to remember the "Vid-O-belisk" with me. And cheers to whatever comes next.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Loch Ness Monster and the Ominous Hole: Your Dreams Interpreted

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 12:51 PM

This is the second installment of our ongoing attempts at dream interpretation. Today we take on monsters, boulders, and seemingly benign deep sea picnics: 

“I had a dream where me and some of my friends were having some kind of underwater picnic (breathing didn’t seem to be an issue) and we were really deep underwater hanging out on this rocky bed on all of these big ol’ boulders. And I don’t know what caused it, but a rock up above loosened and came bouncing down and I watched it really closely. Well, it fell down and fell right on top of this ominous looking hole at the bottom of the bed and I knew something was wrong and sure enough there’s this big ol rumbling that starts… and this huge, terrifying prehistoric loch ness fucking monster things comes flying out of that hole, dislodging the rock that fell on top of it.”

Dear Endangered Dreamer,

Can I offer you some herbal tea? Maybe a back massage? Some epsom salts? Because it sounds to me like you are encountering some undue (or maybe overdue) stress, in the form of a “prehistoric loch ness fucking monster.”

Let’s examine. At the start of your dream, you are having a picnic (good), underwater (maybe good; certainly impressive), without needing to breathe (great!) Water dreams are, in my experience, usually about powerful forces carrying or overwhelming the dreamer, but yours seems to be more about your own power. You’re deep in the water with your friends, hanging out on boulders, having the time of your life. So far so good.

  • Kay Neilsen

But then the trouble starts. You notice an ominous looking hole in the ocean floor (bad, very bad) and, above you, a rock dislodges from the watery depths. What initially seemed like a benign deep sea picnic now seems threatening. Good for you, though, ED, because you’re watching the bouncing boulders closely. Perhaps you don’t have a choice, or perhaps you somehow knew that this rockslide was imminent. The rock lodges in the hole — a temporary respite — and then the rumbling begins.

(Side note: I’m interested in this rumbling, mainly because it is a cinematic detail, and it is curious to me when dreams are cinematic. What use is foreshadowing in a dream? And yet, stress dreams are about nothing but foreshadowing — we notice a paperclip is out of place at the office and are suddenly aware of our own nakedness. Or an open door cues us that this is not just a regular house, but a NIGHTMARE HOUSE. Were they always like this? Cinema developed in close enough proximity to Freudian psychoanalysis that maybe we will never really know which came first: the cinematic chicken or the egg of the subconscious.)

What comes next in your dream is a terrifying prehistoric monster. Very, very, extremely bad, right? This is one shitshow of a picnic, ED. Rocks, monsters, the bottom of the sea....

...Except I am not so convinced. Here’s my read: I think that in the first movement of the dream, the picnic scene, things weren’t so great. You thought you were in repose, but you were actually drowning. The underwater boulders were crumbling around you. You watched closely. And then, wham!, LOCH NESS FUCKING MONSTER THING.

Don’t worry. You might be scared now, but a prehistoric monster is actually a great dream omen. It means you have some kind of unchecked power within that is ready to get out. It means that something primal is ready to free itself from the bottom of your ocean. It means that you shouldn’t try to cover up your holes with crumbling boulders.

  • Wallace Smith
Don’t try to tame that baby. Just ride it where it wants to take you. If I know my Nessy, she is probably headed for the surface. If you want guidance, you should look to fairytale-inspired early 20th century illustration; artists like Kay Neilsen and Wallace Smith. These guys were groovy with the subconscious dragons.

Happy hunting, xo, 


We here at Exhibit M are taking a stab at dream interpretation, with the help of art and anecdote. Do you wonder what your dreams are about? Send them to: eileen@contemporary-media.com.
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