From realistic paintings of rooms filled with canvases and easels to abstract interpretations focused on color and texture, “My Studio” artists offer viewers a glimpse inside their personal spaces in the newest exhibit at the Alabama Center for the Arts.
Organized by Zeuxis, a New York-based grassroots collective of still life artists, the exhibit features pieces from 30 artists across the United States, including former Calhoun Community College and Athens State student Brooke Alexander.
“I am very proud to be a guest artist in a Zeuxis show, and this show particularly, because it is being displayed at the Alabama Center for the Arts. Calhoun Community College and Athens State University were my first academic homes and I spent many hours at the ACA. Having the opportunity to show my painting at the ACA gallery alongside so many incredible artists is a true pleasure,” said Alexander, a 2015 graduate of Athens State.
Philip Jackson, a member of Zeuxis, a “My Studio” artist and Alexander’s art professor at the University of Mississippi, invited Alexander to participate in the show.
While not created specifically for the show, Alexander’s “Always already there” depicts a silhouette of roses and a human figure behind the window panes of Alexander’s studio. The flowers, Alexander said, frequently populate her studio and her paintings. In the foreground, the wisp of an extinguished candle floats over a dead cat.
“The candle was in my studio, and an extinguished candle is a common symbol of the fragility and briefness of life, so I wanted to take advantage of that. The cat was painted mostly from memory from a dream I had,” said Alexander, who earned a master of fine arts in 2018 from the University of Mississippi, where she currently serves as a visiting assisting professor at the university.
For visitors, stepping into the exhibit and exploring the artists’ own interpretations of their studios is like examining an author’s drafts or watching an actor transition into character. In the paintings, viewers see how artists view their spaces and what stands out to them.
There are lava lamps, glass jars, paper boats, birdhouses, flowers, fast food sacks and views of city buildings, gardens and backyards.
Some works feature previously completed paintings, sketches, pieces in progress and tools of the trade — rags, palettes, lights, ladders, extension cords and painting crates. Others incorporate sources of inspiration, such as colorful, patterned dresses and musical instruments.
Completed around 1980, Leland Bell’s “Standing Self Portrait with Drums,” the oldest piece in the exhibit, incorporates the artist’s passion for music and art. Using bold outlines and planes of color, Bell, a jazz musician and self-taught artist, painted himself holding a palette with his drum set in the background.
Formed in 1994, Zeuxis is a group of still life painters working in a range of styles. The “My Studio” exhibit celebrates that range with Martin Arnold’s realistic "Interruption," which features a water bottle and satchel next to a chair, where a plastic container holding a sandwich awaits the artist's return, Kathleen Craig’s abstract realism piece “My Studio is Mainly in My Head” and Ying Li’s “Dream Shell” and “Crimson Chemise,” which combine abstract, expressionism and representational styles and focus on color and texture.
Other contributing artists include Martin Arnold, Temma Bell, John Bradford, Neil Callander, Phyllis Floyd, John Goodrich, Paula Swaydan Grebel, Elizabeth Higgins, Joseph Holsapple, Tim Kennedy, Deborah Kirklin, Matt Klos, Jean Koeller, Gabriel Laderman, Richard La Presti, Susan Lichtman, Margaret McCann, Benny Melton, Jospeh Morzuch, Edmond Praybe, Mary Prince, Clara Shen, Sandra Stone and Gwen Strahle.
The exhibit will remain on display through Oct. 25. An opening reception with Jackson, associate professor of art at the University of Mississippi, will take place Sept. 5 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Admission is free.
While at the Alabama Center for the Arts, 133 Second Ave. N.E., check out the work of another Athens State University student in the center’s walking gallery. “Wink!,” a senior showcase, features pieces by graphic design student Rachel Jackson, who will be participating in the Disney College Program this fall. The exhibit will remain up through Monday.
The Alabama Center for the Arts is open Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m.-noon.