The World is Not Enough.
It’s a 007 title, yes, but I daresay that there are times in non-cinematic life when we’ve all had just about as much of the world as we can stand. But in seeking solutions, perhaps even escapes or mere moments of diversion from life as we know it, there are trying times when the unreal landscapes of fantasy and the whimsy of imaginative fiction offer a balm to the substantial and weighty affairs of the world.
For February, Tomato Head’s Market Square walls will double as portals from this world to some other less contentious ones that live in the vibrant imagination of Carson Whittaker.
For Whittaker, a Chattanooga native and graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, art, and the worlds that she creates and visits therein, offers a refreshing path through the often mundane aspect of adult life. Like most young artists, she balances a job with her personal passion; but unlike the fabled tortured artist, Whittaker says she doesn’t sweat the daily grind: “I do my regular stuff during the day; and it can get a little bit boring, a little bit routine, so I’m always looking for a splash of imagination, some color, to help me have fun with it. It’s just the way I live my life, I don’t try to be too philosophical with it – I think it’s important to be light hearted.”
Whittaker’s personality and work both evince this joie de vivre. A brief glance at her piece, “Delilah stops to play in a field of passion flowers and falls in love… with herself” communicates that joy along with a serious sense of play in a landscape of trees that might be honeycombs and where a pink serpentine beast finds inner fulfillment. And, Whittaker is all about sharing that vibe.
“Whimsy, fun, and playfulness – I like to carry that into my work. It’s like an escape from reality.
It puts me into a creative space where I can use my imagination and do whatever I want and fill this imaginary world and get really playful and fun. It just goes with my flow.”
Her attachment to whimsy has a serious side, though not in a particular issues oriented way. She admits, “I’ve tried to get more serious and focus on more serious issues in my art but I get stuck, it gets too heavy and I get frustrated trying to get my point across. I always find the path of least resistance is to make it fun and light, then it all comes to me.” But, through efforts to keep a sense of joy and play, she hopes that her work “can stop someone in their daily routine they look at this imaginary crazy animal and it brings some new life back into that person. Maybe it stops their routine, and they look at this wild fantasy and, maybe, it brings more color and fun to life.”
Her exhibit at Tomato Head will include a lot of color and fun. This show’s pieces, Whittaker says, “are from a series called ‘Alt World’. The series comes from an ongoing daydream I have of an alternate reality where I rule my Queendom as the Bird Queen. Each print is a window into what Alt World looks like. In this land of enchantment you can see many fascinating landscapes and discover the wonderful characters that live there. I use screen printing and watercolors to bring the pieces to life.
My newest paintings depict a beer garden where different types of folks are
drinking beer and socializing. I’m interested in how people interact with one another in social settings like bars and restaurants. I like to emphasize the quirky, individuality of each character. I use lots of color to do that. I hope these pieces inspire people to laugh, play and have fun with life.”
Whittaker’s work has a considerable narrative, and, she says, many of her paintings are created “within the parameters of that story. So in this one imaginary world where this one adventurer goes to discover different landscapes in this world he’s in, looking for a greater truth.”
You can look for that truth or just enjoy being swept away by the fantastical at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head from February 6th thru March 5th, 2017. Her work will then be displayed at the West Knoxville Tomato Head from March 7th thru April 3rd, 2017.