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Mellisa PreciseColony by Mellisa Precise
During this weekend’s Galley Hop, the Association for Visual Arts’ own gallery will open its annual “Fresh” exhibit, featuring the work of new and emerging artists from around the Southeast. Over the years, the “emerging” tag has included artists ranging from just out of high school to creators in their sixties, explains AVA’s Lauren Goforth. But the idea is always to show Chattanooga something unusual.
“It’s about showing things that are not necessarily seen in Chattanooga all the time,” says Goforth. After several years as a program assistant, beginning this month Goforth is AVA’s director of education and exhibitions following Mark Bradley-Shoup’s departure to teach full time at UTC.
“Fresh is usually a more avant-garde show, usually a lot of installations, a lot of abstract work,” she says. “But that’s not always the case. We have some really nice figurative work in this show. It’s always work that’s top notch when it comes to technique and execution, but the subject matter can really run the gamut.”
AVA will host an opening reception for “Fresh” from 2-8 p.m. during Gallery Hop on Saturday, Sept. 8, at their gallery located at 30 Frazier Ave. The exhibit will continue through Oct. 13.
The Pulse spoke to three of this year’s 11 “Fresh” artists. Their work in AVA’s annual exhibit ranges from digitally manipulated photographic meditations on cultural identity, to a sculpted reflection on the permanence of matter, and an artistic MRI riffing on classical mythology.
Bauby Tan of Duluth, Ga., who has one year left in an undergraduate printmaking program at the University of Georgia, explores issues of racial and cultural identity through digital manipulation of family photos.
“Sol and Luna” is a pair of images based on the same photo of the artist’s mother in her wedding dress. The Sol image places her against a golden sun and a white background, while the Luna has a moon and black background. In both images, her eyes are covered by a white strip with something written in Korean.
The images relate to a Korean folktale about the creation of the sun and moon, according to Tan. In the folk tale, a poor mother taking care of her two children sells dumplings in the market to support the family. On the way home one day, a tiger threatens to eat her unless she feeds him with the leftover dumplings. She gives him the dumplings, but the tiger eats her anyway, then dresses in her clothes and goes to find her children. The children run away to the sky and become the sun and moon.
The Korean text covering his mother’s eyes reads, “We’ll see better days.”
“I related with those children. I didn’t come up in best upbringing financially,” Tan says. “My parents divorced at a young age. It’s very weird and unheard of for Asian parents in Asian culture to divorce. It’s been a struggle to get back on our feet. The children in the story are living a brand new life as the sun and moon. For me, we haven’t reached that point but there is hope.”
Melissa Precise of Birmingham, Ala., is represented appropriately by “Colony,” an installation of upward reaching wooden slats. With its clean lines and neat groupings of wooden pieces, it is neither entirely abstract nor obviously representational. It might be a city or it might be a different kind of colony.
“If you look at bacteria in a Petri dish, you see dense circles that spread out toward the edge, and in between are uncolonized places,” Precise says. “If you look at man’s environment from a satellite view, we do the same things. We’re not so separate from nature as we like to believe sometimes.”