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Voluntarily Indirect is an exhibition of contemporary figurative work by Tennessee artists. All images printed herein are copyrighted by the respective artists and may not be reproduced in any form without permission. Cover and catalog design by Rachel Melton.


Voluntarily Indirect

Contemporary Observations on the Human Figure Nuveen Barwari Matt Christy Roger Allan Cleaves Samuel Dunson Ivy-Jade Edwards Marlos E’van Robert Fairchild Kelly Cook Harmon Jodi Hays Jed Jackson Davey Mann Carl Moore Clay Palmer Denise Stewart-Sanabria Jason Stout Donna Woodley

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS As curator, I would first like to express my sincere thanks to all the artists involved in this endeavor for providing their work and input, as well as their willingness and enthusiasm for the project. Without them, there would be no Voluntarily Indirect. I would also like to thank Grace Eckert and the faculty at the University of Tennessee at Martin, Pinkney Herbert and the team at Marshall Arts Gallery in Memphis, and David Wolff of Fluorescent Gallery. I would like to express thanks to Sarah Estes and Robert Grand for their contributions to Burnaway in 2018 that helped feed the flame of this idea, as well as to Jason Stout for helping me understand that the best exhibitions fill a need in the dialogue of an artistic community. I would also like to thank Brian and Carri Jobe, as well as everyone who participates in managing LocateArts. This resource has proven invaluable in my search for artists in Tennessee and for this exhibition.

Special gratitude should be afforded to Rachel Melton, whose graphic design services made this catalog not only possible, but of the highest quality and craftmanship. And lastly, I would like to thank my dear wife, Olivia, for helping me devote time out of our first year of marriage to the efforts of studio visits, writing, editing and transporting works across the state so that this exhibition could be possible. Your optimism and encouragement are the backbone of these efforts, and I cannot thank you enough for taking this journey with me. Clay Palmer

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VOLUNTARILY INDIRECT by Clay Palmer “’Tis not enough, your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not; And things unknown proposed as things forgot.” -Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”

It is fitting that an exhibition centered around current exploits in figurative painting and drawing sprang from a series of conversations. In late 2018, conversations between artists began to center around the state of figurative work in Tennessee in our contemporary moment: a time rife with socio-political disorder and a general sense of agitation. In a time of distress such as this, it is only natural that artists become increasingly concerned with their environment, their communities, and their personal relationships and carry these concerns over into their work. To say that one’s studio practice does not participate in these concerns, or that the work operates in a sort of conceptual vacuum, is to deny 1

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factuality. “Pictures articulate a larger identity, something bigger than ourselves.” 1 However, how this information is distilled in the painted or drawn image of the figure and the directness of an ideological impetus, as well as its affect on the viewer, are the primary points of exploration in Voluntarily Indirect. This discussion surrounding directness and subtlety began to coagulate in late 2018, following Jodi Hays’s exhibition God Sees Through Houses. In this exhibition, Hays’s methods of abstraction through observation were directly influenced by surveillance, the unfolding of immigration policies and the familial ramifications of said policies. The marrying of these points of interest thus sparked conversation regarding the subtlety of socio-political content in

Isabelle Graw, The Love of Painting: Genealogy of a Success Medium (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2018), 93.


painting. According to Nashville art writer Sarah Estes, “if an artist claims to make work about policies or systems that are devastating human lives and tearing families apart, it should be done with fervency and gravitas, not subtlety.” 2 However, Estes’s claim lacked a vital truth: not all social or political art is activism. Art, and particularly painting, serves as a vehicle for the artist to process the world around them. Painting is an act of slowing down, of meditation, of reflection upon the moment within which the artist finds themselves existing. In his rebuttal to Estes’s review, Robert Grand references Entry’s ability to “reference multiple real-world acts, events, conclusions. We’re given just enough information to be unsettled—to reflect on headlines we’ve read, tweets we’ve scrolled past, Facebook videos we’ve paused before their grim conclusion.” 3 Grand’s statement reveals a clear point: painting has the power of plurality in its ability to address multiple matters of import simultaneously. Even in its vagueness, the painted image reflects the concerns of the artist, and the relationship of these concerns to the environment within which it was created.

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The primary link between figurative painting and its ability to depict contemporary issues lies in its relationship to observation. Socio-political issues are embodied in the individuals that operate within their systems; the figures that must navigate the ups and downs of a life that is governed by social and political conventions. The effects of these relationships are evident even in the most banal depictions of human life. Take, for example, Jed Jackson’s work U-Bahn. While on the surface, the depiction of several figures vying for space in a subway system seems like an everyday reality that should be taken at face value. However, the way that these bodies negotiate the space with other bodies, the literal push and pull against each other, serves as a powerful visual metaphor for the ways in which human beings negotiate social and political relationships. The same could be said for Robert Fairchild’s Millennial Moment, in which figures of contemporary youth navigate the social spaces of a party: some are absorbed in their cellular devices, others wrapped in embrace, while a singular figure throws their hands up in

2 Sarah Estes, “Against Subtlety: Jodi Hays in Nashville.” Burnaway. 6 Nov 2018. Robert Grand, “Letter to the Editor: In Defense of Subtlety.” Burnaway. 4 Dec 2018.

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a manner referencing Goya’s Third of May. Is the figure, through its acknowledgement of the viewer, simply reaching out as if in celebration, or out of frustration with the act of navigating such a busy social setting in an age of disconnect? The subtleties in representations of the figure as they relate to social disconnect are common throughout works in Voluntarily Indirect. In Ivy-Jade Edward’s A Quadruple “Nice” and Film Still: The Bathers, the figures in the pictures are depicted in incredibly intimate situations, yet none of them are in discernible communication with one another. The contrast between intimacy and alienation between the figures creates an overall mood of unease within these pictures, a tension and charge that reflects the current social climate. For Donna Woodley’s Ushika the Marketing Director, this contrast between intimacy and alienation is present in the removal of the figure’s identity through the use of underwear to cover the eyes. This act of covering is both playful and disturbing, creating a tension in the work not only compositionally through the stretching of the fabric, but also through a conceptual tension by denying the viewer access to the identity of the figure.

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This concept of indirectness can be implemented in other ways than placement of the figures. Abstraction can also be afforded as a means of establishing multiplicity of content and indirectness of message. For Carl Moore, the reduction of forms to flat shapes and solid, bold color lends an openness to his paintings that allow them to occupy a space of both specificity as well as ambiguity. In The Murder of Eric Garner, Moore depicts the death of Eric Garner at the hands of an NYPD police officer that occurred in July 2014. While the painting is a direct reference to images that were taken during the incident, Moore’s sensibilities of design and color distill the image into a quasi-logo. The proliferation of logos and marketingbased content serves as a commentary on the way in which media depicts police brutality, events that happen all too often in a society obsessed with mass-producing violence that it has deemed newsworthy. Abstraction also lends itself to the creation of images that seek to encompass the complex energy and turmoil that are intrinsic to the current socio-political climate. Jason Stout’s current series of fight clouds with protruding feet and hands filled with weapons and other objects of significance depict the energy and chaos of events that the contemporary viewer is inundated with daily. These images do not settle into one specific message, and grapple with multiple issues of content through iconography directly related to politics and Southern culture. The result of not settling on one event places Stout in the role one could call “painter as weatherman” in the sense


that a weatherman observes how systems of events move and interact, and how they grow and dissipate. This indirectness with which the artist both observes and yet participates within these observed systems, as well as their utilization of abstraction, lends a multiplicity to the content of the work that allows it to comment on society’s issues while existing outside of the realm of activism. Painting has a way of subverting the viewer’s thought process indirectly. The subtlety of causing a viewer to slow down, to process the world through the lens that the artist has constructed changes the viewer’s thinking process in small, incremental ways. The use of this method, the small ways in which the ideas of the artist can slip in and take hold of the viewer for a time, speaks to the power of art and the manner in which it can change the way a person thinks or feels. While there is a place for boldness in art, perhaps a reconsideration of subtlety is in order.

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NUVEEN BARWARI My work is an amalgamation of memories and traditions gathered together through mixed media practices in a way to both keep hold of heritage and bridge the gap between the different generations of diaspora Kurds. My childhood consisted of living in Kurdistan, Iraq and Nashville, TN. I was dragged through a progression of finding a home. My studio work is a reaction to displacement. The Kurdish themes that are portrayed in my work are a catalyst to spark social commentary and a means to help preserve an often forgotten and voiceless people of the Middle East. I portray this narrative through mediums including painting, photography, screen printing, mixed media, and installation including traditional Kurdish attire. My painting work features family photographs from Kurdistan and the transition to life in America. 10

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My parents immigrated from Kurdistan to escape Saddam Hussein’s regime. Painting over the top of these images provides a juxtaposition that helps depict themes of multiculturalism. Colorization of photos has always been a means to update photography or film for a contemporary audience. This bridges my parent’s life with mine, between my American life and my Kurdish heritage. Fabrics are also a big part of my process, incorporating them in installation and mixed media work. I juxtapose traditional Kurdish fabrics and patterns with modern materials to highlight the tension between them. An example would be pairing a traditional object or fabric such as a Kurdish rug with a skateboard. I have been trying to hold on to certain traditions while at the same time finding and integrating new ones.

Monar Jonban 1976/2/27 oil paint, cardstock, fabric, wool, & wood 18” x 24” | 2019


Gula Xemgîn (Mourning Rose) oil Paint, cardstock, fabric, & wood 24” x 18” | 2019

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MATT CHRISTY The painting, Talker’s Talking, is an attempt to visualize an overwhelming amount of voices that stand in opposition to each other. The golden bird that stands on one of the heads is a reminder about the world that exists outside this argumentation. The painting “Untitled (Four Heads)” is a big painting full of overwhelming information. It began as an image that I’ve been working with for a longtime, an image of what I call “extensions,” tubular anthropomorphized shapes radiating out of a central point that represent the possible iterations of a self. It is a symbolic and metaphysical image for me that embodies the tension of the potentials in a person. Here it is combined with everything else, the sheer noise of the physical world shimmering out into space.

Untitled (Four Heads) acrylic and oil stick on stitched fabric 80” x 68” | 2018

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Talkers Talking acrylic on canvas 16” x 20” | 2018

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ROGER ALLEN CLEAVES Each body of work is a section from the chapters of a fictional story I am writing, titled the Land of the Forget Me Nots. The story explores contemporary ideas, fantasy, and heritage through the lens of Afrofuturism. The artworks and the written story work in tandem, encouraging each work’s forward progress. My latest body of work follows my main characters into a mysterious land where they meet creatures that are struggling to survive, but maintain life by adapting to their environment. The relationship between my main characters and the creatures they encounter becomes symbiotic where they need each other to accomplish their goals. I borrow, mix, and assemble motifs from history and contemporary times. The results are abstract figurative creatures whose various elements provide a deeper meaning into the psyche of the character’s personalities and tribulations. My process takes advantage of all forms of technology, but I start composing my images traditionally, working with pen and paper, using gestural marks in a similar style as automatic drawing. I later pull these images into programs like Corel Painter, Maya, and Photoshop to elaborate on forms and structures. 14

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When I compose a loose idea on the digital platforms I approach my painting studio and schedule a playdate with materials-firstly working loose and free. Before I rest my work, at the end of the day, I spend my last hours reimagining that day’s progress by refining and magnifying the ideas in new sketches that I can experiment with the next day. The paintings are the results of months of erasures and corrections that reach a final stage when I become satisfied with the image and direction of the storyline. My practice has always been influenced by classical literary works, animation, and graphic novels. My earliest contact with what I believed to be art was political cartoons and the comic strips that existed in newspapers. Those art forms grabbed my attention because they challenged the viewer to understand the hidden meaning of symbolism and the creator’s point of view. Political cartoons were effective and smart. I enjoyed how they discussed the highs and lows of society using iconography. When I developed a more mature understanding of art, I truly admired artworks that challenged traditional aesthetics while serving a role in documenting history. To this day, the art I find powerful and interesting manages to fulfill both roles. I try to make sure my work stays faithful to that idea of being more than decoration. Socially, I am interested in the idea of coolness as a rebellion to society’s norms. Coolness has always been a protest to tradition. Eye catching inventions, grown from the organic grounds of conviction, usually rise to the mantel of being art in my eyes. My interest lies in making art that has that aim.


Nailed to the Dream oil on canvas 96” x 60” | 2018

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SAMUEL DUNSON The only constant in life is change, therefore life changes everything. This is the one concept that has remained true throughout my artistic journey. My work has a tendency to deal with accepting, then overcoming changes that occur throughout life. From my early years as an artist to present day, I strive to discern these changes through my paintings, sculptures, and videos. My work has become a coping mechanism which allows me to express my feelings and emotions within artistic means. Though my aim is to tell my own personal story, my work tends to be universal in its comprehension. I enjoy staying off the beaten path of specific visual representation. My paintings, sculpture and video take on a somewhat complex and at times whimsical nature through its narration. I enjoy utilizing realism and stylization within the same work format. This mix allows me to deal with weighty concepts while allowing for a light-hearted approach. And as life continues to change, I allow my artistic approach to follow that same course. 16

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MK Ultra mixed media on canvas 53� x 61� | 2018


Trinity: the Okra Chronicles mixed media on canvas 6 panels, 11” x 14” each | 2018

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IVY-JADE EDWARDS This series of oil paintings is predicated on my fascination with the idea of an audience’s underlying scopophilia when viewing works of art. Scopophilia is a word more commonly used in the field of psychology to describe a person’s deriving aesthetic pleasure from looking at something or someone. In human sexuality, this word also describes the sexual pleasure experienced when viewing the nude body or pornography as a substitute for actual participation in a sexual relationship. This phenomenon led me to consider the voyeuristic nature of the viewer interacting with a painting. Rather than entrap the viewer in this role of being a voyeur, each composition is centered around the viewer occupying a role within the narrative. I create a more immersive experience through eye contact or cropping of the composition. Many of my characters are also interacting in moments taking place outside the edges of the canvas, implying that the space exists around the viewer.

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The narratives are open to interpretation by the viewer, but often deal with open sexual relations or platonic situations of nudity. This decision creates a tension due to the audience experiencing a sense of discomfort and awareness of their involvement with the painting while viewing it in a public space. I am interested in the viewer’s internal dialogue that this tension manifests during this interaction. These paintings activate and address the phenomenon of scopophilia that takes place within each individual that participates in this interaction and examine the process that takes place when we experience and participate in a painting rather than simply observing it.


A Quadruple “Nice” oil on canvas 36” x 48” | 2019

Film Still: The Dreamers oil on canvas 30” x 40” | 2019

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MARLOS E’VAN Crying Mother is a painting by Marlos E’van that is inspired by sculptures & paintings that depict the Madonna & child in mourning. This particular piece deals with the fact that in the Black community, many times the mother is left to pick up the pieces of life when their child falls victim to violence, which includes Black on Black crime & Police Brutality. Many times in my own life I’ve seen my own grandmother have to take out loans to get family members out of jail, or sit with them in the hospital after lethal attacks & fights; all which comes with tears. With this painting, I hope to bring awareness to this fact, & inspire us to change this history for our present & future generations.

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Made In Tha U.S.A. was derived from my studies of Goya’s paintings The Third of May and The Second of May, while put in a modern day context. I felt that the idea of one colony trying to force the existing culture to conform to their ideals is similar to what still resonates in our modern world. In America, the police have historically acted as foot soldiers that crush its citizens on a daily basis by means of brutality, intimidation, and death. ICE is one of the latest organizations here to carry on this tradition of terrorism. Made In Tha U.S.A. shows the uneven balance between working class people & the heavy hand of justice that seems to hold the people in a place of oppression while adopting tools of oppression like guns & riot gear. Although this painting is a bit harsh, this piece again asks us to do something about these systems; acknowledge them & change them in ways that are more productive.

Crying Mother acrylic on canvas 58” x 58” | 2018


Made In Tha U.S.A. acrylic on canvas 46” x 106” | 2018

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ROBERT FAIRCHILD Paintings from this series are an autobiographical examination of my personal experience in social settings. Reflecting on brief moments evolves into rich memories and later paintings. Close shape relationships, packed compositions, and a neutral color palette are used to convey my attitude towards fond memories. No matter the social class or culture, onlookers can relate to having a sense of isolation in a crowded room and the various settings in the paintings. Illustrating the dynamic relations between individuals provides a social setting for the audience to become a part of. Fighting for attention over the constant bombardment of visual stimulation is a daunting task. By perusing archaic, traditional techniques of painting the work develops a compelling visual quality that obtains the audience’s full attention. Quality interactions are only fleeting moments in the grand scheme of one’s life, and these pieces remind the audience to pay attention. 22

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Millennial Moment oil on canvas 48” x 60” | 2018


I’ve got buckets of fun in my hands oil on canvas 48” x 36” | 2019

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KELLY COOK HARMON It has always been about heads. For me, a distorted grimace is beautiful. The wrinkled nose and flared nostrils of a rib splitting laugh is the most honest thing I have ever painted. These heads are my characters from my daily life. Even a moment’s passerby becomes a key element to my stories. Using these characters to encapsulate a particular point in time is something that constantly consumes me. Whether I meticulously lay out a scene or obsessively layer bodies on an empty white space, the heads always continue to tell my ambiguous tales. In my drawings and paintings, these faces combat the stereotypes of maligned generations, they reflect a particular time and place, and express the culture of a specific group of people. Due to its transparency and unforgiving nature, watercolor becomes the perfect medium for me to narrate my work. Its translucency allows me to meld faces together, referencing a fleeting moment or a change of pose.

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When painting from heavily populated areas, different figures get stacked directly on top of another, eventually morphing into large, organic shapes. They are present one moment, and then gone the next, leaving the viewer to pick apart tufts of hair and pieces of clothing to find that individual again. My role as the artist, the observer and the narrator is questioned, re-examined and again embraced as I watch. I am separated from the space and at the same time actively inside it. These works tell an unclear, ethereal representation of people, places and moments from the everyday.


NW 2nd Avenue 10.14.18 water soluble graphite on paper 15’’x15” | 2019

Borghese watercolor on paper 14” x 11” | 2019

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JODI HAYS All of my work can be seen as landscape (a framing of place), perhaps related to having grown up in rural Arkansas. My core iconography rests on the grid and all its history in painting and associative connections with architecture and perspective--windows, fences, gates and walls. Painting holds potential--for note taking and a way of organizing knowledge; landscape, abstraction, figuration, among others. These systems (grids) become a scaffold for pictorial inclinations. Stripes generate a placement in pattern, repetition and seriality. Textiles, associated with warmth, the body, pattern, domesticity and weave inform this work, as do fragmentary shapes that are plant-like or jaggedly organic, bringing what is thought of as “outside” into the studio, as in still life. Hard-edged shapes exist with more rounded/ floral moves. The way I see my paintings is like how a folded map relates to a pocket, holding another potential as locative device, to consider consequences and ask questions, including and beyond selfreflexivity. The work is always generated from a daily relationship to drawing, painting and reading.

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Entry gouache and watercolor on fabriano paper 86” x 144” | 2018 (right image)


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JED JACKSON Over the years my studio work in oil and gouache has coalesced around two main concerns. First, the creation of images that mine culture and history for satirical commentary, metaphors and wit. Second, the continuing development of painting technique that expands the possibilities of traditional painted representation as cutting edge visual expression. In oil painting my two primary concerns are: 1, The emphasis on depth, transparency and convincing facture and 2, The painting as a sardonic comment on present or past cultural presumptions. The gouache on paper paintings originate in a phrase or idea presently finding currency in the popular mass media, or literature or film, or a combination of these. An idea is translated through drawing into a composition linking image and text that proposes a frequently funny or biting comment. The paint is applied exploiting the opacity of the medium. This technique facilitates juxtapositions of hatching, layering and strong flat color. For ideas and guidance I look at the history of painting, especially the german expressionists and the dutch and flemish masters. Because of the painterly character of their compositions, a huge influence has been the great filmmakers of the silent era. Faire le Paix gouache on paper 16� x 20� | 2006

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U-Bahn oil on panel 38” x 35” | 2008

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DAVEY MANN Davey Mann is a visual artist currently working out of Marshall Arts Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee. Using his insight gained from the loss of a quarter of his platoon while serving during the The Last Stand in Mosul, Iraq, followed by a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, he explores and processes the effect of hypermasculinity and war through his art. Combining this insight with a continuous pursuit of finding successful ways to combine both realism and expressive abstraction in singular pieces, he is able to create more effective work that appeals to a broader audience by using the strengths of each as they can be applied.

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How to Be a Man (What We Were Taught) #3 paint marker and ink wash on paper 38” x 38” | 2017

Vilomah oil on panel 12” x 12” | 2019

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CARL MOORE My name is Carl E. Moore, I’ve lived and worked in Memphis for 35 years as an Artist and Designer.

The Murder of Eric Garner (American Gothic Series) acrylic gouache on canvas 12’’ x 12’’ | 2019

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The work I’ve created over the last few years has dealt with identity and color. During this process my goal was to compare social ideologies about race, stereotypes, and belief systems to everyday colors and the perception of these colors in our environment. As part of my process, Black has always been a color of identity for Black people, Black American, African American, Negro etc. Just as White, for Caucasian or those of Anglo or European descent, Red as a color for Native Americans (Also deemed as inappropriate) and Brown for the Latino population. The color black has always had a negative representation for being compared to death, bad or poor quality and even race. I’ve taken the color black and made it the narrative, and used it as part of the emotional conversation. The goal is to make the dialogue more about the artwork and less about the color of the characters, even though the characters are part of that narrative.


I use media based events as the primary theme of my work, by taking those situations and reducing them down to their most basic form, it allows me to direct the narrative. I use color and content to redefine the conversation by developing a social connection between the characters and their environment. The color becomes an important part of that dialogue, and the content becomes part of the social statement. I consider my work to be a form of visual communication using simplicity and depth to express social and ethical issues. My goal is to create a conversation between both the personal and public by using color and composition to express mood, situation and ideas. By placing people and objects in common and uncommon situations, it allows me to deal with specific subjects from various perspectives.

Black on Black #1: The System (American Gothic Series) acrylic gouache on canvas 12’’ x 12’’ | 2019

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CLAY PALMER My artistic practice centers around my beliefs as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My current paintings layer personal experiences with historical and contemporary narratives that range from the religious to the social and political including Biblical accounts and the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the recent banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and the interactions of Witnesses with those outside of the faith. The compositions in these works are crowded and compacted by figures that are rooted in cartooning and semi-abstraction. The layering of these narratives and stylistic choices creates a visually jarring and overwhelming image that is reflective of the Love Your Neighbor gouache on matboard 9” x 12” | 2019

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anxiety and tension brought about by an age of uncertainty. In a moment where chaos is prevalent, these works serve as both a call-toaction and a warning. This warning takes form in the image of a theocratic sound car. The theocratic sound car was a method of preaching used by Jehovah’s Witnesses during the 1930’s and 40’s in which a vehicle was outfitted with large loudspeakers mounted on its roof. These cars would be parked on hills overlooking towns or driven through city streets announcing messages of both good news and judgement. The theocratic sound car issues the proclamation of a better future soon at hand.

Shining as Illuminators in a Court of Injustice oil on canvas 20’’x 20” | 2018

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DENISE STEWART-SANABRIA Sanabria paints both hyper-realist “portraits” of everything from produce to subversive jelly donuts. The anthropomorphic narratives often are reflections on human behavior. She is also known for her life size charcoal portrait drawings on plywood, which are cut out, mounted on wood bases, and staged in conceptual installations.

Riding the Big Gun charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood, polymer clay and twill tape 6’ x 4’ x 5” | 2015

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JASON STOUT My current body of work deals with the idea of the modern landscape, both formally and conceptually. In this series idyllic semi abstract representations of a natural environment exist. These landscapes are however altered by human’s existence, even though often no figure is visibly present. Oil derricks and bore holes co-exist with trees, bushes, and mountains, slowly taking over their position. In the foreground the top layer of earth is peeled back, exposing the polluted after effects of fracking and the water contamination that follows. An eerily placed path crawls through the composition as a metaphor for exploring a dangerous road ahead.

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Cloud compositions deal with the idea of conflict and turbulence, both domestic and abroad. These clouds also double as nebulas, contracting and expanding energy around the idea of conflict. These works deal with notions of political strife coexisting with environmental concerns, and create compositions of smaller troubled environments coexisting in larger yet equally troubled ones. There are fragmented figurative elements existing in and outside of these clouds, as well as tools, weapons, and vices. These fragments serve as visual metaphors that address specific narratives from our modern time.

Hats for Bats, Flames for Names oil on canvas 40’’ x 30’’ | 2017


From Path to Plot oil on canvas 24’’ x 24’’ | 2019

Resources & Discourses oil on canvas 30’’ x 30’’ | 2018

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DONNA WOODLEY Thoughts, discussions, and many healthy debates about black culture over the years are the seeds that I’ve subconsciously sewn, rediscovering them as an artist years later. The figure in my paintings is confrontational towards the visibility and value of black people within American society, both historically and in a contemporary context. Studies and ideas surrounding the discourse of self-esteem and African Americans are sourced from research such as “The Doll Test” administered by psychologists Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark in the 1940s, “Dark Girls,” a 2011 documentary directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, and more recently the life of Kalief Browder.

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The enlistment of men and women that I know, including myself, is a significant part of the process in creating portraits. In my work, I discuss themes that are present in black culture historically and culturally combining the figure with metaphoric symbols. Informed by stereotypes, cultural similarities and differences, perception of beauty, mental health, and esteem, my work often uses a subtle humor to create an environment conducive to healthy discourse.


King John II oil on canvas 38” x 52” | 2019

Ushika the Marketing Director oil on c anvas 8’’ x 10’’ | 2015

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Profile for Clay Palmer

Voluntarily Indirect  

This is the exhibition catalog for Voluntarily Indirect, a selection of figurative painting and drawing work from contemporary artists in Te...

Voluntarily Indirect  

This is the exhibition catalog for Voluntarily Indirect, a selection of figurative painting and drawing work from contemporary artists in Te...

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