Channeling the spirit of Star Wars and artistic expression
A curious new art gallery has opened on Frazier Ave. on the Northshore. The Luminara Collection quietly opened its doors in November bringing with it a unique selection of art and craftsmanship—colorful, tiny crocheted octopi, Sharpie drawn sketches, and ethereal paintings that take onlookers to otherworldly places.
The gallery seeks highly creative oddities like the ceramic sculptures of Adam Kirby—formed clay torn by actual bullet holes. Upon first glance, Kirby’s art is thought provoking and slightly horrifying in a way that made me pause to reflect on all of the things that particular piece symbolizes.
Lizi Campbell’s crocheted creatures were puzzlingly intricate eliciting my inner child while simultaneously evoking an adult curiosity. Cooper McCormick, the gallery’s owner/operator, does not turn any artist away. “The odder,” she says, “the better.”
McCormick recognized a need within the Chattanooga art community for an art incubator providing local, emerging artists a chance to collaborate on, showcase, and sell their work. She places no harsh boundaries on what defines art. As an artist herself, she is open to all who consider themselves artists.
“I wanted to provide a space where we could build a collaborative group,” she says. Artists conceive ideas for their work, draw inspiration from each other, and decide when and how to plan upcoming events. Chuckling, she admits the group deems these meetings “bored meetings.”
Thirty-seven artists ranging in age from 19 to 50 and hailing from countries such as Russia and Argentina make up the artist arsenal. The diversity among the artists is just as varied as their work, and McCormick is proud of the spectrum on display.
The name Luminara is certainly puzzling as a search for its meaning on the great Internet turns up an infinite number of candle ads. McCormick candidly reveals the origin of the gallery name. She is, she admits, a Star Wars fanatic and a nerd. As a Cheshire cat smile appears across McCormick’s face, she explains her connection to the gallery’s namesake.
Luminara Unduli was a female Jedi Master and appeared in several of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated episodes before finally succumbing to a mysterious death. McCormick grabs a tiny painting of Luminara that hangs on a dried bouquet and uses it as part of her Star Wars show-and-tell.
Ann Marie Miller, gallery cofounder, stands beside her smiling, nodding, silently adding to the conversation. As soon as McCormick finishes, Miller immediately pipes up confirming the Star Wars inspiration, placing her own spin on the story. It is obvious they make a solid team and fully believe in their mission.
It is not uncommon to observe artists working on a piece inside the gallery or even outside. Dillon McMillan in particular is notorious for beginning a painting inside, leaving it, and ultimately returning to continue working on his pieces on the sidewalk for passersby to see and not necessarily in that order.
McCormick does not require that any artist work a specific amount of time per week. Instead, each is permitted to come and go as they please, working inside the gallery when they have someone interested in their art. The ultimate goal of this environment is to provide a nurturing space where artists can explore and display their unique gifts.
Of course, creating art requires more than a workspace and freedom. For McCormick, art and emotion are tightly connected. Art, she says, is sparked by events in the artists’ lives, whether good or bad. The resulting creation represents something that cannot be conveyed otherwise. There isn’t always an underlying meaning for each creation; but the psyche has a way of revealing things hiding deep within in the form of a sculpture or painting or sketch.
As for the source of McCormick’s own inspiration and motivation, she dedicates the gallery in honor of her best friend, an artist who passed. Her friend’s creations are on display so others can view the blossoming talent that died too soon.
As I walk through the gallery observing the handmade jewelry that adorns everything there, each painting and sketch along the walls and on the tables leads my eyes to the next work. Every trinket and oddity fills and connects the space.
That, I think, is the sort of connection that McCormick has created between her friends and fellow artists. That is The Luminara Collection.