Folk Featured in Aquarium Exhibit
TN (August 21, 1997) -- The Tennessee River, the dramatic backdrop
for the Southern Folk Festival, is a powerful inspiration for
many of the regions contemporary artists. It seems fitting
that the Tennessee Aquarium which celebrates the river houses
a powerful exhibit of the regions most renowned folk artists.
Aquariums Folk Life Wall showcases nearly 200 pieces representing
the works of more than 100 of the best and most prolific folk
artists in the Tennessee River region. The far-ranging collection
runs the gamut from tools and baskets to toys and musical instruments
to sculpture and dolls.
the majestic beauty of the Tennessee River is a stimulus that
gets creative juices flowing for regional artists, it is the
rivers materials that spark the wildly expressive nature
of great folk artists. Wood shaped by an entwined vine is transformed
into a cane with a snake wrapped around it; fishing becomes
a subject for painting. Even branches found by the waters
edge are made into sculptures.
rivers inspiration is evidenced by the works of some of
the more recognized artists in the Tennessee River region. The
artwork of the late great artist Bessie Harvey was crafted from
driftwood, glass, paint and fabric, and expressed her inner
vision and ideas about southern tradition. For example, her
driftwood figures titled, Seven Days of Womens Work,
depict chores such as cleaning, ironing, and washing, as well
as shopping and going to work. And, ninth generation potter
Jerry Browns clay jugs feature faces, and are modeled
after those placed on Southern graves to ward off evil spirits
in the 19th Century.
of the more dominant pieces in the Aquariums collection,
a Reelfoot Lake stump jumper boat, is a contemporary piece inspired
by life in Tennessee. For generations, artisan Dale Calhouns
family has been building boats for fishing on Reelfoot Lake.
The unique boat is engineered for maneuverability in water as
shallow as six inches and the oars enable the rower to pull
the boat forward rather than backward, making it easy to navigate.
rustic or refined the Tennessee Rivers influence is evident
in the artwork of Southern folk. And, what better tribute to
the Tennessee River and its artists, than an exhibit in the
Tennessee Aquarium dedicated to celebrating the rivers
Wagner was chosen by Cambridge Seven architect Peter Chermayeff
and the Tennessee Aquarium to research and select the items
for the Folk Life Wall.