THE ART OF SEEING As much as I’ve ruminated over the strange confluence of artists and creative types here in our city, I’ve realized that I’ve spent precious little time exploring the numerous gallery spaces showcasing the works of the Bluff city’s visual artists. Though I was a subject once. Kind of. When a friend of mine was creating her thesis project for her degree at MCA, my visage was featured in a series of prints displayed at the college. In said print I was dressed in the traditional garb of an Uzbekistani woman, and I now display it proudly in my home, commemorating my contribution to the world of art. Other than that, though, my experience with the visual arts in Memphis has been more limited than it should be. With that in mind, I decided to tag along with some friends to an opening at Jay Etkin’s gallery on South Main this past Friday. I’ve always been a little bit intimidated by art openings. It’s not the art, really. And it’s not so much the people. Primarily, this fear is predicated on the fact that my response to visual art has always been largely nonverbal. Good art, they say, sparks debate and dialogue and therein changes the way the world is framed for its viewers. I, however, prefer to quietly soak in the images. To listen to those around me. I guess what it boils down to is that I do not have the stuff of a great art reviewer. Fine. Etkin’s space, however, has a certain charm that prevented me from feeling like I couldn’t hang with the art crowd if devoid of a lengthy philosophy to justify my participation in the showing. The responsibility for that lies with Etkin himself, who personally greets his visitors at the door, urging them to come in and enjoy. Plus he complimented me. That always helps. If you are like me and find that you aren’t sure how to navigate the dynamics of a gallery, this is a great place to get over that fear. A wide-open loft spanning 10,000 square feet, there’s something of interest for everyone, though it leans toward the contemporary--which to me, makes it more accessible. The opening on Friday centered a collection of paintings by Jeri Ledbetter, and an installation of collage work entitled “Not Critically Acclaimed,” by The Flyer’s own David Hall. Ledbetter’s work perfectly exemplifies the way in which I respond to visual art. While scanning the works, I was essentially unable to comment…unable to come up with some marvelous encapsulation of the depth and significance of the collected ruminations on human form in earth tones and reds. However, I noticed that my friends’ son, who is a little over a year old, responded vocally to those pieces in which the bodies were shaded red. And there it was! It seems that Ledbetter’s works are about the interrelationship between passion and nature in the human realm. Sometimes we have red days, and sometimes we can relax and exist in union with the world’s elements. It’s through this interplay that we become human. Of course the marvel of art is that there are probably about 25 other interpretations rolling about in the mind’s of those who encountered the installation. Hall’s pieces were also interesting, be they critically acclaimed or not. Layered college pieces, they were all extremely vibrant--almost shouting out certain color patterns. The thing that I took away from Hall’s works was that when you combine elements, the end result is often expressed in tone, rather than in form. The specific images and patterns on any given part of a given piece became subservient to the larger interplay or dynamic forged as they began to dialogue with one another. Does that make sense? I definitely suggest that you go check out this treasure of a gallery yourself, either during the South Main Trolley tour or during the normal business hours of 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday. It will make you think.

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