Memphis Artists Describe Their Ideal Art Space 

Part of a new series of profiles of local artists.


The French writer Gaston Bachelard once wrote about building a dream house: "Maybe it is a good thing for us to keep a few dreams of a house that we shall live in later, much later, so much later, in fact, that we shall not have time to achieve it ... It is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality."

It is with Bachelard's much-later and maybe-impossible dream house in mind that we ask Memphis artists to describe their dream art space, the one they would create if they had infinite time and resources.

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of artist profiles inspired by Meghan Vaziri's portraits. See more of Vaziri's work at

Lester Merriweather

An ideal gallery would consist of tall walls and polished concrete floors so that nothing would be obtrusive to the work.

It would have absolute logistical freedom as far as budgets, travel, shipping, insurance, etc., so ideally it would have a "golden parachute" attached to it.

The administration would be a consistent mix of artists, grant writers, dealers/gallerists, and writers in an attempt to cover all the important touch points for the art itself.

There would be a balanced approach to exhibiting work locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Also, there would be a wide array of themes covered in types of work exhibited, very often covering controversial bodies of work.

Lester Merriweather is curator of the University of Memphis' Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art. A new exhibition of his work, "Colossus," opens Friday, July 11th, at Crosstown Arts.

Mary Jo Karimnia

My physical dream space is always raw — a repurposed, crumbly brick building, interior architecture that respects its origins but also provides lots of white wall space, with multiple galleries suited to everything from traditionally hung artwork to installation and video viewing space with seating. Plenty of classroom and office space. Good lighting would be a must in all areas. Natural lighting like the de Menil museums in Houston would be a great bonus. Areas of lush greenery maybe in courtyard form. And I like big, tall, wall-sized doors. A building with an interesting history always inspires me in some way.

The main purpose of this art entity would be producing shows with a strong emphasis on a diverse contemporary scene. Programming would consist of both short-term and long-term exhibitions from a wide variety of perspectives: women, men, gay, straight, foreign, local, black, white, old, young, emerging, established, non-traditional materials and techniques, traditional materials and techniques. The facility would showcase local, national, and international artists and nurture relationships between artists and between artists and community through residencies, classes, lectures, and such. There would be programs to bring artists in and to take artists out. I imagine sending a group of artists from Memphis to a place like the Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flats in the world, in Bolivia. It is a very surreal place. Throw in an eclipse and you have an amazing experience for a group of artists to build work upon and to build a show around.

Mary Jo Karimnia is a painter whose recent shows include "Unchained II" at Rozelle Warehouse and "This Art Has Cooties" at Marshall Arts.

Joel Parsons

A clean, well-lighted place. A place that is the physical deep web (not sure what it is but I heard about it on House of Cards and I want to go there but I'm scared). A place that eats the runway and does car commercials in Japan. A place that knows the line between self-care and self-harm. A place that is DOM/MASC/BUTCH because it will not be topped (except when it wants to be hard femme/power bttm). A place that has read Sonja Morgan's toaster oven cookbook. A place to day drink with. A place that, well - let's face it, we're undone by each other. A place to have a one-night-stand with but then it's totally cool and no one regrets anything and we're still, like, really good friends. A place that is a new and mouthwatering way to cook an egg. A place that knows what it did. A place that gives good text. A place that cries. A silken web stretched across your morning transom. The second studio album by American R&B group TLC. A vessel for exxxcesses of desire. A pig in a wig. A flavor of ice cream. The dancing twins emoji. Tyra Mail. Magnetic field. Feels. Verb. A place that's on that Tilda Swinton tip. That got dat booty do. Tough. Fizzy. Qute.*

*no carpet

Joel Parsons is a sculptor and curator of Rhodes Clough-Hanson Gallery. He is also the founder of Beige, a queer art thinking space and house gallery.

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