Tuesday, October 05, 2010

For Arts Sake

We at the wigshop could probably write a week's worth of posts about last First Friday. We won't, but here's another:

I couldn't believe the hordes of people downtown for First Friday last Friday night. Crossing Summit Hill at Gay Street with forty plus people was thrilling. I felt like I was in a big city for a moment. It was exciting. It was overwhelming.

I walked through the 100 block of Gay Street for the big grand opening party. There were more galleries than I remembered being there even last month, and all of them were bursting at the seams. It was great to experience, but my night had something quieter in store.

I went to see "For Memories Sake" a short film by Ashley Maynor at the East Tennessee History Center.

For Memories' Sake - Official Trailer from Ashley Maynor on Vimeo.

In this documentary, Ashley conveys the importance of film preservation and proper archival techniques through the fascinating story of her grandmother, Angela, who had taken at least a dozen photographs everyday for thirty-five years. As Ashley sifted through the vast collection of photo albums, she began to realize how talented her grandmother was as a photographer. She was compelled to dig deeper into why Angela took so many photographs, and in the process, she uncovered films and family videos, some in bad condition from years of exposure to sunlight, heat, and dust. She began to go through all of these items to save and preserve them.

Ashley's time and energy placed great value on a large part of her grandmother's life that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Angela never thought about writing an artist statement or showing her photographs and films to the public. She took pictures daily because she had to, possibly to cope with darkness in her life in the forms of an abusive husband and the tragic death of her son.

We left the film and what I thought to be a profound moment of art viewing and walked back out into the mayhem that was First Friday.


I think First Friday has finally caught on and we can expect even more commotion downtown with each first weekend of the month. As it grows, there are a couple of things to consider:

1) The best art can be seen off the beaten path, and some of the worst art is consistently on the beaten path. I say this because I don't want people to mistake Knoxville as a factory for mountain landscapes. There is great artwork out there, one just has to make the effort, and if you haven't yet, please go to the Fluorescent Gallery and the Birdhouse.

2) As you overload on cheese cubes and copious amounts of boxed wine, I hope you will engage in the art being shown. Find out where good art will be, go there, and tell a friend whether you like it or not. If you like it, tell the artist. This may be their only compensation.

With a slew of awards and recognitions for "For Memories Sake," I think Ashley Maynor has received more "compensation" than many artists will ever receive for their work, but I'll give here even more. Her film was moving and inspirational to me. In the midst of everything going on last Friday, there was a quiet and a calm where an artist conveyed to me something important to her in a beautiful, creative, and intelligent way.


If you are an artist making good and relevant work in Knoxville (you know who you are), thank you, and keep it up.

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