Category Archives: Mentions & Coverage

Moment: Artist at work doing oil paintings of Wally’s Restaurant

From an article by Tim Barber for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Outbound traffic on McCallie Avenue begins to build to rush-hour levels on a Wednesday afternoon in mid-December as local artist Hollie Berry applies the first strokes of color to her latest oil painting.

Dressed in full winter outerwear with fingerless gloves, Berry glances at the fading image of a setting sun through gray skies, feels the chilling wind and considers packing up her brushes and moving from the sidewalk across from Wally’s Restaurant.

City buses and delivery vans pass by just feet away as Berry steadies her flimsy wooden easel in 46-degree temperatures.

“There used to be a really cool retro sign for Wally’s,” she said, comparing photos on her cellphone. “It’s not up anymore, but it’s in the old pictures.”

The spot she chose on the sidewalk is the exact angle depicted in the 1950s photograph she is painting, Berry said.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

“I’m doing a couple of paintings,” said Berry. “One of their restaurant the way it looked in the 1950s, all in sepia tone; then another one the way the restaurant looks now, in all color.”

When completed, both paintings will hang side by side in the Highland Park community restaurant, she added.

Berry, a two-year Chattanooga resident, began painting at age 8. Now, the graduate from the University of Texas at Austin has gone full time in the business and has a studio in the Chattanooga WorkSpace downtown.

“I’m going to make myself stay out here for about 30 more minutes,” she said as the afternoon shade crept across the sidewalk. “I was going to stay longer, but it got cold too fast. If I get a sunny day, I’ll spend a full day on it.”

Contact staff photographer Tim Barber at tbarber@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6640.

Bright Darkness: Artist Ploufe likes to ‘play’ with duality

From an article by Lynda Edwards for Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Walk into Renel Ploufe’s studio and your glance sweeps across a multitude of detailed, lovely cityscapes. But there’s one vertigo-drenched painting that grabs and won’t let go.

It looks like the last glimpse a New Yorker might have of his city as he plunges from the top of the Empire State Building into the Manhattan night. The darkness is splintered by golden skyscraper windows. A wild mishmash of brightly lit streets and red warning lights swirl across two panels.

“I call that painting ‘Darkness’ because, although I love cities, every city has dark places, alleys, the neighborhoods where people go in the day but won’t walk into at night,” says Ploufe. “In that painting, the darkness is taking over but you can still see the beauty.

Renel Plourfe's painting "Destination" hangs in her studio at Chattanooga WorkSpace.
Renel Plourfe’s painting “Destination” hangs in her studio at Chattanooga WorkSpace.
“Yes, it does look like a last moment. But I like to play with that duality. Nothing is ever just one thing. Sometimes putting a dark topic in bright colors can make a visitor see something or think about something he would otherwise be afraid to look at too closely.”

Ploufe, 39, is a magician with paint, an artist who can paint grim and scary subjects in exquisite pastels and gorgeous neon and candy colors. She is one of those artists who can earn a living from her art full-time and have time to play with her twin preschool daughters.

“Renel recently donated two paintings to a local homeless shelter because she wanted residents to have something soothing and calming to contemplate,” says WorkSpace manager Kathy Lennon, as she displays the two donations — calming, restful seascapes. “Her paintings have many different moods.”

A French-Canadian by birth, Ploufe counts Montreal as well as New York and Chattanooga as her influences. Her husband’s work as a computer engineer brought the couple to Chattanooga, where she fell in love with the artists’ colony that inhabits WorkSpace, a former nursing home on Sixth Street that was converted into studios and meeting places.

Ploufe also uses different styles — Cubism, abstract expressionism, Impressionism — and one of her paintings, “Fenetre” (“Window”), could be a female version of Munch’s “The Scream.” In it, a pretty blond woman sits in front of the huge window mentioned in the title but the sunlight and glass seem to have exploded and begun to melt. The colors are so happy, the painting could be decorative, even though the subject might be a science-fiction plot gone very wrong.

Renel Plourfe's painting "Fenetre" hangs in her studio at Chattanooga WorkSpace.
Renel Plourfe’s painting “Fenetre” hangs in her studio at Chattanooga WorkSpace.

Ploufe’s own favorites are her paintings using metallic shades, so expertly done that the oil and acrylic paints look like shards of steel, copper and iron.

“I especially love using copper hues and tones because copper hides a secret life; it has the bright shiny color we know when it is new then, as it ages, it picks up deep green tones and dark, rich hues,” Ploufe says.

“Copper is the second chance we get in life. We make crazy mistakes when we are young or we don’t know how to protect ourselves in life. In my paintings, rich-colored copper is the life we make after we gain wisdom and experience. That second life can be an unforgettable creation.”

Contact Lynda Edwards at 423-757-6391 or ledwards@timesfreepress.com.

Moment: A Weaving Spell

(From an article for the Times Free Press by Maura Friedman)

Weaving came naturally. Kim Gavin felt as though she’d done it before.

“I could feel the rhythm of this and it all made sense to me,” Gavin said of her first time at a loom, a year and a half ago.

For each line of yarn woven into Gavin’s tea towel, there’s a woosh as she treddles, using her feet to raise and lower the harnesses of the loom, and a clatter as the beater bar pushes every strand into place. After a few minutes, the pattern sounds musical. It hangs in the stillness of her studio.

“You get into that state of flow,” Gavin said. “You’re doing something that’s a little bit challenging but not overwhelming and you can completely immerse yourself in it.”

Weaving is Gavin’s primary art medium. For her it was a natural progression from “instant-gratification knitting,” when she used big yarn to make projects go by faster. Now no matter the size of the yarn, Gavin’s loom speeds the process.

Gavin said the effect is therapeutic.

“Your brain quiets down and you just go.”

She started weaving on a rigid heddle loom, a simple frame with no moving parts. But this floor loom – an old loom, but new to Gavin – will go even faster and her projects can be even bigger.

Light streams into the studio space and wraps around the cherry wood of the floor loom. Gavin saw it for sale on Facebook a few months ago and went to Charlottesville, Va., to make the purchase and arrange shipping.

The Jack-type floor loom has 50 inches of weaving width and eight harnesses, which means lots of pattern possibilities.

“It’s really just basically your two yarns at right angles to one another,” Gavin said. “But when you start manipulating them over space, you can create effects as if you’re doing diagonal things or circular things.”

Gavin misses a warp thread and her yarn gets tangled. She begins to unweave the problem spot, slowly and methodically.

“You have to go back and fix it and that means patience,” Gavin said. “That helps me practice a skill that I need.”

It doesn’t slow her down much.

The studios in the Chattanooga Workspace, including Gavin’s, are open on the first Friday of every month.

“It’s a good time to come by and see the loom in action,” Gavin said.