Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Solo Exhibit at Tennessee Tech




I just got back from a trip to Cookeville, Tennessee, to hang and open a solo show of my "Meditation on War" paintings at Tennessee Tech. This was a big thrill for me. One reason, of course, is that it's always good to get a solo show of your work, particularly in a primo location like a university. Another reason is that I'm a Tennessee Tech alumnus: I got a mechanical engineering degree from there in 1977. Way back then, I spent a good bit of time in that very gallery and saw pretty much every show. Never thought that one day my own paintings would hang there! I gave a gallery talk on Tuesday afternoon and we had a really good turnout, with a very interested crowd that asked a lot of very good questions. Very enjoyable.
While in Cookeville, I got to see some old friends. Art and Wanda were close friends from our sports car club days and don't seem to have changed a bit - they're a hoot and we laughed our butts off at old and new stories. Then Filomena showed up at the gallery talk. She also doesn't seem to have changed much - maybe a bit of very distinguished gray in her hair, but otherwise the same look, the same voice, the same ol' Fil. Except she came armed with incriminating photos of me from the mid-70's! It was really great to see Art, Wanda, and Fil again after too many years.
Another thing I did there was wander around the town and see what's different. I finally decided that Cookeville hasn't changed much. It's grown, especially around the interstate exits, but once you're away from there, it seemed to be pretty much the same place. And I found that memory is a funny thing. I'd be driving along and would see something and it would trigger a memory of something that happened there. And for those of you who wear glasses, you've probably had the experience of having your glasses a bit wonky, and how that confuses your brain as it tries to sort out conflicting information from your two eyes. Well, the same experience happens when you're looking at something after two or three decades, and what you're seeing doesn't quite match up with what's stored away in your memory banks. There were times when I'd be looking at something and simultaneously seeing the way it was thirty years ago ... maybe pretty much the same, maybe significantly different. An odd sensation, but it was good to see the places again.
As I drove around, I also realized that some of my best experiences from back then were from just driving around. I was always way out in the countryside, exploring back roads and gravel roads. I even had the county road maps, the ones the road crews used to find their way around, so that I could find even the most hidden and remote gravel roads. There's some beautiful country around Cookeville that's very unspoiled, and I loved being out in it. So when I was driving around over the past couple of days, I was a bit surprised at how much came back. At one point I was heading out a road that wound around and over the hills and suddenly knew exactly where it was going and what it would do around the next few bends. Quite a moment.
And roads in that area are wonderful to drive. They have a relaxed rhythm back and forth, with smooth transitions from left to right and back again, over hills and through valleys. You can run along at a pretty good clip without straining or getting bored. You can look at the scenery or "become one with the road", whichever you want. It's rare to find that quality.
So, anyway. My show at Tennesee Tech will be up until November 27. My "Pachydermian Portrait of King George II" will be in a juried show in Knoxville immediately afterward. It'll run from Dec 14 to Jan 11. I'm going to have another solo show of the War series in January. This time it'll be in the Madison County Arts Council's new exhibition space in Marshall. That show will open on January 4.

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