Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Memphis: City of Artists and Glorious Food

Last Thursday, just after Alexander left for a visit with grandparents, Chris and I filled the back of our car with paintings, collages and drawings (and a new-to-our-family black border collie mix named Benny who is AMAZING, but that's another post) and drove 11 hours west on I-40 to Memphis, Tennessee. Our friend Hamlett Dobbins, a wonderful painter and talented connector of people, invited us to put up a two-person show in his exhibition space, Material.

Chris and I arrived in Memphis around dinner time--a bit dazed from the road but utterly thrilled to begin a visit that would become expressly devoted to thinking about art, talking about art, and looking at art--particularly painting, of which there is A LOT in Memphis. Hamlett kicked it all off by taking us for the hottest barbecue sandwich I have ever eaten--coupled with sweet tea (something I have never understood until now), baked beans, coleslaw and fries. Our first taste of Memphis barbecue (thicker and more tangy than what I know of its NC counterpart) was the start of many a heavenly food encounter.

We hung the show Saturday morning--after a long breakfast in the kitchen taking up the important question of just what are the best podcasts to listen to while working in the studio? (Radiolab, Fresh Air, Speaking of Faith, sparing doses of Bad At Sports, This American Life) I'll post pics of the show later--we were pleased to see how easily and seamlessly the work mixed and the opening Friday night was fun and packed with gracious folks.

The rest of the weekend was spent in the company of artists. Hamlett took us to Don Estes' studio--housed in a building completely rehabbed and made glorious by Don. We spent a hour with Erin Harmon in her space, talking over the pain and challenge of work transitions and marveling at the lyricism of her touch. Melissa Dunn's strange and compelling abstract paintings link astronomy, mid-century modernism and Better Homes and Garden interior shots--proof again that the specificity of the artist's voice specializes, relishes and glories in melding what should not logically meld. We also visited Beth Edwards and Susan Maakestad.

It is a wonderful and even humbling experience to visit artists studios:
I was/am so struck by the generosity and fullness of lives dedicated to those highly particular and individual questions made manifest in painting. I was/am buoyed by the tenacity and determination to MAKE in the midst of busy lives, busy times and a world that often does not really care if paintings get made/are made. And I was/am encouraged because it seems like my world is a bit larger now--fuller and better. In the quiet of one's own studio, the recall of all the others who are also in their own version of quiet and pointed contemplation can be a very great help.

(The image at the top of this post was taken in the Memphis Farmer's Market on Saturday morning.)

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