Be One of These: New Works by Don Evans
Golden Windows: Paintings by Peggy Snow
March 8-April 19
Opening reception and birthday celebration, 7-10:30 p.m. March 8
ruby green contemporary art center
514 Fifth Ave. S.
Hours: noon-4 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; by appointment Sat.
For information, call 244-7179 or visit www.rubygreen.org
When Don Evans retired from a 32-year teaching career at Vanderbilt University in 2001, a retrospective at Sarratt Gallery included the kind of 1960s-style art happening that made him famous (and sometimes infamous) in local art circles. When guests arrived at the gallery, they saw 100 of what Evans calls his “dinky little digital images” framed and hanging on the wall. They also saw 100 shopping bags arranged in rows of 10 on the gallery floor. After a live salute in the Sarratt Cinema that included a video compilation of Evans’ art projects, electronic music, flamingo dancing and a videotaped fireworks finale, guests tore into the shopping bags and created an art installation at one end of the gallery.
Evans being Evans, you can expect something like that at the opening of his first major post-retirement show this weekend. Then again, Evans being Evans, you may get something entirely different. The essence of his art has always been improvisation and collaborationtwo things that guarantee the unexpected. Several years ago, for example, he created a series of black inflatable sculptures on the lawn at Cheekwood Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens. The heat from the sun was supposed to lift the structures skyward, but after rising only a little higher than the trees, the figures collapsed, draping the trees with black plastic. The polyethylene resting on the grass sterilized the lawn, and Cheekwood had to re-sod the entire area. “If you do stuff, sooner or later, you get in trouble,” Evans says.
Still, as he prepares to celebrate his 64th birthday on the same night his ruby green show opens, Evans’ motto remains the same: “Just do stuff.” The chief corollary to this motto is that participation is mandatory. “The main rule is that there are no spectators,” he says of his art. That rule will be in effect at the ruby green opening when Evans unveils 40 painted plywood cutouts of the colorful cartoon doodles he’s created over the past decades. “I’ve been doing these drawings since graduate school in the 1960s,” he says. “There’s no big artist statement to them, other than they are true and honest. My doodles are me.”
Just for the opening, though, Evans wants his doodles to be you. “I’ve never named any of these doodles and don’t really know who they are,” he says. “So I thought I’d give the audience a chance to figure it out. That’s why I call the show 'Be One of These.’ ” To that end, the artist has recruited friends and family members to choose a doodle and illustrate the character in whatever medium strikes their fancy. “A friend of mine has written a long story about one of the characters and the planet it comes from, and my brother-in-law is doing some video animation on another doodle,” Evans says. It’s also likely that several people will show up in costume and portray their chosen doodle live at the opening. “All my cutouts will be hanging from the gallery ceiling, facing you as you enter. It should look like a giant pop-up book, and as you move through the figures, you’ll become part of it.”
Guests will enter the wonderful world of Evans’ art by way of Peggy Snow’s vibrant architectural paintings hanging in the ruby green lobby space. The paintings, which depict medieval buildings in Germany, reflect the Nashville artist’s continuing passion for architectural history and preservation.
Snow made a big splash with preservationistsand the mediain 1999 when she braved the weather to paint several canvases of The Jacksonian on West End before the historic apartment building was demolished to make way for a Walgreen drugstore. The press attention led to a spurt of sales for the struggling artist, who also plays with a local avant-folk band called The Cherry Blossoms. The Tennessee State Museum purchased her “Union Station Train Shed” for its permanent collection, and local restaurateurs Rick and Vicki Bolsom purchased one of her Jacksonian paintings, which is now on display just down the street at the couple’s Tin Angel Restaurant. Mayor Bill Purcell even sent the artist a letter conveying his appreciation for Snow’s “efforts in documenting some of our city’s lost, and endangered, treasures.”
Snow used the money from her art sales to help finance a year in Germany, a country she fell in love with while earning a degree in English at Belmont University in the 1980s. “I spent a summer in the little town of Marburg and always wanted to go back,” she says. The artist had maintained contacts in Marburg, about an hour north of Frankfurt, so she headed there in August 2001 with high hopes but without any firm living arrangements. “I met the village priest, who was sympathetic to my interests in painting and making music,” Snow recalls. “I was allowed to live in the library of this beautiful 500-year-old church building.” In exchange, she painted a portrait of the priest, the first of many times she traded art for essentials in Germany. “I was able to barter a small painting of a hotel for a room for three nights, and I stayed in a private home in exchange for a painting,” she adds.
Snow also picked up additional income in Germany as a street musician, singing folk tunes and accompanying herself on guitar, kazoo and kalimba, an African instrument. She’ll perform with The Cherry Blossoms at the ruby green opening, which also marks the gallery’s fourth anniversary. Don Evans has been rehearsing with the band and plans to join in on banjo, on any songs “in the key of G, since that’s all I know how to play.” Evans being Evans and Snow being Snow, it will certainly be an evening where stuff happens and everyone participates.
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