Shifting Gears

As you may have noticed, I deleted the “Events This Week” posts and have altogether skipped posting anything for this week. The reason is this: this blog has quickly become too much of a chore and I have decided to stop updating it so that I can focus elsewhere.

Since I still believe in and care about the arts in this area, I will continue to write about them, but that writing will (hopefully) begin occupying other digital and printed venues. (This week I am planning to send a revised version of the review I wrote for Taylor Norris’ show to Numbers.)

Perhaps someday I will venture into a quarterly zine or start a FB page. For now, I have to re-adjust my dispersal of time and energy.

If you’re not sure where to learn about events in the Tri-Cities, there are MANY resources for that. Granted, none that I’ve noticed are totally comprehensive (it’s a harder task than you might think – I know, I’ve tried it), but they are worth checking in on.

Plus, most places now have Facebook pages and they post updates regarding their events (The Hideaway, Mecca Lounge, Galaxy Lounge, The Bonnie Kate) or they have websites with frequently updated calendars (William King Museum, The Hands On Museum, International Storytelling Center, The Down Home, The Acoustic Coffeehouse).

I hope you are enjoying our fantastic weather and get out this weekend to see some shows.




Two Way Dream: Paintings by Mira Gerard

Since Mira Gerard was my painting professor at ETSU and we have remained in touch, I’m pretty well acquainted with her paintings. I’ve seen them online and in person, whether it’s her studio, a gallery, or the floor of her living room. It has been an on-going pleasure to see her work continue to develop, and to see it in a variety of places. Recently, I was able to see a grouping of her recent paintings titled Two Way Dream in the Panorama Gallery of William King Museum.

Something I’ve noticed before is that after seeing them digitally, there’s this expectation that the paintings will be larger than they are in life. They seem like they must be large to contain so much energy, so much action and nuance. The painting above, which has temporarily lost its Title, is only 10″ x 15″. Many others are about the same size, give or take a few inches. The intensity of desire, both forceful and lush, slow-burning and flashing, comes across in the digital images, but truly shines when looked upon directly.

“Object Ophelia 5″, 2011. Oil on linen. 16″ x 12”.

So, as you can imagine, I was disappointed in the lighting of the Panorama Gallery. It was dark in that space, with only some cold overhead lights, and although it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the paintings, it certainly reduced their splendor. But this is an issue the museum is aware of already. Proper lighting installation is very expensive. Still, it’s a bit aggravating. I didn’t spend as much time with the paintings as I normally would, although to be fair, that’s in part because there was a reception going on. Two, actually.

Mira posing for Marie in front of “River for Forgetting” (see image below).

“River of Forgetting”, 2012. Oil on linen. 30″ x 58″.

And you know how it is at receptions, especially when two coincide. It’s a bit noisy with chatter, people stand in front of artwork to talk, and there’s concern about wine and whether there are any of those delicious brownies left. God help us if there’s more than three cheese options. While I was trying to see Mira’s painting on the back wall, which I hadn’t seen before, there were about three people who didn’t seem to grasp what I was doing. After a few minutes of me standing awkwardly near them, they shifted to the left. But then more people moved in, attempting to access the dessert side of the table. Basically, receptions are not really the time to see the work — unless you get there early or are just kind of “previewing” it.

Panorama Gallery, William King Museum.

However, I did overhear people commenting on Mira’s paintings, and pointing out this or that favourite. People seemed drawn to the sensual, dripping, vivid, at times muddy, physicality of the paint. The paintings that are pretty don’t have the quality of being “only pretty”, as so often pretty images do. I get a sense when I am looking at these figures that they are moving, but toward what end is often unclear. Isolated in their own little worlds yet still looked upon, they appear almost hypnotized and caught. But not waiting. Not anymore.

It was really great to see another grouping of her paintings, even with the issues present, because I’m always curious about how interpretations and experiences change according to context. And with Mira’s paintings especially, undulation is invited.

“Object Ophelia 2″, 2011. Oil on linen. 16″ x 12”.

Former students, Marie and Amanda, posing in front of rainbow paintings with moustaches from the Dali reception downstairs.

“Sunburst and Snowblind”, 2012. Oil on linen. 24″ x 30″.

Feeling silly at the Dali reception with Mira and her husband William.

FF: Oct 5th

I didn’t get many pictures at all of First Friday because I was occupied at Venus & Fur…




There was a lot of great stuff going on, though, and I recommend trying to see those exhibitions before they come down. I definitely will, especially now that I’m not trying to finish 32 paintings in 2 weeks (read: madwoman).

If anyone has some photos or videos of FF they’d like to share, I’ll add’em to the post. For now, to relieve some of my discomfort about a post revolving around myself, I’m posting a stolen photo taken by Brian Paddock of Joybang playing at The Mecca Lounge downtown. Daddy Don’t of Knoxville played, too. It was a lot of fun. I love that place, those people.

Christopher Mir lecture + The Day on Fire reception

“Devil”, 2012
Christopher Mir
Enamel on canvas

In the very beginning of Christopher Mir‘s lecture, he stated that the lecture would be about transformation. He started off showing us a slide that was the beginning of the transformation – Cave, 2012 – and explained his previous work method, which involved digital collages projected to trace onto canvas and printed as reference while painting. Just as it sounds, it was a very controlled and formulaic process. He started to want a sense of freedom and looseness. Innocence, even. Cave is split into three sections, with a girl kneeling in the center, wearing a pale blue dress and interacting with the foliage in the cave rather uncertainly. It seems like an embrace, a nurturing extension of her arms and fingers. Behind her and to the right, there is a man wearing a ranger hat carrying a flashlight. It’s darker and more barren than the area around the girl. Further behind her toward the top of the painting is the cave opening, full of pale shapes that appear strikingly distant and desirable. Actually, every section of the painting feels desirable, though for differing, uncertain reasons. It just feels that way. You can see the collage process, but it appears looser than his earlier work. It congeals and breathes.

Taking a moment to explain Cave and the following slide, which contained another girl, Mir said, “I’ve always been kind of obsessed with goddesses and heroines and other female figures… I really like to tell their stories.” He went on to explain that he thinks women are more advanced than men “in many ways” and “should be running the place”. He joked about the obvious tension this could cause for many men in the room, and as if on cue several women laughed a bit uncomfortably, with varying recognition or disbelief. Regarding Cave, he spoke of Persephone being kidnapped by Hades, and how this relationship relates to art-making. Forgive me, I’m paraphrasing from memory, but basically Persephone represents innocence and an unburdened desire to create while Hades represents the critic, the negative “father”. He mentioned something along the lines of striving for Persephone, but accepting that sometimes she has to visit the Underworld.

This makes sense with later statements he made, about how painting or drawing an image is a way for him to possess it, and allows him to come to terms with it, whatever it happens to be. The moon and the arctic as iconic yet penetrable spaces. Insect and mushroom “self-portraits” painted like icons, giving them a kind of humor and humility. Mir spoke of seeing Picasso’s Guernica and Goya’s Black Paintings in person, and how they changed his life. Simultaneously, he found the images tragic and comical, fearsome and cartoonish. If I understand and remember correctly, this experience is what eventually led him making his most recent and dramatic shift in work:  he began to take small, quick, and linear Sharpie marker drawings made on photo paper and turn them into larger paintings made with enamel on canvas over panel. Of the process, he said, “The paintings tend be more methodical, but they’re also more fun.” It sounds like he finally gave himself permission to embrace this personal sense of humor — which was so evident throughout his lecture — and this several years long, necessary “side” practice of drawing absurd things onto photo paper. Absurd things that are meaningful and personal, perhaps more so than previously planned paintings. Mir said that he didn’t think about it a lot, but just responded to images that appealed to him, and that quite a few of the images relate to his family.

I found the lecture to be really interesting, and hopefully not just because so much of what Mir said felt familiar to me personally. Considering how widely the lecture was liked, I’m thinking it’s more than that. No one even complained about “that’s why men have nipples”. (Long story.) He said the lecture would be about transformation, and aside from the most obvious representation of that, there was definitely a feeling of momentum toward transformation and uncertainty within that momentum. I’ve become kind of fixated on the concept of FUTURE recently, as if years of my mom taking me to Disney World’s Tomorrowland as a kid have finally caught up, and the awe and fear and excitement are all rushing to the surface at once. For many reasons, both intimate and global, I think that’s probably the case for many people. And who has not experienced an “end” that became transformation? Mir’s lecture was a really great way to enter the galleries and consider the nuanced responses artists offered to “the end times”. And eat Twinkies and Spam, if that’s your thing.

Below are some images I took at the exhibition reception. There are some more at my Flickr account, if you’re feeling curious or bored. Similarly to last Friday, I didn’t photograph everything, not even everything I liked. The videos within this show were perhaps my favourite, and I have no evidence of that except what’s in my memory. Oh, and what they’ve posted on the internet.

An ebook featuring essays by Mira Gerard and Chase Westfall as well as artwork from The Day on Fire is available for free download at You can also pay to order a hard copy. I highly recommend downloading/buying it if you’re at all interested in this subject and what little you can see of the work on this blog.

“Untitled #15 (Tank Man)”, 2006
Josh Azarella, NY
Archival digital c-print

“Exotic Flora”, 2012
Bryce Lafferty, AL
Watercolour on paper

“Okay With My Decay”, 2011
Ned Snider, NY
Acrylic on canvas
(Side note: Ned and his wife were actually at the lecture and reception, but nobody knew it right away. It was a pleasant surprise.)

Part of “Collected Suggestions”, 2010
Katie Waugh, NY
Graphite drawings

“Black Car Fire With Greens”, 2012
Caroline Larsen, ON
Oil on canvas on board

FF: Sept 7th, 2012

A few quick snapshots from First Friday, September 7th in Johnson City:

The Day on Fire preview reception at Tipton Gallery

“Necklace for 2012”, 2011
Robly Glover, TX
Found objects, sterling silver, riser with battery-powered turntable
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

“The Moment Before The Apocalypse: Russia”, 2012
Gregory Martens, WI
Reproduction of monoprint
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

Detail of “The Moment Before The Apocalypse: Planet Earth”, 2012
Gregory Martens, WI
Screen monoprint on paper
@ The Day on Fire preview reception, Tipton Gallery

Side note: I also really like Adam WilliamsIn Trying Times, Don’t Quit Trying and Casey Jex Smith‘s Dingershare, but I couldn’t get decent photos of them. And similarly, I totally failed to take any non-blurry photos of Jordan’s new jewelry. The two following images were the best I could do. They all have lovely, hand drawn details that are worth an up close gander.

Jordan’s jewelry at Venus & Fur

Jordan’s jewelry at Venus & Fur

this mountain playing downtown, in front of Nelson Fine Art Center

This post is pretty sparse because I’ve been rushing around and just wanted to get something together for a follow up post. I hope to write more in the future, although I kind of like the idea of FF re-caps just being photos (hopefully better quality than the current example). We’ll see.

I went to the other art receptions, but I didn’t feel particularly engaged, so I didn’t take any photos. They just weren’t my cup of tea. Felt too safe, too controlled. (Not that I like dangerous tea, I don’t care what Jill Tracy says.) On one hand, I feel like I should record what I experience, but on the other hand, I’m not sure it’s my responsibility to record everything, even my disliking of things. I’m not a critic, after all. However, I do see value in discourse. Thoughts?