Frame of Reference

An exhibition of visual works at ArtsMemphis shows our city's influence on artists near and far.

For more than 20 years, James Patterson has collected fine works of contemporary art and loaned them to museums around the country. So when ArtsMemphis, the fund-raising organization for local arts groups, moved to its East Memphis location earlier this year, he saw the perfect showcase for pieces from his collection. >>>

"We have important artists who have worked here and international artists who are inspired by our city. And some of that work has come about because of ArtsMemphis' support," says Patterson of the organization (formerly known as the Greater Memphis Arts Council) that supports more than 25 arts groups and sustains educational programming in 40 city schools. So creating an exhibition on the walls of ArtsMemphis' open, airy offices seemed natural — and even necessary. "It was designed to inform and inspire people," he says. "Memphis is an important cultural center and this is a way to get that word out."

ArtsMemphis spokeswoman Lauren Boyer agrees: "By James giving us these works, we have an avenue to reach out to the public, to say, 'Come see what we're doing.'"

Among the artists represented is native Memphian Huger Foote, whose photo-graphs are developed using a pigment transfer process to achieve higher quality and depth of color. Foote, who has exhibited in international museums as well as in local galleries, credits a near-death experience after a carjacking for his artistic vision, and for seeing the mystery and beauty in everyday surroundings.

Also represented is photographer William Eggleston, whom Patterson calls "by far the most important Memphis artist." His work featuring an axe lying on an outdoor cooker on a bright sunny day "is very sinister," says Patterson. "His works have inspired filmmakers such as David Lynch, and this piece is truly cinematographic."

For some artists, Memphis race relations have sparked creativity. One is Paul Graham, whose work "American Night" features night footage shot in daylight. The scene — of an African-American man barely visible on the edge of a parking lot — "has to do with blindness," says Patterson, "about how we see the buildings behind him, the McDonald's arches, but we don't see him."

William Christenberry's photograph, taken from the Klan Room series, disturbs the viewer, and in an NPR interview several years ago, Christenberry explained why. As a boy in 1960, in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he had approached a man in white robes guarding a clandestine meeting. The man, peering from a doorway, had met the boy's eyes without moving his body. That "fascinating but repulsive" memory sparked the largest-ever exhibition on the KKK and a yearlong retrospective that would later be seen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington.

On a lighter note is Nancy Burson's "Baby Elvis." In the early 1980s, Burson introduced a computer program that "morphed" faces forward or backward in time to account for age change. "So this is a computer-generated image of what Elvis would have looked like as a baby," says Patterson. "It's unique; she did only one." And what would mother Gladys think of the morphing? "Well, I wish we knew," laughs Patterson.

In Matt Ducklo's "Touch Tour" the artist — who graduated from the University of Tennessee and received an MFA in photography from Yale — demonstrates his interest in "how touching can function as seeing." In one photograph staged at The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, a young blind boy is experiencing the power of art by hugging and handling a bust by Rodin. In another, staged at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, a grown man, also blind, explores a Lipschitz sculpture. "Visitors really love these," says Boyer. "They will come in and just light up when they see them."

Indeed the whole exhibition of some 20 pieces — which also includes works by Don Estes, Bo Rodda, DJ Spooky, and Mariette Pathy Allen — has generated questions about local arts. "We've had people come in just curious about what we do," says Boyer, "and I think they leave here knowing a lot more than they did about museums and artists in the area."

That's good news to Patterson: "People need to understand that we have great work being produced here and that we're inspiring artists everywhere. ArtsMemphis can be proud that this work would not be here except for them."


The Dixon Gallery and Gardens

4339 Park Avenue, 761-5250,

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Overton Park, 544-6200,

Memphis College of Art

Overton Park, 272-5100,

National Ornamental Metal Museum

374 Metal Museum Drive, 774-6380,

Other art galleries:

Artists on Central, 726-0330

The Art Museum at the University of Memphis, 678-2224

Automatic Slim's Tonga Club (restaurant with gallery) 525-7948

Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, 523-2787

Christian Brothers University Gallery and Museum

David Lusk Gallery, 767-3800

DCI Gallery, 767-8617

Delta Axis @ Marshall Arts Studio, 578-5545

Jack Kenner Photography, 722-8877

Java Cabana (coffeehouse with gallery), 272-7210

L Ross Gallery, 767-2200

Lisa Kurts Gallery, 683-6200

Memphis/Germantown Art League

Memphis Jewish Community Center, 761-0810

Monty Shane Gallery, 413-8865

Otherlands Cafe (coffeehouse and gift shop) 278-4994

Perry Nicole Fine, 405-6000

Rhodes College Clough-Hanson Gallery, 843-3442

South Main Arts District:, 578-7262

Art Village Studio and Gallery 521-0782

Bennett Stained Glass 527-7568

D'Edge Art & Unique Treasures 521-0054

Delta Axis Power House 578-5545

Disciple Design 386-4299

Hollis Arts 522-8300

Jack Robinson Gallery & Archive 576-0708

Jay Etkin Gallery 543-0035

Joysmith Studio543-0505

The Majestic 260-9610

NARAS Recording Academy 525-1340

Powerhouse 494-6543

Rainbow Studio 521-0400

Rivertown Gallery 527-7573

Sue Layman Designs 527-2872


Ballet Memphis 7950 Trinity Rd., 737-7322,

Memphis Symphony Orchestra585 S. Mendenhall, 537-2500,

Opera Memphis 6745 Wolf River Pkwy., 257-3100,

Other music/dance venues:

Beethoven Club Series, 274-2504

Calvary and the Arts 525-6602

Concerts International webs/ConcertsInternational/, 527-3067

Dance Works, 452-8811 / 333-5174

Lindenwood Concerts, 458-1652

Memphis Chamber Music Society detail2953, 758-0150

Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble, 458-9766

New Ballet Ensemble, 726-9225

Project: Motion, 274-7139

Traveling Performances / Local Venues

Bartlett Performing Arts and Conference Center 3663 Appling Road, 385-6440,

Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center

60 Perkins Road, St. Mary's Episcopal School, 537-1486,

Cannon Center for the Performing Arts

255 N. Main, 576-1201,

Germantown Performing Arts Centre

1801 Exeter Road, 751-7500,

The Orpheum Theatre

Main and Beale, 525-3000,


Playhouse on the Square and Circuit Playhouse 51 S. Cooper (Playhouse), 1711 Poplar (Circuit),726-4656,

Theatre Memphis 630 Perkins Extd., 682-8323,

TheatreWorks 2085 Monroe, 274-7139,

Other theatres/theatrical groups

Bartlett Community Theatre, 484-2646

Germantown Community Theatre, 754-2680

Hattiloo Theatre, 502-3486

Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe 274-1000

Playback Memphis, 881-9023

Playwrights' Forum 725-2040

Poplar Pike Playhouse, 755-7775

Rhodes College McCoy Theatre, 843-3839

University of Memphis Theatre and Dance,


Voices of the South, 726-0800


Barnes & Noble 794-9394 (Winchester), 386-2468 (Wolfchase)

Bookstar 323-9332

Borders Books & Music 754-0770

Brentano's 763-1945

Burke's Book Store 278-7484

Davis-Kidd Booksellers 683-9801

Java Cabana 272-7210

River City Writers Series 678-4692

Waldenbooks 373-5301 (Wolfchase)

Xanadu Book Store 274-9885


ArtsMemphis, 578-2787

Blues Foundation,


Center for Southern Folklore, 525-3655

Harrell Performing Arts Theatre, 853-3228

Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc., 948-9522

Memphis Pink Palace Family of Museums Includes Pink Palace and Museum, Crew Training International IMAX Theatre, Sharpe Planetarium, and the Lichterman Nature Center,, 320-6320

True Story Pictures, 274-9092

UrbanArt Commission,


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