Last week I attended the opening of a show of fabric-based mixed media works by Herb Rieth at the Tennessee Valley Art Museum. A friend and I had it on our calendars at least a couple of weeks beforehand to meet there. The press release and a few photographs had given hints that this would not be your grandmother’s quilt show.
The artist was engaging and funny, just like portions of his works and some of the stories behind them. They combine slices of his life story with historical references, presented in colorful arrangements of a variety of fabrics, clothing infused with personal memories, painting and drawing, Zen-like and meticulous stitching, and embellished with such mundane objects as safety pins, beer tabs, house keys, and spikes, together elevated to become parts of rich tapestries of life experiences. Rieth compares his process to painting, as he works with the components, rearranging them until the composition feels right, sewing the parts together, then painting and embellishing to build a satisfying and cohesive statement.
Seeing this show and listening to the artist bring the pieces to life, I was reminded again how deeply the tradition of story is interwoven in the Southern experience. Herb Rieth is carrying on this fine tradition in a delicious mix of personal stories and universal truths.
This slideshow provides a sampling of the works in the show.
Reith earned his B.A. degree from Indiana University and M.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati. He taught painting, drawing and design at the University of Alabama, Mississippi State University and Ohio Northern University and is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville.
Rieth’s work has been shown at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center’s UnMuseum, the Mississippi Museum of Art and solo and group shows in 23 states.
The show is open through March 10, 2017.
The original title of this post “A Work in Progress” was perhaps a little bit misleading, because I do think this painting is finished. I don’t have a title yet, because I just stopped work on it late this afternoon. It’s acrylic on canvas, 30×40 inches.
Every painting teaches me something new. It’s been so good to be back in the studio. Still trying to decide on what this new direction is. It’s a thread that I’ve picked up from the road not taken about ten years ago. So may roads not taken, so little time.
Oh, there’s my title. The Road Not Taken.
Nothing lifts my mood more than working on a canvas larger than the usual 16 to 24-inch range. I can create with my work on a table top — working on small paintings or collage — and even sit in a chair as I’m doing it. And that is satisfying to a point. But with my work on the wall or an easel, walking around, moving in and back, standing even farther back to contemplate the work, and letting the studio music guide my brush (and my feet), is a more meditative process. I realized I have missed this, and am resolved to plan this into my studio time again.
This 30 x 40 inch painting is one that had been put aside for years. The truth is that it was already too dark. I was just playing around with it, using lots of color, and this first picture is the result of my first day of work on it. I kind of liked where it was going, enjoying the wild complementary colors, so I posted it to Facebook last week. Several people commented that I should stop. Well, you know where this is going, don’t you?
This next one is the “after” shot. The whole thing became a blue painting with just little shots of pinks, oranges, and yellow. I like it, but am putting it aside again. It hasn’t indicated to me that it’s finished quite yet. Note: but now, looking at it on screen again after a few days, it might be.
This painting is very much within the style of the large-scale paintings I was doing up until about 2010. And then I moved into more and more texture. But when I saw a whole show of my older works at the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts back in August, it made me want to go through the motions of that ingrained memory of that way of painting. It feels good.
My artist friend Jo Murray posted a link today to the following video featuring Eunice Parsons, an artist who has not slowed down in her 97th year. I loved everything about this interview, especially the fact that in her sunset years she has chosen collage as her principal medium of expression. I am inspired. It makes me happy to know that it is never too late to make art.
I’ve never been a Magenta person. It’s been years since I’ve actually used it. But yesterday, just on a whim, I ordered a 2-ounce bottle of Liquitex Deep Magenta acrylic. I needed a quart of gloss medium anyway, so I figured why not! Could this be a Magenta kind of year? The painting shown here has a touch of Magenta here and there. It’s from 2004 and was rented out to the set decorator for the film The Punisher, which was set in Tampa, Florida. I never saw my painting in the movie for sure, but I think I caught a glimpse of it above the stairway as the bad guy was dying.
What color is your year shaping up to be?
Have a creative day!