Despite some ominous clouds overhead, I headed south to Maryville last Friday to survey the town’s new vibrant monthly art crawl, appropriately named, ahem, “Last Friday.” With only a handful of proper galleries downtown, the Maryville arts community has enlisted local businesses of all types to help foster its emerging art scene, including a martial arts center and several fancy salons and restaurants. Fortunately for me, the organizers provided a handy map and guide to all of the shows, with a complete list of the artists and venues. And much like Knoxville’s own First Friday event, you’ll spot bourgeois-types chugging wine, plenty of bohemian college students making their rounds, and a diverse palette of artworks and styles.
Preservation Plaza, a historic downtown bank lobby, served as my starting point and possibly the evening’s most inspired art hub. A group exhibit, Illuminations, proved to be to a worthy show, featuring two painters and local metals artist Zophia Kneiss.
Two large-scale metal works by Kneiss loomed over the sidewalk at the plaza’s north entrance. Her “burnt metal” sculptures, “Bud and Beuford,” were two huge steel flowers that looked otherworldly perched near the building. I also liked her piece “Bobo the Coocoo Bird,” a smaller, whimsical metal sculpture composed with found objects. Her style ranges from organic to industrial, but is mostly inspired by the diversity of nature’s forms.
Illuminations also featured Katie Gamble, the Maryville painter responsible for organizing the Last Friday events. Ironically, many of her works were based on Knoxville city scenes, including a dreamy impressionist triptych of a Knoxville sunset looming over the downtown waterfront, near the Gay Street Bridge. The piece “Patrick Sullivan’s Glow” revealed the Old City bar illuminated in a melancholy radiance. Jessica Gregory’s “Coffee and Chocolate” painting showed the Market Square coffee shop and its proprietor. Her painting style is more realistic, and some of her best pieces are informed by a child-like fantasy world in which pigs fly in the night sky and carousel horses run wild in the forest. Neither of these painters is provocative or political in their subject matter, but both possess a keen sense of composition and accomplished skill. It will be exciting to see what direction their works take—hopefully a more complex one.
Down the street at Boyd Thomas Clothing, a boutique on Broadway, painter Asa McEwan showed colorful paintings of grim-faced women, supposedly haunted by their own emotions. To me they resembled ‘80s fashion victims (this is not necessarily a bad thing), with their garish clothing and severe bob haircuts. Traditional portrait artist Carroll Shope had a full range of paintings at the Capitol Theater gallery; my favorite showed a young girl cradling a very creepy baby doll in her arms. And yes, the ArtSpace Gallery showed a noteworthy collection of adequate landscape and cityscape paintings.
Stained-glass artist David Jones had several fine works on display at Brackins Blues Club, including an inventive semi-nude portrait rendered in muted tones. Glassblower Everett Hirche’s intricate vessels were on display at Professional Hair Design & More and were well executed and very collectible. Clear’s Silat and Street Kung Fu studio offered some digital landscape prints by owner Richard Clear, but Jessie Morris was my favorite photographer. Morris’ harrowing color prints of playful young women were layered with text and looked strikingly more contemporary than anything else I saw that night.
One of my favorite shows was at Dandy Lions, a gift and stationery shop located in a beautifully restored library. Fiber artist Vita Marie Lovett greeted me at the door and pointed me around the shop to her various works. At first I thought they were paintings, but she then explained her detailed process, which involves using her sewing machine to create painstakingly detailed works depicting historic barns and buildings that were eventually destroyed. Basically, Lovett paints with thread and her sewing machine, and these impressive arts-and-crafts works take many hours to create and are museum-worthy gems.
I didn’t make it to all 21 venues this time; I forgot my umbrella and got a little wet. I’ll be sure to return though, as Last Friday continues to gain momentum, and the thriving Maryville art scene gives Knoxville a run for its money.