Meet the artists behind the exhibition, The Red Clay Survey: 2020 Exhibition of Contemporary Southern Art. Each week we will be featuring seven of the artists included in this year’s exhibition.  A major recurring regional competition sponsored by the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Red Clay Survey “takes the pulse” of contemporary Southern art through a selection of work in all styles and media. This year’s exhibition includes 85 works by 67 different artists.

Carolyn Sherer

Birmingham, AL

Julia and Frances at 13, 2020 archival pigment print, 48 x 31 in.

Artist Statement

The child of a teenaged mother and soldier father, I was born in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in a coal mining community.  However our military family traveled extensively bouncing back and forth from trailer parks to Thailand, allowing me to experience the pursuit of friends and intimacy while being perceived as a definite outsider.  Creating and selecting images intuitively, I believe I am always seeking a sense of shared humanity and continuity with my ancestral roots.

I work in series seeking to create a composite portrait of a community using individual narratives.

My subjects are typically extended family and children of friends. As I make portraits to document their current experiences, the work becomes a narrative about conflict that is both personal and political. While the images are largely factual, my intent is to allow enough uncertainty to encourage imaginative rambling about the impact of contemporary issues of identity.

Although I am motivated by a need to document moments before they disappear, my work is informed by things past, popular culture and current artists. For me, the images are a gate to a story waiting to be told. They are meant to allow us hope and an appreciation for the complicated, contradictory elements of our universal identity.

Wendy Silverman

Nashville, TN

Divining Rod and Circling Crows, 2019. acrylic and gouache on canvas, 48 x 48 in.

Wendy Walker Silverman grew up in the deep woods of north central Louisiana and received a B.F.A. in Studio Art with a concentration in painting from Louisiana Tech University. Her work is inspired by folklore, a strong sense of place, childhood memories, light quality, color, and elements from the natural world which hold symbolic meaning. She has lived in Nashville, Tennessee since 1999.

Artist Statement

“Folklore, memory, family mythology, superstition and a sense of place make indelible impressions on me, appearing like apparitions in my work. Flashes from childhood memories are represented in their most distilled, ephemeral form, polished like rocks in a stream by my continued recollection of them. I am conveying to the viewer these impressions through abstraction; my sensory experiences are represented through color, line, texture, and mark-making, leaving space for the observer to contemplate, recall their personal memories, or create their own narratives. Color, smells, sounds, shapes and tastes are so tightly interwoven in my processing of memory onto canvas, that I find myself thinking about tasting notes in wine or olfactory notes in perfumes as I paint: “This painting has top notes of live oak, humid bayous, Spanish moss, vinegary hot peppers and oak casks; middle notes of foggy apparitions, orange-oiled mahogany antiques and heart-pine floors; and surprisingly lingering bottom notes of crape Myrtle, alligator lurching out of opaque-with-algae water, and chain-link fence.”

Logan Tanner

Huntsville, AL

Leviathan, 2020 oil on canvas, 60 x 72 in.

I grew up in a small town in Alabama, and liked to draw as a child. When I was around 15 I started making pixel art, and the following year I moved to Mobile and started painting. In 2012 I graduated from the University of Montevallo, where I studied painting and printmaking. After graduating, I opened a studio at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in Huntsville, where I painted my first mural in 2014. I also do a bit of sculpture (mostly faces on pottery).

I also cultivate native carnivorous plants, and journey to remote corners of the Deep South to see them in situ.

Jeane Umbreit

Memphis, TN

Southern Obscura 3, 2018 archival pigment print, 29.5 x 40 in.

Artist Statement

My inspiration is the mystical in our physical world. My medium is photography.

I can record a moment in a 500th of a second which can speak volumes as a story, a visual poem. I like the discovered symbolism. I like the unpremeditated result. That result has been frequently described as surrealism or, to borrow a literary term, magical realism.

I am an outsider, a viewer, like you.

Zack Underwood

Decatur, AL

Rabbit, 2018 oil on canvas, 22 x 20 in.

Artist Statement

My paintings are made as a reaction to my own ambivalence and trepidation relating to the contemporary male’s transition into adulthood. My process centers around taking seemingly mundane found images of young men and  putting them into a new context in the form of a collage, which is recreated as a large-scale oil painting. By manipulating the images through cutting and pasting I am able to utilize formal and compositional elements to generate an ambiguous but compelling narrative that addresses my uncertainty about what defines masculinity and adulthood. When these disparate moments are viewed together, there is a communication between the figures, as the line between adult and child is blurred.

Leandra Urrutia

Memphis, TN

Urn for 10,000 Year Old Sharks ceramic, 27 x 13 x 7 in.

Leandra Urrutia is an object maker and storyteller based in Memphis, Tennessee. Borrowing parts of the human form, she makes powerful compositions and installations that showcase her wild and unconventional creative sense. Her studio work illustrates compelling female-centered struggles between body and mind, especially as one experiences injury, healing and the aging process. Her Mexican-American heritage, Catholic upbringing, interest in aggressive sports, and visits to China continue to bring an unorthodox influence to the ceramic and mixed media sculptures she dreams up.

Leandra’s work has been exhibited locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Her honors and awards include a McKnight Residency award from the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an ArtsMemphis Emmett O’Ryan Award for Artistic Inspiration, and a National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Emerging Artist award. Examples of her work can be found in the Lark Book Series 500 Figures in Clay and 500 Ceramic Sculptures. Leandra is a co-founding member of Studio Nong: An International Sculpture Collective and Residency Program that originated in Nanning, Guangxi Province, PRC. She also creates functional pottery and serves as the president of the Memphis Potters Guild in Memphis, Tennessee. She has been teaching ceramic sculpture since 2002 at the Memphis College of Art.

Cynthia Wagner

Huntsville, AL

Saint Dorothy, 2019 ink, paper, gold leaf, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 32 in.

Cynthia is a graduate of Herron School of Art and Design, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, holding a BFA in Painting, with minors in Art History and Anthropology as well as an AS in Visual Communications/Photography from Ivy Tech Community College. She spent ten years as a wedding photographer with a specialty in South Asian weddings capturing memories for clients all over the United States before she returned to the studio to engage in painting and mixed media art making. Cynthia is a Colorado born native and currently making art in her studio at the historic Lowe Mill in the beautiful Tennessee Valley city of Huntsville, Alabama.

Artist Statement

I believe fiction is a shortcut to truth. I’m compelled to manufacture fictional vignettes from vintage and contemporary photographs, digital images, hand marbled paper, bee’s wax/dammar resin (encaustic medium), paint, ink, and other mixed media materials. This allows me to investigate and attempt some understanding of the absurdity and complexity of the world we live in. I am especially interested in exploring the socio and physiological aspects of humanity, including issues of gender role and the transitory nature of life. Additionally, I’m fascinated by the similarities in the way that both the human brain and computer technology create fictional worlds. I consider myself a visual narrator telling stories through several artistic mediums.