Abingdon Arts Depot to Showcase Ten Appalachian Artists from EAT/ART

Exhibition Space Started in a Dining Room

In the earliest stages of the pandemic, Johnson City-based Jocelyn Mathewes hungered for a way to support her art and that of her fellow Appalachian artists when every gallery space, convention, or show shuttered. 

She asked herself: “Where were artists supposed to sell their work except online? What would make that online experience special?”

Thus, Mathewes transformed her own dining room into a show and exhibition space run for artists, by artists, called EAT/ART.

“For me it was simply the next logical move,” Mathewes said. “I made physical space and time for artists right out of my home, and then streamed it all online out of that space. It gave artists an outlet to be seen and to sell their work during a time when we were all stuck. 

Since the artists were featured in Mathewes’s dining room and restaurants were also struggling, she also added a food element to give EAT/ART its name and draw upon another tenet of Appalachian culture.

“That felt especially poignant at a time when we were discouraged from eating together,” she added. “I knew that I didn’t have a lot of space in my house, but I had more than enough to share.”

Now, Mathewes, along with nine other Appalachian artists featured in EAT/ART, will be in a group show in the Spotlight Gallery of The Abingdon Arts Depot from August 3 – September 24, 2022 with a free opening reception on Friday, August 5 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm  that will offer light refreshments and wine for visitors of age. 

This exhibit, “From Dining Room to Freight Station” reflects the unique beginnings of both EAT/ART and The Arts Depot. 

Mathewes’s own art will be featured in the show, focusing on chronic illnesses and alternative photographic processes. 

Some of the other featured artists’ work can be appreciated through similar themes, like that of Brian Serway, whose folkloric illustrations focus on celestial creatures, cosmic dreamscapes, and nature’s nocturnal mischief, and Ruby Berry, whose intentional manipulation of film and photography yields abstract emulsions mixing themes light and dark.

Two other artists to be featured are Marcy Parks, whose uplifting abstract mixed-media portraits sort through the after-effects of human trauma and memory under the mantra of “big feelings lead to bigger paintings,” and Richard Graves, whose surrealist portraiture seeks to highlight the ghosts of things that haunt people. Jason Flack and Eric Drummond-Smith are also to be featured. Flack’s work as an illustrator and graphic designer melds well with his interest in bright colors in mixed-media portraits as a means of combating personal losses, whereas Drummond-Smith’s work as a political scientist encourages his art to take a surreal, impressionistic approach, inspired by the likes of Keith Haring.

“LISTEN” by Laura Marie Blankenship

To follow that impressionistic thread, Laura Marie Blankenship’s work is an exploration of her love for the earth, Appalachia, and exploring. Taylor Norris, an artist from Northeast Tennessee creates art that takes the viewer to a place where one can find meaning and exuberance  in something that was once mundane. Finally, Alice Salyer’s broad, multi-faceted practice, including digital and traditional methods and exploring a variety of subjects, will round out the EAT/ART showing.

“When people make space for the new and celebrate the creative process,” Mathewes added, “it brings us together and generates new ideas and relationships. These are vital to strengthening the artistic community, and a strong community of artists can invigorate the larger community.”

The Arts Depot is open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and is free to the public. The opening reception is Friday August 5, 2022 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.

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