Ric Brooks – Featured Artist

Lloyd Swanton during the Necks performance

Laurie Anderson with Kronos Quartet

Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond





Love is in the air.  And it’s on our walls.

It’s hanging there, mostly in bold colors, as a clear statement that photographer Ric Brooks loves music makers almost as much as he loves their music.

For years, Brooks has been the official unofficial photographer of Big Ears.  And it’s a role he loves.

He’s a straightforward guy, I suspect he wouldn’t tell you any lies.  So when he repeats that he isn’t a professional photographer, you believe that he believes it.  Yet when you look at his work, you’ll recognize that he is a passionate shutterbug – which, in many ways, is exactly what you want for a festival that touches the very heart of passion.

Artist Ric Brooks

His collection of work now hanging on our Market Square walls spans 2009 – 2017 and is mostly comprised of artists in action shots.  Each one is a studied photo in its way.  Brooks says, “I’m in the audience, listening, and I see a photograph that I want to take. Say, I see this look on the artist’s face, and I know I want to photograph it. I’ll have to take 3 or 4 just to get that expression.  Lots of musicians will do certain things, make a move or something to get that high note; you know it – it’s what people call the guitar face.  But you can see that happening in the song so you know it’s going to come back on the chorus or somewhere. I’m waiting for it. I know what photo I want.”

Some of the shots have a curious intimacy to them.  There’s a striking moment when it would seem that he made eye contact with Laurie Anderson but, “of course she couldn’t see me. That’s chance.  She can’t see me out in the audience.  I don’t like to get up close.”

Brooks opines that it might be that, like Schrodinger’s cat, the artist, even in performance, changes when observed so closely by the eternal possibilities represented by a lens: “Surely as an artist you have to feel the presence of the photographer, and wonder ‘is it looking good, is that the correct side?’ “

The exhibit represents just a fraction of his search for the images he likes and an extensive association with musicians.

Brooks and Big Ears founder Ashley Capps have a long and continuous friendship that dates back to Kindergarten.  When Capps started doing concerts at the Laurel Theatre way back when, Brooks was there with a camera and, sometimes, catering too.  When Capps opened Ella Guru’s, Brooks was there, managing, taking tickets, and meeting, hearing and watching.

Despite his wariness at labeling himself, Brooks is certainly conscious of his work as an art form – whether he admits it or not.   Each photograph is a full image; one that extends all the way to the edge and border of the photograph, which are beautifully coupled by a stamp bearing his signature.  Brooks carved the soapstone stamp himself, an inspiration drawn from his time in Japan, where he taught English for 4 years when just out of college.  The stamp means “Little River, “ he says. “It’s my name.”

This distinctive element binds the subject, the art and the artist.  And one might opine that this considered and loving combination represents a sense of a work’s entirety and rests at the heart of what makes Ric Brooks’ Big Ears photography so alluring.  “I’m not assignment,” he says, which means he’s not visiting 3 or 4 concerts a night collecting images that he needs to post before a deadline: “I like to photograph a whole concert.”

His approach is a long form that yields a lot of treasure that we’re happy to share.

“Big Ears Big Eyes – Big Ears photos from 2009-2017”, an exhibit of photographs by Ric Brooks will be on view at the downtown Tomato Head on Market Square from March 5th thru April 1st.  The exhibit will then be on view at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from April 3rd thru May 7th.

Featured Artist Kimberly Pack


Playwright Edward Albee famously decried the efforts of critics and scholars to identify too much “connective tissue” in his work.  Albee said he didn’t control characters – they act the way they act because that’s who they are, and they do what they do because that’s what they want to do.  For Albee, writing, art if you will, isn’t limited or necessarily driven by what happens to the creator of the work.  Albee might have opined that in art, like life, the artist starts something, somewhere for reasons known or unknown, but once started that creation careens off in its own direction.

Artist Kimberly Pack, whose exhibit currently hangs in our Market Square location, isn’t exactly sure where the characters in her work came from, but she does know that they have taken up residence in her imagination where they seem to have heard and heeded a call to be fruitful and multiply.

A quick look at her collection of drawings (ink on watercolor paper) is enough to tempt an observer into wondering if these strange little people have some connection to the artist’s life:  Are they personal demons trying to get out?  Are they unkind caricatures of unpleasant characters from her past? Are they born of some great sadness or a little touch of madness?

Pack isn’t sure where her inspiration is born, but when asked about the genesis of the drawings she describes a combination of habit, self-improvement, and the mystery of inspiration’s spark:

“When my kids were growing up they never just got to sit and watch cartoons; they had to be coloring, or they could be playing with Legos or Hot Wheels –  just doing something.  So I was in the habit of sitting with a movie on and drawing circles. Just drawing circles.  And then a few years ago I recognized that I’d just never been able to draw in a way that I was happy with.  So I got one of these books, something like ‘20 Ways to Draw a Tree’ and I started drawing.  I’m not joking.”

As her drawing continued, Pack still stuck with circles but then “there were eyes, and faces, and shoulders, and then they started getting bigger and bigger and with more detail.  I do it every day; I can’t stop drawing these guys.  It just makes me happy.”

A few, and only a few of the current drawings have a connection to the real world.  One drawing, she says, is inspired by her father’s World’s Fair Season Pass photo, another by a picture of actor Viggo Mortensen, but mostly, “I just sit down and draw from nothing.”

Pack is aware that some people may not quite see her characters as she does or understand their essential happiness and whimsy: “Drawing them calms my mind but also leaves me very happy. I’m not a tortured artist – I get joy from their faces. I’ve always loved cartoons.  I’m nearly 50 and still do. “Futerama” and “Rick and Morty” – I love them and so I guess I like to look at things that are kind of cartoony or just whimsical.   You may not look at them and think these are whimsy.  But I do.”

Kimberly Pack will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head thru March 4th, 2018.  She will exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from March 6th thru April 2nd, 2018.

Kendra Carter – Featured Artist

“Dear Diary, I feel very hopeful today…”

One of my favorite (and most honest) editors warned me to avoid making my columns sound like diary entries.  But sometimes the subject of an assignment creates a sincere emotional moment for a writer, and it’s nearly impossible to eschew the personal response.  Of course, there’s a little leeway when writing about art as there’s often a blurry area between creation and creator; and in the case of our newest exhibit at the Gallery Location, “My Way” by Kendra Carter, there’s a lot to love in the artwork, of course, but the path leading to it is a story that, in modern parlance, gave me all the feels.

Kendra works primarily in acrylic to which she adds a pourable medium to create Fluid Art – you’ll know it when you see it in her exhibit.  But the idea of flow was a pervasive element in my conversation with Kendra both in terms of her current output as well as a part of what led her to this period of creativity.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of art therapy?” She asks. “It’s definitely been a help to me. The work gives me a sense of peace and clarity, and it quiets my mind. I’m a worrier.  I’m the kind of person who lays in bed and worries about when my 11-year-old starts driving.”

But finding her way to this outlet didn’t begin with a happy moment.  On the contrary, she says that “I just started a year or so ago really putting forth the effort to create art consistently.  My father passed away in January of last year and honestly that gave me this almost philosophical life crisis. I think it was what made me change my career.”

Carter was the manager of a large hair salon, and it was the kind of job she’d done all her life: “I’ve always managed people and systems, and I’m good at it. But I got to where I didn’t really enjoy it. Everybody else who worked there was able to make other people feel beautiful.  But I wasn’t doing anybody’s hair, I was writing people up for being late.  I really needed a way to express emotion, and art is how I’ve always been able to do that; I have a lot of emotion to express. I just needed a change and that’s sort of how I came to this.”

Although her job shift led her to invest more time in creative activities, Carter also found time to volunteer at a homeless shelter: “My husband was doing it, and although I am more drawn to help with needy children, this was a good place to start.  You feel needed there and purposeful.  And maybe everybody wants that, but I certainly was looking for that – especially in the last year.  And I was looking for a way to fill the need to create.  I don’t think I was looking to have an exhibit or anything, but then as my work accumulated, I thought it might be fun.  It’s intimidating to present stuff you’ve made, things that that come from your soul for other people to look at.  You hope they have some sort of reaction, something that makes them feel something – whether it’s what you felt or not it doesn’t matter – as long as it’s something.”

Although she has dabbled in many forms, Carter’s current work lives squarely in the abstract.  It’s a liberating style, she says, that allows her to express her inner rebel:  “What I love about abstract so much is that it is so freeing. I hate to be controlled and basically I don’t like being told what to do.  Of course, I can conform and I can definitely follow rules and accept certain things.  But maybe this is just my way of rebelling outside of societal parameters. I don’t know but it does seem really freeing to me.”

In the ensuing year Kendra’s work has taken up a lot of space in her home and garage.  It’s a space she shares with a husband who likes things to be a little more orderly, perhaps, than allowed by a life full of canvass and paint and the sundry material that go with them: “He’s the kind of guy who likes things to be in the right place, and now there’s paint on the garage floor and the walls are covered with color. But he’s been very supportive from the time I decided to change my career on, he said ‘I don’t care if you sell one piece, you can cover all the walls if that’s what you need to be happy.’”

Some stories have happy endings – or better yet, new and happy beginnings.  This one does, and you can see it for yourself.  Kendra Carter’s exhibit, My Way hangs in our Gallery Location.

Gretchen Adreon – Featured Artist

“What does it mean?”

I haven’t taken a poll, but it might be interesting to ask how often an artist working in the Abstract hears that particular question.  It might be more enlightening to ask if that question becomes challenging to hear over time – not because it’s necessarily a bad question, but because most people ask the wrong person.

It’s not a question for the artist: It’s a question for you.

Gretchen Adreon’s exhibit at our Market Square restaurant is an opportunity for you to pose that question to yourself over and over again.  And that’s just how Adreon likes it.  When a work is complete, she says, her hope is to “leave an open space and the viewer will be able to add their own feelings and connect with the piece to complete the process.”

And of course, that means that there are many answers to the question of what’s all about.  “From the very beginning I have had

Ghost of a Chance

people telling me their feelings and impressions of my work. I LOVE that – that’s when the whole process comes full circle to me. When someone is engaged in the work, I feel I have succeeded. Sometimes one viewer sees what another cannot see at all but sees or, even better, feels something totally different. “

Adreon comes of an intensely creative background.   She describes her father, a sign muralist who climbed some of the tallest buildings in Chicago to paint sign fronts as  ”the most fearlessly creative artist I’ve known. He used our house as his canvas in almost every room to paint, sometimes we would go to school in the morning with one thing on the wall in a given room and come home to something totally different.”

This literal immersion in creativity led Adreon to her own artistic expression at an early age – one that, over time, she thought might lead her into her father’s medium, graphic art.  But an encounter with a passionate artist and teacher changed her perspective and fueled her passion: Artist Anton Weiss, “…changed my thinking completely on what my own art might look like. He was such a force to his students, had actually studied with Hans Hofmann, and for the first time ever I began feeling freedom and passion at what I was doing.”

Adreon’s art begins as an emotional expression that, through any number of implements and materials -from trowels to sandpaper, and more- remains an open and emotional experience to share with the people who see it.  Although this may leave the definition of her imagery in the eyes of others, Adreon is more than comfortable with that process: “My emotions went to abstractions rather than concrete imagery. I have never regretted taking that direction, however many, many people see images, figures and, yes, landscapes as well.”


Looking at Adreon’s paintings is an adventure in perspective: at one glance, one feels present in an infinite horizon, but a moment later, the waters rise, the wind blows, and the sand shifts.  But each moment is your own and that’s beautifully liberating in a world where facts and figures can overcrowd the brain.  The paintings have a sense of depth but, even more, they are full of possibility.  Adreon’s work is an invitation to think and to feel and to express that all for yourself.

As for what it all means?  Well… why don’t you tell me.

Gretchen Adreon will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head from December 4th through January 7th, 2018.  She will then exhibit with the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from January 9th through February 5th, 2018.

Evelyn Forester – Featured Artist

In his poem, “Extra Innings” Arthur Smith describes the memory of a baseball game from his distant past.  It’s the ninth inning, there are two outs, and the opposing pitcher is Tom Seaver.  The game is a no-hitter as the poem’s narrator takes the bat and makes a mighty swing that connects and soars.  I asked Smith once if he really played that game, and, with a sly grin, he said, “read it again.”

Like many of the poems in Smith’s collection, Elegy on Independence Day, this beautiful bit of verse is not about baseball – it’s about memory.  Smith writes, “He’ll remember his no hitter as precisely/And firmly as I remember spoiling it, and neither of us is wrong.”

Memory is an unreliable witness.

Memory is a powerful tool that shapes our experience and often reshapes it. Sometimes these reformations merely suit our ego, sometimes they are born of fantasy and imagination to let us live life as we wish we had, and sometimes they are protective adaptations that shield us from the reliving of terrible recollections.

The work of our featured artist in Market Square this month, Evelyn Forester is deeply rooted in these exigencies of memory.  Hers is a moody world of experience and impression rooted in a strange interlude spent in Katy Texas where she spent time with an Aunt who read her palm and read with her from the Book of Enoch.

I don’t know that Forester’s memories contain any of the little fictions that memory often creates as it reshapes time – Evelyn is a reticent character who is reluctant to share too much information about her past.  And even when she does share one is left to wonder, as one often is when speaking to anybody, and artists in particular, which parts of the story are untouched by creativity.

Born to a comfortable, even an affluent life, Forester dropped out of school at 16 and abandoned material comfort to move to Valley Forge, Tennessee where she took up residence with a Great Aunt, whom she declines to name.  During this time Forester learned the hard lessons taught by subsistence farming and life lived in close quarters – in this instance a small cabin.

Still, despite the poverty, the house was filled with books, including a veritable library of art history, criticism and the like.  Even with so much reading material at hand, Evelyn says she was much more affected by the time she spent with dirt under her fingernails: “I got a great appreciation of the masters, but I think I was more influenced by the hands-on experiences on the homestead.  It certainly gave me a love of a self-taught method of learning and creating work.”

Forester’s life experience is reflected in a formal flexibility, she says, as her “pieces are sometimes abstract – reflecting emotion or experiences with others I may have had, and sometimes illustrative – reflecting memories and experiences with others I may have had. “

But in all cases, the subjects that demand her attention are her memories: “The illustrative works are quite autonomous.  I’m not too worried about scale or proportion.  In fact, I’m not very good with either.  That allows me to pursue the idea of memory.  The paint is, of course, the vehicle – so, that’s what really drives it.  It is the act of painting that tends to reveal a memory for me.”

The paintings in this exhibit are mostly oil on wood panels of varied sizes that are drawn from a very particular part of Forester’s life: “they come from a period I spent there [Katy, Texas] with father in 1987 on one of his many trips planned for the expansion of his finances.  While he courted refineries, I was left with his sister (a palm reading Christian) from March to November.”   These experiences (along with the absence of school) were what she remembers as the pivotal and spiritual enlightenment of her 9-year-old self.

The images are painted through the very powerful filter of time – the scenes are dated in 1987, but the act of painting seems to have occurred this year, 2017.  Though the images are mostly recognizable, they live in a nearly ethereal haze of quiet colors.  Though in the instance of an impending twister, the painting is set in an almost sepia tinted landscape that, for me at least, evoked memories of Dorothy and Toto.  The subjects are varied and include, among others, a missing child, an attentive jack rabbit, and a tilting flying saucer.

When asked which comes first, form or content, Forester says, “Content rules in abstraction.  Those pieces are very illustrative to me as well, and probably only me.  They are very internal and are never ‘happy’ works of art.  Abstractions have stemmed from traumatic events in my life.  There is trauma connected to the illustrative work as well, but it is a foggy mix of a happy and fearful memory.”

The opening verse in Elegy on Independence Day is a poem called “Tarantulas,” and, perhaps ironically, I learned its opening lines in 1987 – the same year that Forester was living the memories depicted in this exhibit:

If you fear them, you can find them

Everywhere in the early autumn evening

“Katy, Texas”, new paintings by Evelyn Forester will be on view at the downtown Tomato Head on Market Square from November 6th thru December 3rd.  The exhibit will move to the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head on December 5th, 2017 thru January 7th, 2018.

Kathryn Gunn – Featured Artist

Once again, the walls of our Market Square restaurant are alive with color.

The work of Asheville artist, Kathryn Gunn is a vibrant collection of color, light and reflection that comes from an intuitive place where music and mindfulness mingle with canvas, acrylic, and curiosity.

Gunn only recently started painting – in fact, until last year, she thought that she couldn’t: “I have always been a lover of art and when I was younger I pursued a career in Art history, but never believed that I could be an artist.”

But when she salvaged the remains of a children’s tempura paint set, Gunn’s artistic interest  started her on a path that would lead to art shows and juried events across the southeast even though the beginning of the journey was a very, very private affair that included only one set of eyes: her own.

Kathryn Gunn

“I took [the children’s’ paints] home with me. I just loved mixing colors. I would hide in my basement and paint on cardboard so I could throw them away as soon as I was finished and no one would ever look at anything I did.”  And even when a friend lured her to a live model drawing event with a promise that the event had “really chill music and you get to drink wine,” Gunn only agreed to attend when she was assured that no one would actually see what she had drawn.

The event proved to be much more than a pleasant afternoon of wine and song because when her drawing turned out to actually look like the model Gunn was moved to continue to explore her artistic side.  Her subsequent experiments with drawing led to more painting and more work with color and form.

Gunn’s approach remains intuitive – she adds color based on a sense of what’s missing and remains open in terms of style and subject style.  “I’m not sure that I’ve found my niche, and maybe never will as I find the next style and go ‘I want to try that out!’”

But her work is certainly informed by nature – in landscapes and even in her abstract and “Flow” works, the colors might leap from the flowers and vistas of the Appalachian Mountains.  But more than that, Gunn’s work reflects a peaceful beauty, one that’s attune to her creative process.  When she works, Gunn is absorbed by the present, because, she says, “When I’m painting, I lose myself in the work, lose track of time, forget to eat, completely absorbed, I don’t even know that I am sore from standing for hours and hours until I am finished. There is really no separation between me and the painting.”

You can get lost in Gunn’s paintings, too at the downtown Market Square Tomato Head through October 1st.  She will then hang at the West Knoxville Tomato Head from October 3rd through November 6th.

Dino Liddick – Featured Artist

image4The image of the tortured artist is cliché because it’s often true, and, more so, because we talk about it a lot.  In fact we love it.  It may be that it appeals to a strange human craving for martyrdom:  we love those who suffer for their passions.  But not all artists fall on their swords or mutilate their ears; for a whole bunch of them the creative process reflects an earnest desire to bring a burning passion or drive to create into harmony with a good, even calm life.

Dino Liddick is one of the seekers of calm.  Dino’s exhibit, “With the Eye, For the Mind” is currently hanging in our Market Square location, and the work that comprises the show is built upon a foundation of mindfulness and kindness.  Some of that is a reaction to an emotional life, and some is related to sheer practicality.

Certainly the artist has responded to emotional crises in his work, but for Liddick, the art isn’t merely a kind of therapy: it’s a statement of being.  “Sometimes somebody will ask me how I feel, and I say, well, look at that painting – that’s how I feel.”  On his website, he writes, “Rather than pulling ideas from the mind to produce ‘art,’” he, “practices clearing his mind through the process of a piece.”

Rather than formulate a work, Liddick hopes the piece will come together intuitively without too much conscious involvement.  It’s an effort to feel rather than to think.  When he’s moved by a subject or situation, Dino tries “to go home and reach that feeling, and let that feeling come into shape. I try to paint the feeling and then put in the shapes – I don’t try to the paint the shapes and then put in the feeling.”

In addition to his sensory exploration and mind clearing, Liddick has a practical side that comes with a sense of humor.

Often, he says, when the creative urge hits he’ll “usually have an abundance of white or an abundance of blue [paint]. I’ll image2be thinking of new painting so I’ll follow the path of least resistance. And I say, ‘Hey you got to love this color! Why not make it easy on yourself and make a nice blue painting,’ instead of saying, “Oh no! I’m an artist with this idea for red so I’m going to go out and spend $200 on red!’ I try not to be stuck up with myself.”

There’s also a Zen element to Dino’s conversation and art, and accepting the path of least resistance is part of his overall search for balance in the chaos that life can easily become.

“Whether I’m doing red or blue painting it’s up to me. If I get stuck or caught up in making a red one when I’ve got a lot of blue, I’m not taking the path of least resistance… I’m going to take this hard way.  I see people struggling through their day, and they say l’ve got all this I’ve got to do… I slow down and just go home and chill and think be happy with your day instead of putting your happiness at the end of this long hard exhausting road.  It’s almost like we Americans say you’re not happy unless you practically kill yourself today.”

“With the Eye, for the Mind” by Dino Liddick will be on view at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head on Market Square from June 5th through July 2nd.  The exhibit will display at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from July 4th through August 3rd.

Casey Fox – Featured Artist

By day, Casey Fox is the celebrated manager of Library Fund Development for the Knox County Public Library.  Featured as one of the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s “40 under 40,” Fox gets kudos for her fund-raising efforts, particularly a capital campaign to help digitize the library’s historic archives.

But when she’s not busy contributing to the Library’s mission, Fox has a secret identity, and it’s one that Tomato Head has proudly unveiled and put on public display in our Market Square restaurant.

Casey Fox is also a photographer.

Putt n Stuff

Putt n Stuff

Now through May 1st, Fox presents her first solo exhibit in our downtown location.  Titled “Landscaped,” the exhibit features a collection of images that Fox captured over the last 7 or 8 years but without intending to create a series.  Fox says it was only after the fact that she realized that not only did she have enough shots for a show, she had also uncovered a style:

“I was just looking back through my pictures and realized, ‘oh this is what I do’. I remember sitting on the couch once looking through all my stuff and putting some pictures together in the computer and then turning to my husband, Jesse, and saying I think I have a show.”



Fox’s style is a natural one – the photos in the show are largely unrefined with only minimal post processing.  This raw naturalism says Fox, is, in some ways, related to New Topographics, a movement that arose in the 1970s.  The movement, in the words of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, marked a shift in photography as “Pictures of transcendent natural vistas gave way to unromanticized views of stark industrial landscapes, suburban sprawl, and everyday scenes not usually given a second glance.”

Fox captures this quality – her lighting is all natural and the photographs are almost always straight on with any attempt to manipulate the landscape – not even through angled shots.  She makes a point of that because, “I like the subjects to speak for themselves. I guess that’s another reason I don’t do weird angles or anything – I just like presenting the buildings, or whatever the subject is, and letting it be there and not projecting a lot on to it. “

But that’s not to say that there’s no romanticism in Fox’s exhibit – there very well may be, but it’s a romanticism that the visitor and viewer will bring.

Many of the shots in “Landscaped” were captured in East Tennessee, and some of those are practically redolent with

Bristol Auto Auction

Bristol Auto Auction

nostalgia – an abandoned and overgrown store front, an old house seemingly inhabited by the trees that crowd it, even a shot of empty road and overpasses evoke a distinct feel of a familiar landscape and the travels and memories once made there.

Of course, those are personal reactions – you’ll enjoy forming your own.

“Landscaped”, an exhibit of photographs by Casey Fox will be on view at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head Restaurant from April 3rd to April 30th, 2017.  The exhibit will then display at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from May 2nd to June 5th, 2017.

Beth Meadows – Featured Artist

Beth Meadows’ current studio is a working space, not open to the public; but if you were to find your way there, you would find yourself in a nest of ideas – one lined with images and materials that the artist collects because they draw her attention.  In the exhibit now hanging at Tomato Head Market Square, Meadows has assembled a collection of pieces that feature two prominent classes of things that consistently catch her eye: fashion and food packaging.

Many of the images depicted might seem familiar, and that’s because they’re drawn from the pages of fashion IMG_8938magazines.    “They’re super models, “ Meadows says, “and the clothing is made out of a collage of food packaging. The idea was to mix this fascination I have with fashion that’s grown over the years with a negative feeling I have about grocery shopping. I don’t love it, grocery shopping, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m trying not to be swayed by how things are packaged – because I don’t want to be marketed to or persuaded to buy things that are packaged beautifully.  That’s really hard for an artist like me because I’m aesthetically inclined.”

The works are a mix of collage and drawing that are, in fact, based on photographs of super models; but as the she creates the piece, Meadows creates her own line of clothing for each – one that’s built from the food packaging that she normally resists:

“In order to make these I let myself go to the grocery store and buy packaging that was just really attractive. It made that shopping experience really enjoyable for the first time in a long time, so now I go specifically to buy certain colors.  And I have friends who just hand me food packaging now because they know I’m collecting it.  Actually there’s somebody at Tomato Head who works in the kitchen who’s been giving me some of their food packaging.”

IMG_8886One of Meadows’ pieces will feature a design created from a discarded onion bag; another, a sack of flour.  Some of the packaging is evident – a handbag made from a ginger ale label or a belt from a cheese wrapper – other bits are mere moments of color, say a flash of gold from some Shiner Bock.

The combination of fashion and food is easy fodder for anyone looking for what playwright Edward Albee would call, “connective tissue” that might link issues or the artist directly with the works they create.  But like Albee, Meadows eschews any direct connections to issues personal or otherwise.

“You just work, work, work and then you look back and think, wow it might mean that.  But I’m not thinking about it. I’m just looking at stuff all the time, things that are fascinating to me – this manila folder is on my desk is full of magazine pages. I have ideas that I want to paint and create and sometimes I’m wondering why am I drawn to this, but it’s not the first thing that I think about. Someone might say, ‘well it’s like you’re trying to be deep with these’ but it wasn’t the initial inspiration. It was just that I wanted to go buy beautiful food packaging from the grocery store.”

Even so, Meadows’ work is thoughtful and thought provoking.  And her fascination with fashion informs her work in multiple ways.

“On a personal level, I wake up in the morning and there are decisions I have to make. Someone was coming to take a picture of me this morning so I look a lot more put together than I usually do.  But my daily question is am I doing this for me or am I doing it for somebody else? It’s hard to ride that line of whether I’m taking care of myself for me instead of looking for someone else’s affirmation of me.”

“Looking at supermodels, and the fashion industry in general, is so interesting to me because on the surface these IMG_8785women look very powerful and exude confidence because of what they’re wearing – but all the layers underneath that are also interesting to me. Usually the designer’s a man, usually he’s adorning these women – so then they become objects.  I’m intrigued by what these women are thinking and, then I wonder if, at the end of the day, do they feel valued after and how much of themselves is still in those photos after they’ve been photo-shopped.”

It’s not hard to make a similar connection to food packaging – how often does it match what’s inside?   And that’s just beginning of many ideas that flow from this Meadows’ work – the exhibit excites the eye and conversation.

Meadows has a broad range of work, in addition to visiting her exhibit at our downtown place, you’ll want to explore the complete range of her portfolio and find out more about her on her website: http://withbearhands.com/.

I spend a lot of time resisting it but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I can’t afford any of that and I probably never will be able to afford it because it’s also inaccessible to me but I think that’s what interesting to me is this bag was free so I’m using free and accessible materials to talk all about a subject that’s completely inaccessible to me and most people I know.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design