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"Hello, Neighbor" opens at Classic Center

I have four portrait paintings on view at Classic Center in Athens, Georgia, as part of the group exhibit "Hello, Neighbor." The show was curated by painter and UGA alumna Jamie Bull, and includes some of my favorite painters here in Athens, including Michelle Fontaine and Terry Rowlett. Jamie says about the show: The four artists...are all telling stories. Some of the narratives come from a nostalgia for the past, some are derived from mythological tales, postcards from travels or snapshots of buildings and friends inform the others. Though their approach may differ, their intent is the same; these artists all turn our focus towards the people and place of Athens."

In my case it is only mostly true that these are characters from Athens, the notable exception being a portrait of my old friend Mikey. He is the subject of "Parrot King," which I painted when I lived in a raucous 24-person artist collective in an abandoned convent in San Francisco. I used to go up to the rooftop to get a little space and sunshine, and noticed a flock of wild parrots (indeed, the famous ones from the documentary "Parrots of Telegraph Hill”) flying overhead twice each day: west in the mornings, east in the afternoons to roost back on Telegraph Hill. As they flew above us they kept a constant chatter, mimicking the constant chatter at the collective below. In the painting Mikey presides over the flock, as indeed he did.

My portraits in the show make use of costume and symbolism to explore the underlying psychology of the sitters. In a self-portrait from earlier this year I wear a marching band hat, which in itself is a symbolic object: originally derived from military band helmets, with all the pomp and machismo that implies, it also carries the association of high school (in its plusses and minuses), and for me has additionally become a kind of irreverent, joyful accessory I like to wear at Burningman. The checkered hearts floating around me are traditional Scandinavian Christmas decorations, and featured in my childhood. Woven from two strands of differently-colored paper, to me they represent two cultures merging into one being, the tensions of split loyalties and doubts subsumed into a slightly melancholy, hopeful, but definitely imperfect celebration.

“Hello, Neighbor” runs through April 1st, 2016, at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia, 300 N. Thomas Street downtown. They’re open 10-6 Monday-Friday, and for a few hours Saturday mornings.

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