December’s Featured Artist: Lindsey Teague

Lindsey Teague is an artist who is inspired by Knoxville: “I live on Gay Street so I walk downtown all the time and notice the smell of the local business and the lights when the sun’s setting – all the things that make the city what it is – I like to capture that scene.”

Though our Featured Artist for December isn’t a native of the city, she says she has a deep seated love of the area that began while she studied at UT, “I’ve lived here for 10 years, I’m from West Tennessee, but I love Knoxville. It’s cool to be local now, and I love that – people appreciate their city and find value in it.”

Though Lindsey’s art is drawn from a variety of inspirations, it’s hardly surprising that, more often than not, she’s drawn to subjects that have historic and local value. In fact, one of her most popular subjects is an icon not only for the city, but for the State of Tennessee too: “There’s one scene that I’ve worked on from the very beginning, though it’s the same image I like to change the composition. It’s the Tennessee Theatre.

“I’ve noticed that people are drawn to things that say what they are. I have a Sunsphere piece that says Knox; people are drawn to the words as well as the image. Maybe it’s because that you know it’s an image of your home town but when someone else sees it, they know it’s from your home town, too.”

Teague’s medium lends itself to permutation. She starts with a photograph, then prints it on wood and finally adds layers of paint to create her signature style. A free-lance graphic designer by trade and training, the way she came to this technique is proof that necessity is the mother of invention.

“It’s something that I’ve picked up in the last 3 years, and it happened by accident. A friend, Kelly Absher, asked me to do an exhibit for Central Flats and Taps for a First Friday – they had an artist back out. So I did some photography. He asked me to do it again the next year in the same spot, but I wanted to do something different.  Something with my photographs but with more of a fine art application. So I was playing around with different mediums and techniques to develop a vintage rustic style that I liked. And I thought printing on wood was cool; and so I developed my pictures into vector images and printed them on the board. Once I got to that step I started playing with painting them to add some color back to them.”

The resulting pieces are certainly familiar, and while Lindsey adds dimension and a separate personality to each that distinguish her vision, it’s never at the expense of the subject itself. Nevertheless, sometimes, she says, the materials take over and speak for themselves: “The paint will go on one color and dry another. There’s one board of the Tennessee Theatre that I originally wanted to be red. Red’s the trickiest. But it dried orange. I thought, well, that’s okay. It’s Knoxville.”

You can see Lindsey’s Art Boards at the Tomato Head Market Square from December 7 through January 3 and at the Gallery location from January 5th through February 1st.

Tennessee Theatre by Lindsey Teague

Tennessee Theatre by Lindsey Teague

November’s Featured Artist: Sheila Lutringer

This month at Tomato Head the walls feature a broad assortment of work from artist Sheila Lutringer. It’s an intriguing exhibit that includes mostly acrylics and some pencil, but the subjects are eclectic and run the gamut from self-portrait to pie – all of which reflect the artist’s broad range of interests and inspirations (and a few of our own).

The pieces vary in size, but one near constant is a vivid sense of color and detail. She says “I love color and movement. I’m using a lot of the color spectrum, but at some point, I’d like to work with a more limited palette. Sometimes less is more, but right now, there is a ton of color. It’s part of my current journey to wherever the next visual stop is.“

Her style is generally varied, though Sheila opines that “My work at The Tomato Head really is the best reflection of what I’ve been doing artistically lately. Pieces like “Blue Thoughts” and “Peridot” are my favorites. Mostly I describe my style as “hand-drawn.” Cross-hatching and other shading techniques, as well as the layering of color, are really interesting to me right now. There is a looseness I’m trying to control in a lot of my work. There are some tighter pieces where a face is involved or where there are minute details as in a teeny landscape, but in general, there is drawing in my painting.”

Sheila’s one of those lucky people who’s been certain of her vocation from early on; she recalls that “I was the kid who was praised for her art in 1st grade and so decided then and there that she would be an artist. I felt sure of it all my young life.”

Like several of the artists that we’ve featured on our walls, Sheila is keen on encouraging young interest in art: “Mom & Dad always called me their artist. I appreciate that they built a confidence in that.”  And that’s something that’s particularly important to her these days because, she says, her constant companion is her 2 year old daughter.

“She loves coloring with her washable markers and crayons. Play-doh is also a favorite medium. It’s amazing to see her improve in her dexterity and imagination each week. Perhaps she has an artistic future, but whatever she does, I hope to be as encouraging to her as my parents were to me. “

Sheila Lutringer

Sheila Lutringer

Our Featured Artist: Barbara Johnson

When you visit Tomato Head this month, you’ll be amidst a series of paintings that are full of images that are industrial and/or mechanical. But, if you’ll take a moment to consider each one and let them sink in while you sit and eat, you may find yourself asking what it is you really saw.

The collection on display this month is from the Mendelson Series composed by local artist Barb Johnson. The images are drawn from photographs that Barb took while visiting Mendelson’s Liquidation Warehouse in Dayton, Ohio. The choice to paint disconnected parts of old machinery may not strike you as an obvious choice, but Barb was captivated: “The light was coming in in such an interesting way, and there were so many things about the pieces as far as texture and color and shape that drew me to them.”

As for what draws her eye to anything she might paint, Barb says, “In so many artist statements I see this over and over again, and I would have to repeat it: light. The way the light falls on objects or changes them, their mood.  Light intrigues me. But as far as subject matter it’s hard to say. I like still life and landscape, but it’s funny when I took these photographs I thought I want to paint these things.”

As the idea for the series formed, though, an interesting thought occurred to her about the objects and the elements of life that they represented: “What got me about it was the fact that there were rows and rows of old machinery and mechanical pieces. Obviously they’re aged, and I think that someone used these for their occupation. They were productive, and now they’re just lying there to be refurbished or thrown away; and sometimes, unfortunately, that’s what happens to some people.”

And as she painted, Barb noticed a curious phenomenon: “It’s funny, I would paint them and stand back and say, wow look at that face. And I would have other people say, ‘Do you see a face in that?’ I would say, I do, do you?”

Even so, Barb isn’t interested in telling you what to see or worrying too much about it. In fact, after 15 years as a teacher, one lesson that she’s learned as well as any is that you can’t let worry about what people think destroy your creative drive: “When I taught I had general art, advanced art and Advanced Placement students – I had the whole gamut. And kids would come in and say, ‘I can’t do art.’ Unfortunately, that’s brought on by someone who says to them, ‘You’re not really an artist’. For me art isn’t about creating a thing to hang on the wall; it’s something you can do to fulfill yourself.”

“You have do it for yourself and not worry about what ‘they’ think about it. You fight the inner critic all the time. I have to tell myself, just keep going. If I feel that it’s right, that it’s working in the composition, I keep going.”

In addition to pursuing her own work Barb still teaches, but she offers private lessons now. And her experience leads her to one consistent piece of advice for anyone who is drawn to art: “Get the basics down and take those and run with them. And paint and paint and paint.”

“I have a student who says, ‘I just do this because I love it, not to put it up on a wall.’ I think that’s where we all ought to be.”

Barbara Johnson Art

Barbara Johnson Art

Our Featured Artist: Jessica Payne Art

From now until October 5, Tomato Head features the many-hued and luminous paintings of Jessica Payne. One of our favorite local artists, Jessica’s work fills the space with vivid color and imagery that never fails to excite conversation. One of her favorite memories is when, “I was eating at the downtown Tomato Head during one of my exhibits a few years ago, and I saw a family in the middle of the room looking around and discussing my paintings.  At one point a little girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, went up to look closer and immediately turned around and with a frown said, ‘Mommy it’s already sold.’”

Jessica grew up in Knoxville as the youngest of six in a long line of artists, and drawing and painting were hobbies that she came by naturally – both her father and grandmother spent their free time putting color on canvas.

But while she took art classes and thought at times that her career might veer toward the arts, it was only after she took a degree in Social Work and Women’s studies and started a path to law school that she felt a tug to a more creative vocation.

It was in the week of her 25th birthday while she sat outdoors when she committed to a different way of life: “I spent my birthday weekend sitting and observing so many beautiful things that had been around me for a long time. I felt an intuitive pull to change my life in a drastic way.”

Promptly thereafter, Jessica joined Americorps where her urge to create found expression in the earth as she worked to help establish Beardsley Farm; later the same urge would lead her to study cooking, until finally through a variety of online courses and her own drive, she found both an approach and technique for painting that helped unlock her artistic life.

She says: “A huge thing I learned from artist Flora Bowley, after taking her online course Brave Intuitive Painting, is to keep painting until something works.” This approach helps keep Jesssica’s creative energy in flow, and it works in conjunction with her technique of layering.

“I find something that works and then focus on that. If it doesn’t work, I paint over it. I often keep painting over my canvas until something clicks or sparks with me. This opens the door to the philosophical idea of non-attachment. I’m not afraid to paint over something that I spent a while creating if it no longer works/looks pretty.”

Jessica’s technique results in vibrant and multi-faceted imagery that contains the genuine chaos of natural creativity that, she says, eventually evolves into order: “After I have a few layers of marks and colors, I like to take my painting outside and look at it far away. I like to see if I can see any images in the painting…sort of like seeing images in clouds.  Sometimes I see birds, mountains, vases, trees. Working and expanding upon what is already there after the spontaneous marks, is part of my process, too. This process is so fun and mysterious.”

One of the most fun aspects of Jessica’s art is that her paintings often shine. She says, “I love things that sparkle.  My inner five year old is always ready to play with glitter! Because of the use of glitter and mica, my paintings change when the light source changes. There are many times when I walk by a painting and it sparkles so much that it looks like it is plugged into electricity. When the sun hits a painting with glitter, it glows.”

The color, the variety of imagery, not to mention the playful use of glitter and mica, give our featured artist’s work a liveliness that almost leaps from the walls in a joyful celebration of the beauty that surrounds us and lives inside us, too.

Don’t let it pass you by.

Jessica Payne Art





Tomato Head Open Call for Artists

The Tomato Head is accepting submissions for its 2016  art exhibition schedule. Artists may submit a CD or email of 5-10 images of wall-mountable work to:

Tomato Head Exhibits Committee (for CDs)
c/o Bethann DeGrow Smtih
1710 Jefferson Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37917


Labeled CDs are requested by October 26th, 2015. Please include a brief bio, artist statement and sizes for each piece of work submitted.

For more information, contact Bethann DeGrow at 865-546-6852

An Unconventional View of Fruit: Sharon Popek’s “Wings of Fancy”

This June, we are pleased to host Sharon Popek’s “Wings of Fancy” in our Market Square art gallery. Her collection utilizes her talents in photography and photo finishing to give a different perspective on the ground cherry.

While subtle hues stand out to the eye at first, the black and white backgrounds are detailed with textures and interesting shapes. Although the some effects of the photo are created in computer programs after the shot, Popek tries to do as much work within the initial shooting as she can.

For example, Popek says she uses a shallow depth of field to create the bokah effect that looks like blurred lights in the background. Popek also views the camera is an extension of herself, and it follows her around everywhere, including a fateful visit to Market Square for the farmer’s market.

The subject of ground cherries came to fruition when she spotted a booth in the Knoxville farmer’s market selling ground cherries. She had never heard of them before, and their unusual look added to a sense of mysticism that Popek saw in the cherries. To her, the cherries look enchanting, and have inspired her next series evolving from “Wings of Fancy”, called “Fairy Lanterns”, which will be approaching finished by the end of the year.

Popek has lived in Knoxville since graduating from the University of Kentucky, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art Studio. She lives with her husband, five cats, and her dog. In her spare time, she puts her camera and computer to good use, doing photography and photo finishing. During the day, she shoots pet photography and produces photographs.

The exhibit will be in the Market Square location until the end of June, then it will move to the Kingston Pike location in July.


Denise Stewart-Sanabria as May’s Featured Artist

This month, you might have noticed a few really big pictures of food hanging on our walls in Market Square. They aren’t there to entice you, although they have pulled the strings of hunger for some of the servers who forgot to eat before their shifts. The large pictures of food are there as our art gallery for May. We have been very pleased to host the Culinary Drama of Denise Stewart-Sanabria.

The exhibit is a collection of Vanitas, or Still Lifes, which were art categories originally associated with domestic images that symbolized life and death. Stewart-Sanabria’s collection plays upon the same vein by acting out dramatic narratives inspired by human actions that entertain, amaze, or horrify the artist. Her use of color is very appealing, and the oil paintings seem strangely surreal, yet that if one could reach into the canvas, they would already know the texture of anything depicted.

Denise Stewart-Sanabria earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. Originally from Massachusetts, she has lived in Knoxville since 1986. Her work has been featured at the Ewing Gallery at the University of Tennessee, the Union Street Gallery in Chicago Heights, the 26th Tallahassee International at the Florida State Museum of Fine Arts, and many, many more museums, galleries, and universities. After seeing only this exhibit in our gallery, it is easy to understand how immensely wonderful her talent is.

It is hard to miss these almost pop-art images, but if you did miss them we forgive you. There is still time to see them downtown, as they will be displayed through the first few days of June, then move to our location on Kingston Pike for the month of June. Take your time looking at them, and try to decipher the human emotion behind each food prop. We promise not to look at you strangely if you’re standing in the middle of the restaurant staring into the food. It’s easy to be lost in good art.

Surrounded by Eggplants

Striped Light at the Tomato Head

Now until May 3rd, the Tomato Head art show is featuring prints from two of the founders of Knoxville’s newest creative outlet: the Striped Light.

The Striped Light is a hands on printing press founded by Bryan Baker, Sarah Shebaro, and Jason Boardman that offers rad prints and ephemera from artists as well as print making classes and workshops open to the public. The Striped Light is also Knoxville’s newest record label, with a focus on signing local artists from our city’s talented music scene. Collaborative works by Bryan Baker and Sarah Shebaro are currently on display at the Tomato Head in Market Square.

After receiving a graduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Bryan Baker began teaching adjunct classes at UT and for Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress. He has held workshops at Penland and Arrowmont, and spent a year at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. Baker moved to New York City in 2008, where he taught at the Center for Book Arts, helped run the Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn, and worked at a commercial printshop. While in New York, Baker set up his own successful print shop, called Stukenborg Press. Having success with his press, Baker moved to Detroit where he honed in on teaching the public how make prints. Now he has brought his passion for teaching talents for print making back to Knoxville.

Sara Shebaro also received a degree from the University of Tennessee, a Masters in Fine Art in 2008. Before that, Shebaro received her BFA from the University of Iowa, spent time in Chicago, and took a non-degree assistantship position at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. In 2009, Shebora relocated to Brooklyn for an assistant professor and technician position at the Pratt Institute Printmaking department, where she spent four years building up their print studios, in particular the letterpress facilities through donations of type, presses, and equipment. By the end of her tenure, she had facilitated a fully functioning type collection. She left Brooklyn in late 2014 to join Striped Light.

Jason Boardman, founder of the Pilot Light and software engineer and systems architect for McKay Books, has also been involved as a founder of the Striped Light. Boardman has been heavily involved in Knoxville’s music scene through the Pilot Light, a Music Composition degree at UTK, and his own career as a musician. In 2010, Boardman opened Hot Horse, a record and vintage store. Now, he is driving face behind the Striped Light’s record label that recently signed Knoxville band, Daddy Don’t.

If you miss the Art Show display in the Market Square location, do not fret. You’ll be able to catch up with them at the Tomato Head located on Kingston Pike from May 5th through June 1st. The collection is a unique set of playful prints that show off the talents of both Shebaro and Baker. If you’re interested in taking classes, using the printing press, or learning more about the record label, visit

Striped Light_IMG_9544 striped light flip flap flop

Big Ears Festival: A macrocosm of Knoxville’s artistic community.

Big Ears Festival is more than music. This is a festival that is as much about expanding communities as it is a lineup. The city of Knoxville is opening its arms again this weekend to welcome back Big Ears and the vast, internationally renowned community of artists of many mediums.

For the second year in a row, the Big Ears community is reaching back to Knoxville through its community outreach program Little Ears which raises money to support The Joy of Music School and the Community school of the Arts. Both of these Knoxville based schools offer opportunities in the arts to children and teens who have trouble affording them otherwise. It’s a welcomed partner of our Loving Spoonful charitable program.

At the Tomato Head, we are proud to be partners with Little Ears and supporting both schools by displaying photographs of the Joy of Music School and paintings from the Community School for the Arts in our Market Square location through March. If you miss them, you can see them in April at our Kingston Pike location.

We are also featuring special Big Ears pint glasses for sale that benefit Little Ears. (More details here) During the festival weekend, stop into the Tomato Head to purchase a Big Ears glass and try the Saw Works Sonic Wit, the featured beer for the festival.

Little Ears is a program with powerful meaning and serious results. Last year, AC entertainment reports having raised almost $4,000 to benefit both of the organizations. This was enough to create two new scholarships for the 2014-2015 school year at the Community School of the Arts. Music education is integral to the festival, according to Neeley Rice, one of the forces behind Big Ears at AC Entertainment. The promise of Big Ears is it features musicians and artists of several mediums who push the envelope in their art.

The festival is in many ways a macrocosm of Knoxville’s talented artistic community that the School of the Arts and Joy of Music have helped to foster, and a level of discipline for the students who are just learning the skills of their art to aspire to. The paintings displayed at the Tomato Head were done by middle and high school students.

For many of them, this is the first time their work has been displayed outside of the school. The work is unique and you don’t have to be an art expert to enjoy the paintings. The photographs of the children at the Joy of Music School are pristine and capture beautiful moments of children learning to play music.

This weekend, Knoxville will again transform into what Jennifer Willard at the Community School for the Arts describes as an international cultural mecca. It’s safe to say that there is a lot of excitement in the air. It will be really neat to see the how the culturally diverse art on display at the Tomato Head through Little Ears is a stepping stone that every artist masters before becoming a force in pushing their craft forward like the artist featured in Big Ears.

Knoxville has such great culture, and this weekend is promising to be very special.

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design