Several years ago, I began collecting vintage produce label art; the colors, patterns and designs used to identify product and brand would keep me visually interested for more time than was necessary, as each label was a beautiful balance between image and text. My partner, Nestor Valdes, was equally inspired by these small works of art and at my suggestion began to paint canvases and floor cloths with his own compositions as a way to connect with a simpler time.
Having relocated to Chattanooga within the year, my initial idea for a show theme had something to do with the river and its associations, since it was the main reason we chose this city over all others. However, it quickly became apparent that these re-imagined label art paintings were making us happy in the studio. With all of the uncertainty going on with the world at large, we believe viewing original art which harkens back to a bygone era of a less complicated America may provide a brief respite,
“I Am Not A Label” may be interpreted literally, as the work in the exhibit neither identifies a current product item nor brand even though compositional elements are mimicked. The title also has additional meanings which are close to my heart. Often, ceramic work is reduced to its function, whether it be bowl, cup, vase, etc. It is my hope that these labels are of secondary importance. Lastly, wherever the art-making journey takes us, both Nestor and I have experienced very circuitous paths as artists (Nestor, from ballet and Colleen, from architecture) which defy any label.
I was never one for art growing up. I wasn’t the kid that sits around and sketches during school. I never tried to stand out from others by developing my own sense of high fashion, though I did some serious pleading for some British Knights when I was 12 (and my loving mom bought them-I’m sure against her better wisdom.)
I took a passing interest in art only if I could get something for it in return; that is to say if chocolate was involved. I won some chocolate when I drew a rabbit for Christmas in 2nd grade. I won some more chocolate for drawing a flower in 3rd grade. My brother and I won some chocolate (and maybe a football) when we created a kite in a local art competition.
I entered art school at the University of Georgia because I was tired of studying chemistry, math, and geology, and knew I could at least draw a rabbit and a flower fairly well.
When I left art school, I left art behind, unless it could again get me something in return. I credit art for helping me land my beautiful wife. I designed and cast her ring.
I began to finally enjoy art about a year ago in 2015. I still don’t understand much of the art that is in the world, but I can get possessed and entranced by my own. I can’t sleep most nights because my mind is creating new images, projects and means of creating.
I am still developing my style, but a consistent focus of mine is on expression and intent; coming from a state of mind that seeks to understand my subject matter, place, or time. I enjoy creating moods that leave the viewer slightly uneasy; i.e., vibrant colors with fearful energy through brushstrokes, dark solemn colors with graphic cartoon-like characteristics in the lines. I feel that this unease (though ensuring only the slightest unease is extremely important) encourages the viewer to take time with a painting, create their own story, and make the painting their own.
Jenny Shugart remembers always having a camera, but didn’t realize how much she loves shooting photos until taking a photography class in graduate architecture school. She says: “I am usually drawn to objects – structures, bridges, details, old rusted stuff. Occasionally the objects are arranged in such a way as to create a space or pattern that also needs to be captured. These objects, spaces and patterns have a quality and substance that seem to ask to be photographed. They call out to be noticed…to be seen, if only in a particular moment. I don’t do portraiture of people (they move and talk back – objects don’t). But, I consider my photographs to be a form of portraiture…a way of seeing every day life or every day objects, past or present. I hope my photographs stir a memory of something or creates a desire to travel outside the usual boundaries – to inspire the observer to pursue his or her own adventures throughout the world…and throughout daily life.”
Her photography work has been in various solo and group art shows as well as purchased for individual collections and by companies for their decor. Except for digitizing black & white negatives and cropping a photo for a particular size, Jenny doesn’t manipulate her photographs…you see what she saw.
When she isn’t busy with her photography, Jenny also enjoys passing the time with knitting, fabric projects and collage work.
Brandy Burgans is a Chattanooga native, mixed media artist, and sole tattoo artist and founder of Blade & Banner, an upscale private tattoo studio. “It has always been a goal for me to provide my clientele with their own personal and private one-on-one experience. Tattooing is an intimate process, and spending time with someone who wants to wear your artwork should be a discreet and special experience for them.”
She loves doing bold and bright color tattoos, stippled and black tattoos, painted-style tattoo work, and as of lately she has really enjoyed recreating master works from Chagall to Picasso on skin. You can find out more about Brandy and her work at www.brandyburgans.com.
Studio 2B also houses Brandy’s art studio. When she’s not tattooing she’s working on commissioned original mixed media visual art. She studied art privately from the age of seven throughout college, and her thirst for knowledge, new techniques, and new instruction sends her all over the world annually.