Gallery Highlights Regional Artists

Mayfield, KY – For the past eighteen years, The Ice House Gallery in Mayfield, Kentucky has featured local and regional artists in the show "Arts in the Community." This year's exhibition features paintings, drawings, leatherwork, quilting, basket-weaving and some pieces that defy categorization. Angela Hatton was at the opening reception and brings us this story.

A shockingly green tree frog the size of a small preschooler stares back at me. Its red eyes, bright and round as traffic lights, seem to follow me as I step down into the Ice House Gallery at the Mayfield-Graves County Art Guild. The painting, whimsically titled "Not Actual Size," is the creation ofGraves County resident Ronn Moyers, one of around thirty artists on display. Gallery and Guild Director Dana Heath says they receive entries from the Mayfield area as well as surrounding counties that may not have an art guild.

I never know what we're going to get in. And it's a last minute thing for some people, and so it gets here the day before I hang the show. And it's just the variety and the quality is just always astounding to me.

In addition to the many paintings lining the stone walls, there are a few quirky pieces, Harvey Parker's altered books for one. Parker teaches art students through the gifted and talented program at several area schools.

"And I've always noticed that the librarians have a stack of things that they're culling and I hate to think of it getting thrown away, so I like to recycle things." 9 sec, Parker3

Parker takes the books, many times outdated encyclopedias and textbooks and starts cutting. He focuses on the pictures, snipping out the words and tearing off entire pages. He tries to find meaning in the layers.

I like looking at how the book designers arrange their pages and I kind of dissect these other pieces so that you can see different layers of them. And it's always interesting to me how certain pages reflect off of each other.

The finished product is something that looks kind of like a book shadowbox. It's an apt project for Parker, who says he's always had a passion for old books, even if the information is out of date.

The art never gets obsolete. It's always interesting to look at. It's always interesting to see it from a fresh perspective.

They might have the materials in their garage already to go home and make ninety percent of this instrument.

That's another art teacher, Brian Parks of Mayfield High School, talking about his pieces, two cigar box guitars.

It's what really poor people in the South made their home-made instruments out of. They would just find whatever sticks they could. Sometimes they just had one string, sometimes they just had two. This one has three.

The guitar in Parks' hand is made from a two-dollar craft box and some scraps discarded from the school's woodshop class. For frets Parks used nails. He says the whole thing cost him around fifteen dollars. This guitar has a butterfly motif, with butterfly shapes burned into the body and another one capping off the neck. Parks knows the design won't earn him any cool points with the guys, but it has a special story.

I didn't know how I was going to make the end of this and in carving it started to look more and more like a butterfly and my wife's mother had passed away like a couple of months before that I started making these and she was a butterfly fanatic, everything was butterflies. And so I kinda just continued that theme everywhere.

The second guitar is a black six-string inspired by rhythm and blues artist Bo Diddley, who played a cigar-box style guitar his entire career. Parks' first love is art, but he doesn't mind showing off his musical chops.

The artists are eager to praise each other as they circulate through the reception. They mingle with their friends in front of paintings and share jokes over the hors doeuvres. Some, like Parks and Harvey Parker, are veteran artists, but many of the pieces in the exhibit come from first-timers or those who don't think of what they do as anything more than a hobby. Some have honed their skills through classes at the guild and display their work side by side with their teachers' paintings. In the crowd, it's impossible to tell who's who. It seems at this exhibit, everyone's equal.

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