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.”

Chittlins

Chittlins

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.

Carson Whittaker

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.

Delilah stops to play in a field of passion flowers and falls in love...with herself.

Delilah stops to play in a field of passion flowers and falls in love…with herself.

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.

Dive in, she said

Dive in, she said

“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

Cats night out

Cats night out

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.

Denise Stewart-Sanabria – November 2016 Artist

November brings the return of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria to the walls of Tomato Head.  In summer of last year, Denise exhibited a collection of Vanitas – still-life paintings that treat domestic imagery in symbolic terms, often as images of death and change.  Denise’s exhibit included many large format and food centric compositions that posed some challenging questions about food.  This artist’s work is thoughtful and thought provoking.

That’s equally true of her current exhibit which primarily focuses on Stewart-Sanabria’s Contemporary Mythology

Appalachian Queen of Rubber Inner Tube Couture

Appalachian Queen of Rubber Inner Tube Couture

Altars but also includes some small scale plywood people drawings – a small version of a form that she also creates in life-like proportion.

From a purely visual point of view, the altars, of which there are 2 types, are a fascinating collection of materials.  According to the artist, “The large ones are wood drawings on hand built altar frames with other media ranging from objects embedded in resin to gold leaf. The smaller ones are cut paper drawings in hand built wood altars with mixed media and added bling.”

But the collection of materials in these compositions isn’t the result of a shopping spree at a craft store.  She says that, “I collect stuff wherever I am. Detritus. Most of it procured legally.”  The variety of the components bring a lovely textural variation to the work as well as adding a sense of depth – visually and otherwise.

For the artist, this series of work is rooted in observations about our culture, and, perhaps, our value systems, too.  These altars, she says, “are all figurative, and focus on either contemporary culture or how the past effects contemporary culture.”

Steps To The Ryman

Steps To The Ryman

At times, as in her previous exhibit, the work may incite challenging self-reflection.  These altars, though they may feature some variant of Classical imagery, also touch contemporary life – not always comfortably.  Denise wonders: “Would contemporary temples to Aphrodite be beauty salons? Would modern versions of ancient water gods visit Tennessee tourist waterfall sites? Is Dionysus worshipped during exhibit openings where wine seems to be an equal draw with the art?”

Denise Stewart-Sanabria exhibits her work regularly in Knoxville and Nashville as well as all around the country from Chicago Heights’ Union Street Gallery to the Florida State Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee.  You can find it at the Market Square Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville now through December 4th.  She will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from December 5th, 2016 through January 2nd, 2017.

Ruth Allen – Featured Artist

The third time, they say, is a charm, and if that’s the case, then Ruth Allen should have a spectacular showing on the imagewalls of the Tomato Head.  Ruth’s work captured Mahasti’s eye during a visit to Big City Bread Cafe in Athens, GA.  Mahasti recalls that, “there was a really cute artist studio in the back.  It was closed, but we peeked in the window and saw some really cute whimsical clay pieces and some of the ones that really stood out turned out to be Ruth’s.  When we went into the Café, they had her art on their walls.  Her work is so colorful and pure it immediately caught my attention, so I spent most of my time at the bakery walking around looking at her work. “

Ruth brings a fascinating technique and vivid eye for color to her work; this particular exhibit will be no exception, and Ruth expects that we’ll see, “Birds, deer, a rabbit, some tulips, and something strange…”  all in a variety of sizes of acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Although she’s painted a variety of subjects over her career, many of Ruth’s strongest images come from the animal kingdom.  “I have always loved animals, flowers and nature,” she says, “I am usually drawing and painting about my love of something. If it’s not love, another strong emotion. It’s a way of communicating…maybe something for which I have no words.” It’s almost ironic, then, that, at times, she seems to capture fauna in an illustrative way, almost as if they were mid-speech in some fascinating adventure.

image-1The shape, line and color of Ruth’s work create a distinctive form – in fact, many of the comments that she hears refer to the singularity of her painting.  But Ruth isn’t conscious of pursuing a particular style.  Instead, she says, “I take in a lot of visual images via Instagram and curated quite a collection of inspirations during the beta testing days of Pinterest. My influences are many. It still comes back to love. If I love someone else’s work, it can’t help but be reflected in mine, but I do try to be aware of that when it’s happening. So, I confess my loves for artists like Michael Banks and Lauren Marx, who are the most prevalent influences lately. Not that I am anywhere near their league!! Still, I have a great love for what they are doing.”

Ruth’s training came from a gifted teacher, but she says she “did not study art in college though, as much as I wanted to. I let some life events kind of derail that idea… I’m really just doing something I love and sharing it in whatever way I can.”

As her exhibit clearly demonstrates, the path of the artist doesn’t always follow an academic course, but Ruth is image-2adamant that, whatever you do, if you have a passion for art, you ,“Never, never give up. Never stop. When anyone, including your parents, tell you that you cannot make a living doing your art, just know that you can’t really live without doing it.”

You can see for yourself now through November 6th while Ruth Allen’s exhibit hangs in the Market Square restaurant.  The show will move to the Gallery location November 7th at remain there until December 5th.

Cynthia Tipton – Artist

When you take a look at Cynthia Tipton’s artwork, you may find that it’s looking back at you.

Cynthia is, as she puts it, a jack of all trades, so it’s difficult to pin her down.  If you visit her studio, you might find her occupied teaching a figure drawing class, or even knitting, but what may catch your eye, and keep it, are the portraits that hang about the walls and sit on easels.  For the next month, though, many of these will hang at Tomato Head Market Square in Tipton’s exhibit, “Discord and Rhyme.”

Two of the most notable of these portraits feature the nearly iconic faces of Scott and Bernadette West.  Both are engaging works of art, vibrant and almost pulsing with the energy of the subjects.  In fact there’s so much life in them that one might think that they were looking back.

Cynthia likes to paint people, but, she says, she’s really interested in more than just a pretty face:  “I love painting people, always have.  Usually I have some understanding of the person that interests me enough to paint them…. I’m really trying to capture their essence, some part of their personality other than the stoic kind of portrait. “

That interest moves through the paint and across the gulf between canvass and viewer – whether it’s Bernadette West’s kind and colorful gaze or a young girl in the midst of some emotional fit – the paintings speak through eyes as well as through the tilt of the head, the subtle lines of lips and cheek.

Although it’s easy to classify her as a portrait artist, Tipton isn’t comfortable with that mantle, she says, “I’m a portrait artist, though I hate saying that – it doesn’t quite say what I do.  So, perhaps, Painter of People?”

But it’s not just the eyes and attitude of faces that seem to look back at you in her work.  A verdant landscape with its life and changing color also seems to peer back – perhaps it’s the sense of a breeze stirring in the leaves, or the movement of light over the greenery.

But the exhibit only touches a small portion of what Tipton does to fill her life with beauty.  As she said, “I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades.  I’m also in the Foothills Craft Guild for fiber art.  I’ll be teaching a class on that at the KMA in the fall.  I knit and felt – generally every year I set up at the Farmer’s market Holiday market and sell my knitted stuff.” She also buys and sells vintage jewelry and turns some of her art work into smaller pieces, decorative pieces that you can find in the gift shop at Broadway Studios and Gallery – just across the street from K-Brew.

“Discord & Rhyme” an exhibit of oil on canvas/board by Cynthia Tipton will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville from September 5th thru October 2nd.  Cynthia will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from October 3rd thru November 7th.

You’ll want to stop in see the work for yourself – or, perhaps, let yourself be seen by it.

Lesley Eaton – Featured Artist

Like many artists before her, Lesley Eaton, our featured artist for August, questioned her vocation.  It was in college when those pangs of doubt hit her – but like many other creatives, instead of leading her to some truly profitable and practical study like accounting, Eaton says, “I decided studying English literature and creative writing was more practical than art.”

Thus, the call of wild and the creative urge stayed with her and when the Savannah College of Art and Design opened a campus in Atlanta, where she was living and working, Eaton applied and was accepted to pursue an MFA in illustration.   We’re very happy to see some of the results of that decision hanging on our walls this month.

The exhibit is entitled “By Land or Sea, a collection of painted paper collage by Lesley Eaton.”

For Eaton collage is a specific, detailed approach: “I paint all of my papers and then cut out and glue each detail. The painting is very free and expressive, and the cutting and gluing is very meticulous. I like the balance of my process and the balance of the result, with the sharp clean edges of my design complimenting the chaos of the painterly papers. The fact that my work is all cut paper is very subtle. I’m always telling people to look closely to see the detail. “

In addition, the exhibit will include a handful of her older collage pieces, and she says, “I’m experimenting with some more expressive designs and am excited to see these hanging next to my other peppered paper pieces.”  In some ways this style represents creative recycling because, she says, “My peppered paper is a collection of papers originally used as a type of drop cloth. I use butcher paper to cover my drafting table as I paint my papers, so it catches all of the spills, splatters, and brushstrokes as I paint. The result is this paper covered with a beautiful mess of color and texture; it’s ‘peppered’ with paint.”

The process may sound chaotic, but, while there’s certainly an element of the random and unpredictable, Eaton’s eye creates order out of all these shapes and colors and textures.  “The image or idea comes first, then it’s trial and error until I find the perfect piece of ‘peppered paper’ for each part of my object. On my drafting table now is the body of a lobster and part of a shrimp that didn’t make the final cut. Most often I have an idea for what color I want each piece to be, like, ‘I really want these antlers to be bright blue with lots of texture,’ but in the end it’s more important how the piece is coming together as a whole.”

Eaton’s work is vibrant and alive with color and detail.  She says that she’s drawn to sharp, delicate edges: “I like how graceful and clean these shapes are when crafted out of cut paper. Clean, sharp lines are a unifying element in most of my collage pieces: whiskers, antlers, antennae, claws, petals, thorns, guitar strings.”

Still, Eaton’s art isn’t chained to precise representation, though, she says, “Most of my work isn’t super realistic, but I like to have the right number of strings on an instrument and legs on an insect.”

You can see “By Land or Sea, a collection of painted paper collage by Lesly Eaton” from August 7th to September 4th, 2016 at the downtown location and September 5th to October 3rd at the West Knoxville location.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design