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Pat Harvey - Madisonville's Organic, Free-Range Artist

MADISONVILLE, KY (10/1/13) – The word that comes to mind when I think of Madisonville artist Pat Harvey is “organic.” The guy, and everything he creates, just seems to come about naturally, even when there’s struggle involved. I don’t really know how else to explain it. And I don’t mean “organic” in the sense of environment-friendly or naturally-grown either, though I guess Pat and his creations could fit into those categories, too. What I really mean is that Pat, his interactions with friends and family, his artwork, and his approach to music seems purely genuine and intrinsic to who he is. He’s real, and he’s arrived where he is today by remaining true to himself through the good times and the bad.

But Pat hasn’t merely survived life untainted; the grasp he has on his internal passions and the affinity he holds for creativity has allowed him to flourish as a person. From nearly 20 years of playing music and his longtime love of bluegrass, to his relatively recent entrance into the art world and the ensuing festival hops he’s been a part of as a vendor, Pat’s reactions to the world around him have resulted in an ongoing stream of positivity and colorful artwork that stand in stark contrast to an oftentimes drab, pessimistic world around us.

Yet, that’s not what he would say. In his own humble words, he says, “For me, it’s kind of like yoga; I feel better when I’m creating and when I’m not I don’t feel balanced. It’s just something that I have to do. It can be painting or playing guitar—I’ve just got to do something or I’m not as happy as I could be. I’ve got to do it whether someone looks at it or not.”

And his modest words ring true when you spend time with Pat, when you visit his home, when you talk about art and music, when you share a few drinks and laughs, and you have a minute to really see what he’s up to “behind the scenes.” 

What you can expect when you pay Pat a few visits…
When you first walk into his open, forest-lined backyard, you may notice a brightly-colored, yet partially rusted and wheel-less, caged-in Volkswagen Beetle that seems to be hovering about three feet off the ground in the far corner of his property. Pat—who dons a respectable beard and long hair, as well as the occasional faded pair of overalls over a Ramones t-shirt—explains that the VW is the lynchpin of his latest masterpiece: a coup for his chickens Darnell, Cabbage, Tiny, and Alize’. The seat-less vehicle is their nightly roost. Next, Pat may take you on a tour of his studio and garage while he points out automotive projects in-progress, jars of fermented hill-gold, old music equipment, and unique pieces of art that have never really seen the light of day. He says they’re part of his “personal stash.” Then, you might meet Pat’s family—his wife Amy and his daughters Lillian and Mandolyn—all of whom seem to be just as “organic” in their own rights. And once they’ve welcomed you inside their inviting home, you’ll notice several stringed instruments propped up in the corner of their living room, as well as several instrument cases and pieces of textile material adorned with Pat’s vibrant designs and his pseudo pop-art takes on iconic musician portraits. At this point, you may start to feel comfortable and relaxed, and while you have to go, they ask you to stay. It’s hard to leave and that’s when you know you’ll be back someday. 
One of the best parts of these experiences, though, is that Pat‘s candid. He’s straightforward and down-to-earth. He’ll tell you like it is from his point-of-view. There will be no high-brows here, but that’s also the beauty of it all. 

Who is Pat Harvey and what is his artwork all about? He’ll tell you right now. But don’t be shocked when it gets real. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself. Were you born here in Madisonville? 
No. I was born in Evansville [Indiana]. 

I didn’t know that. 
Yeah, I lived in Evansville until ’98, which was when [Amy and I] moved to Diamond [Kentucky]. My grandfather owned some property out there and we just wanted to get out of the city, so we moved. After we moved, we had our kids [Lillian and Mandolyn]. I started my business when we were down there, too. We decided to move to Madisonville because most of the work I was doing was here. 

How old were you when you moved from Evansville? 
Golly, man. [laughs] Let’s see - I was born in ’74 and I’m 38 now, and that would have been 14 years ago, so you do the math. [laughs] I guess it was around my mid to late-20s. I was old enough to drink. I know that because I moved to a dry county and I was like, “What the heck?” [laughs]  

What county is Diamond in? 
Webster County. 
You said you started a business there. What business are you talking about? 
My lawn care business [Harvey Lawncare]. I didn’t start that when I first moved down there, though. I worked at a couple different places before that. I ended up working for a guy who had a lawn care business and I thought, “Man, I can do this,” so that’s what I did. 

What was your childhood like? Were your parents pretty cool people?
Yeah. My dad was a cop actually. 

I would not have guessed that. [laughs]
Yeah, you’ve met my dad before, haven’t you? 

Yeah, he was here the other night. 
Well, he’s not a cop anymore, but he sure as hell used to be. 

What’s your dad’s name? 
Tom. Actually, his name is Realous. That’s his real name. That’s my middle name. It’s a family name. 

What does that name mean? 
It means I’m the realest, man. [everyone laughs]

We’re going to have to fit that into the title somehow. “Pat Harvey – The Realous Man You Ever Met.’ [everyone laughs] So, what was your mom like? 
She was cool, you know? Man, I wasn’t even prepared for questions about my childhood, though. Really, it was just normal stuff. My parents stayed together. They weren’t divorced or anything. I had a lot of teenage angst, so I probably would have wished they were divorced to be cooler or something. That’s something I probably would have thought back then. [laughs] But yeah, I had a pretty normal upbringing over in Evansville.

So, how did you and Amy meet? 
I met her at Chuck E. Cheese’s. [laughs] Seriously. I was Chuck E. Cheese. That was my job. I was the character and Amy was doing prep work. That was a really fun job. 

Really? I was thinking that would be a terrible job. 
No, not at all. It was freakin’ awesome. Chuck E. Cheese’s dressing room is right next to the beer tap, so... [laughs] The manager was really cool, too. Plus, you’d put the outfit on and it was like you were unstoppable. I mean, what is anyone going to do to you? You’re Chuck E. Cheese. [laughs] You could flirt with all the cute girls and smack the guys in the head. The guys might get a little angry, but what are they going to do? You can just laugh and say, “I’m Chuck E. Cheese.” [laughs]

So, basically, you had boundless freedom as Chuck E. Cheese? 
Definitely. Amy and I go back to Chuck E. Cheese’s sometimes and it’s really romantic. We’ve even got our own little table and everything. [laughs] Some of the same people work there, too. 
At what point did you really get into music? 
I always liked music, but I guess I was in my 20s when I really got into playing music. A friend of mine gave me a harmonica when I was about 19 and I messed around with that for a while. Then, the same guy gave me a guitar. I’ve been struggling with it ever since. His name was Jeremy Cates. He’s passed away since then. As a matter of fact, the paints I used for the bullfrog piece I have in my living room – the “horny toad” – have crushed flowers from his funeral mixed in them. That’s the first painting I ever hid a bird in. 

Yeah, the birds are like your signature now. I still can’t find all the birds you hid in the John Lennon case. You said there were five, but I can only find three. 
You’ll just have to keep looking, man. No one except Amy and our kids knew about the “bird thing” for a long time. I didn’t tell anybody about them. They were almost always in my paintings, though. Then I started telling people who had bought my paintings about the birds, because they own them. Now, I’m not so secretive about it. I think it’s pretty neat. They’re in every single one of my paintings, but you have to find them. 

Is there a purpose or story behind the birds? They look like a little like crows. 
The reason I put them in there is based around Jeremy – the guy I mentioned earlier who gave me the guitar. He was a painter too, and he always hid scarecrows in his paintings. I always thought that was really cool. 

So, with music, was there something specific that made you want to get into playing?
I just have this thing inside of me that makes me want to play. I’m sure you have it too; you play, so there’s a desire there and you’ve got to do something about it. I’ve never been really good at playing music, but I really enjoy doing it. I have a lot of fun playing. I actually played with a reggae band in Evansville back in the day. They were pretty good. I was the rhythm guitar player. The guy that was the leader of the band was a Jamaican drummer and a professor at the University of Evansville, which was right down the road from where I lived at the time. I’ve always been into bluegrass music, and reggae is actually very similar as far as the off-rhythm guitar parts go. One of the guys in the band found out I was into bluegrass music and asked me to jam with them sometime. At the time, I couldn’t stand reggae music; it made me seasick listening to those bass lines. But once I started playing with those guys more often, I really developed a strong sense of appreciation for reggae. The guy that led the band was on top of it, too. He had all these code words for changes in the songs and he was a drummer. He was like Phil Collins. It was funny in a way, though, because he was the only black guy in the band. The rest of us were white kids, but we sounded like—and were—a real, legitimate reggae band. We got to play a lot of different shows, too.

What was the name of the band? 
Riddem Culture. 

How long did you play with them? 
A year or two, I think. Then Paul, the leader of the band, ending up moving. He went to a different college to teach. We all separated after that. It was a lot of fun, though. That was one of my first real experiences as far as playing with people and having to learn all these different parts. 
You’ve been a fan of bluegrass for a long time. What’s the story behind that attraction? 
I remember being into bluegrass when I so young that people would ask me where my parents or grandparents were at when I’d go to bluegrass music festivals. [laughs] It’s funny, because none of them were ever into bluegrass music, but I was. I had an old Volkswagen van when we lived in Evansville and we’d drive down to Kentucky to Beaver Dam or Rough River where they have the Governor’s Cup Fiddle Championship, or we’d go to these folk competitions in Petersburg [Indiana]. The folk competitions are really cool, because it’s not just fiddles—it’s banjos, guitars, upright bass, harmonicas, and pretty much any acoustic instrument. I was really into, man. It hit me when I was young, listening to all those cats like Bill Monroe, that I really dug it. I always listened to stuff like Jimi Hendrix, and I thought that bluegrass music was just for old people, but I realized that the old players just didn’t have amplifiers and all that stuff. If you listen to that old Bill Monroe stuff or anything that the Osborne Brothers did—or any of those cats from the very beginning—they get after it. It’s just a different deal. It was a totally different era at that point. But once I understood that, I gained a lot of respect and appreciation for what they were doing. Once I realized that, I was hooked. I’ve loved it since a very young age. They used to do a jam thing in Evansville that was based around bluegrass music, and we would go—but, of course, we would be the youngest people there every time. They loved seeing young people like us there, though. We stuck out like sore thumbs. Things have changed a lot since then, too. 

Yeah, it really has. Now, Americana, folk, bluegrass, and roots-style music has become one of the strongest genres for the younger generation here in the US. 
Definitely. It’s totally changed since we first got into it back then. 

Would you say that’s still your favorite genre of music? 
I will always love bluegrass. I think I’d just say that acoustic music is my thing. If you go to a bluegrass festival and you watch some people standing around their tailgate with a banjo, a fiddle, a mandolin, an upright bass, a dobro, and whatever else, and they don’t have amplifiers whatsoever and are straight getting it, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find something better than that. That’s just badass. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best. I love it. I love it because it is what it is; you can take it anywhere and you don’t have to have a bunch of stuff like microphones, PA systems, digital effects, or auto-tune. You just go for it. It’s very organic. 

It’s interesting to think about how old a lot of the instruments used in bluegrass really are. Some of them have existed in some form for centuries. 
Bluegrass music just has a drive to it that I’ve always been attracted to. When I was a kid, I was really into punk rock and metal music—or anything that was loud, heavy, and energetic for that matter—but, honestly, I think bluegrass is a really similar thing. It was just a different generation that started playing it. Once you can get your head around that, it changes everything. You start hearing these guys like the Osborne Brothers, who had a drummer and an electric lap steel player, and you realize that they’re really tearing it up. It’s just badass. Anything Jimmy Martin did is badass, too. He’s one of my favorites. 

Another cool aspect is the comradery. A lot of the times that I’ve seen a bluegrass type of show or concert, all these different people from different bands will jam together onstage just for fun. The whole scene seems pretty tight. 
That was one of the coolest things about Romp Fest [in Owensboro] this year. There were a lot of great guys there playing. David Grisman was there and he’s one of my favorites. When I think of mandolin players, I hear David Grisman’s sound. The way he plays mandolin is amazing. Part of the reason Mandolyn’s name is Mandolyn is because I think the mandolin is one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world. In the right hands, man, you just can’t beat a good mandolin player. David Grisman is definitely in the top three best players in the world. One of my latest paintings was of David Grisman and I got to personally hand it to him at Romp, which was really cool. 
When did you first get into artwork and painting? 
I got into painting about three years ago, but I’ve always kind of had a leaning towards art on some level. I never painted, though. What got me into painting was my decision to start working with these guitar cases. I thought I would make a fortune from painting on them, which I would parlay into a hotel chain or some crap. [laughs] At the time I came up with the idea for painting guitar cases, I was just doing spray paint and stencil work. The “Jolly Randy” logo I have—the skull and crossed banjos—was a spray paint stencil actually. I made a lot of little things like that. Then, one day, I was messing around, and I thought, “Man, I bet I would have a lot more control if I tried using a brush.” So, I did, and it changed everything. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t tried it sooner after I started. It really did change everything. 

Was there anything in particular that pushed you to take a step into that new, relatively unknown territory? Was there a muse, so to speak? 
Well, I got all these cases from [late Backstreet Music store owner and talented local musician] Randy Herrick. I was just starting in on these guitar cases right before Randy passed away [in 2011] actually, and I had been doing a lot things with [Plowin’ Todd Cowan and] the Sodbusters at the time, which Randy was a part of. I was having a lot of fun. Then, my mom passed away and Randy died right after that. It was about 19 days after my mom passed. So, I didn’t have that outlet anymore. We all stopped playing. I had to do something. All this crap was coming down at once, it was winter time, and I was stuck in the house. So, I sat down in the basement for three months and just painted. My friend Jeremy, who I mentioned earlier, passed away unexpectedly right around that time, too. He passed away in January. He was only 36. October is when Randy passed away. They were two of the closest friends I ever had, so losing them, as well as my mom, all at the same time, was really hard. Plus, like I said, I didn’t have an outlet to play music anymore, so I had to do something. I just painted. 

Yeah, every time I saw the Sodbusters, you guys seemed really close. 
Yeah, we were definitely tight. We did a lot of stuff together and played a lot together. We went a lot further playing together than I could have ever imagined, too. It was always great. We were like brothers. 

And it was you, Randy…
It was me, Randy, Pat [Ballard], and Todd [Cowan]. Brian Hawkins came in a little later, too, but he was definitely right there with us. He played harmonica and washboard. All those guys are really great. 

So, during that time, did it just feel like all this creativity you had brewing inside was about to explode? 
Pretty much. I was working on these cases and everything, and it just went from there. Some of the first cases I wound up painting were for two kids who lived across the street from Randy. Their mom had bought the cases from Randy at Backstreet Music before he passed, and I knew where they were. They were in the shop. She said she still wanted to have them done, so I got them and painted them for her. 

Were those the very first cases you painted? 
No, the “Jolly Randy” was the first case I ever painted and the second one was of Johnny Cash. Then, I did the Bob Dylan case. It was at that point that I realized I might be onto something really cool. So, I got some canvases, and I painted all the people I really wanted to put on a case – Bob Marley, Cash, Zappa, Dylan, and all the people I really love. That’s really how all of it started. Now, though, I paint simply because I love it. I love to paint. I enjoy the crap out of it. There’s no negativity or sadness to it at all. It gets us into festivals, too, so I’m riding this thing as far as I can. The painting has taken me so much further than music as far as getting out there and meeting people. 

It’s funny, because the case that really got me noticed was an old mandolin case that Todd Cowan gave me. I painted Bill Monroe on it – of course – and I took it to the SPBGMA [Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association] festival down in Tennessee, walked around with it all day, and nobody wanted to buy it. Then, at the very end of the day, Danny Clark, who was the marketing director for the International Bluegrass Music Museum [in Owensboro, KY] ended up buying it. He said, “I’ll buy this piece from you, but you have to promise that you’ll come to Romp and sell these.” So, I was like, “Of course I will.” Then, when I was at Romp with my new cases, I got to meet this guy named Ed Ward, who founded the Milwaukee Irish Fest. It’s the largest Irish cultural gathering in North America actually. There were 146,000 people there last year. Well, Ed invited us to come up there and he gave me my own tent right up by the bluegrass stage. It was freakin’ awesome. We had a blast. It was the first year they had bluegrass music at the festival actually. They drove us in and out every day and put us in a nice hotel. It really was amazing. 

Did you end up selling a lot of art there? 
Yeah, I did really well actually. I made some decent money and met a lot of really cool people in the process. 

In my humble opinion, your paintings are really phenomenal, man. I really dig the bright colors you use for figures and instruments. When I see one of your pieces, I know it’s yours immediately. As far as I understand, though, you’ve never actually had any formal education or professional training when it comes to art. Is that correct?
Yep. I’ve never really had any education or training. My uncle is a high school art teacher – he actually taught me when I was in high school – and my sister is a poet. I think it just kind of runs in the family, man. But no, I’ve never had any training to speak of. That doesn’t really surprise me all that much either. I mean, sometimes I step back and say, “Wow, I can’t believe that just came out of me,” but it comes naturally I guess. 

You told me before that you’ve come a long way with brushes and techniques through trial and error. Could you talk about that a little bit?  
I never knew much about brushes, and I still don’t. I still look at basic painting books and think, “Wow, that is awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t know that already.” [laughs

So, what’s your process when approach a new painting?
It always starts so minute. That’s what’s cool about it to me; I’m focusing on these little pieces of what will eventually be the whole. It starts coming together and then I kind of have to focus back in on the little things. It’s always about the tiny parts until the very end. Then I can step back and look at it as one thing. All the little pieces make this huge thing at the end and I love it. It does take me a long time to do it, though. It’s just the way I do it. It probably takes way longer than it would for most. But, you know, I just do my thing, and when I get it right, it’s right. I think a lot of my problem is that I just don’t know proper techniques. I think we’ve talked about this, too, but I tried to paint strings on an instrument with a little tiny detail brush that you couldn’t paint much more than a quarter-of-an-inch at a time with one time. If I had just used the right kind of brush, I could’ve painted one straight line for each string and it would have taken me ten seconds. It took me about four hours, though, and it never looked right, so I just got rid of the strings. [laughs] That one ended up being called “No Strings Attached.” [laughs] I tried at least. 

What’s the most frustrating part of finishing a painting? Are there points where you’re throwing stuff at the walls?
Yeah, there are times like that. Painting is very relaxing, but it can also be super frustrating at times. The worst thing is when there’s a deadline or you’re trying to get something done for someone quickly – like that stupid [John] Lennon case, man. [laughs] That was the hardest thing that I’ve ever painted by far. Seriously. 
Really? Well, it looks great, man. I’m honored to own it. I’m not trying to be a suck-up or anything, but it really is amazing. 
Oh, I hated that case. It drove me crazy. I painted on that one for a month straight. I know I put at least 60 hours of work in on that one—at least. I worked on it every single day when I came home and it changed so many times. Really, if there hadn’t been somewhat of a deadline on it, I would probably still be painting on it, and it wouldn’t be what it is now. But, at the same time, if I never had deadlines, I’d probably never get anything done, and I look at that case now and I think, “Ok, that looks pretty cool.” But while I was doing it, I always felt like it was missing something and couldn’t figure out what it was. I would try something different, but I felt like I couldn’t ever find it. I really struggled with that one. In truth, I always struggle when I’m making something for someone else. When I do it for myself, it’s easier. A lot of the times, I’ll have pieces sitting around that I’m not sure I’ve finished yet, and I’ll hang them up and look at them for a while. I won’t be sure what I want to do with it yet. I might decide to change or add something after I’ve looked at it for a while. If I decide it’s a go as it is, I’ll put a bird in it if it doesn’t already have one, I’ll sign it, and I’ll put clear coat on it. Once the clear coat goes on, there’s nothing else I can do. It’s done at that point. 

It’s funny how that works. If you’re creating something for someone else’s enjoyment or pleasure, it’s so much more stressful. The final product is usually fulfilling, but the process leading up to it can be really hard. When we interview a person or group, and we know them personally or we really respect what they’re doing, there’s a lot more pressure there. You want the person or group you’re writing about to think it’s amazing. It’s a lot different than sitting at home and writing a story for yourself. 
You’re exactly right. I worried and I stressed, because I really wanted that Lennon case to be the best thing I’d ever done. Really, though, I always want everything I do to be “the best thing that I’ve ever done,” you know? If I’m doing stuff that I don’t think is the best, I might as well quit. I want everything to be better. I mean, you can see how my work has evolved over time. I consider the stuff I do now to be pretty simple, but, back when I started, the paintings I made were extremely simple. Everything is a learning process; I’ve learned something from every piece I’ve done. I paint in layers, which is cool, and it works well, but it can get muddy if you’re not careful. It starts getting funky. But it’s all good, because you can just put some white paint over the mistakes and start again. That’s another reason I love painting. If I make a mistake, I can fix it. I really don’t think you can mess a painting up so bad that you can’t fix it. You can just paint the whole thing white and start over completely if you do. 

You said the John Lennon case actually has a few paintings under what you see on the surface, too, right? 
Oh, it’s got several underneath. [laughs

I think that’s pretty cool. 
At some point in the future, if you ever have access to one of those machines that allows you to look through layers of a painting, you’ll see all kinds of stuff under there. [laughs] You know where it says, “All You Need is Love”? Well, before that, it said, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace,” and it looked awesome. I thought it was perfect, but, when it was all done, the background color just wasn’t right. When the background is off, you pretty much have to start all over again, so I changed it. I wanted to make something John Lennon would think was pretty cool, you know? I wanted something he would appreciate if he was still alive. I’ve been a huge fan of his forever. 

Are well-known musicians and instruments natural subject matter to you? 
Yeah. That’s pretty much all I paint, because music was really my first creative output. It’s what I’ve done for so many years now. I’m almost 40 now and I started playing when I was 20, so it’s been half of my life. Then, recently, I picked up the paintbrush, and that just underlines the music. It’s just where my mind is at. I mean, almost everything I do has to do with music in some way. I can only think of a couple of pieces that aren’t directly related to music. That’s what I like; that’s where I’m at creatively. Plus, it works out really well in relation to the whole music festival scene. That’s a perfect fit for us, because we get to hang out and sell my stuff to people that appreciate it. I mean, most of the people who buy my art have a beer in their hand and a tattoo on their arm somewhere. They’re not like some high-brow cats in a fancy art gallery. So, I do really well at music festivals. I feel like those people get me. If you’re there to see a music festival, you’re going to get what I’m doing, you know? It works out well. My kids love it and so does Amy, so it’s perfect. 
You do a lot of work on something that resembles raw, un-stretched canvas, too. What led you to start using that kind of material for paintings?
Well, I was given a lot of it several years ago. It’s the brown fabric they use to make the Carhartt clothing out of. It’s perfect, too. You can get different effects with it. Some of my paintings are on a raw piece, but I’ve washed pieces before painting them and it frays the edges a little bit. 

That’s really cool, because Carhartt’s a big part of our local community, but people all over the world wear their clothes. 
Yeah, when we were in Wisconsin, people asked me what it was. I asked them if they knew what Carhartt was and they were all like, “Oh yeah, Carhartt is awesome! Carhartt’s the best!” [laughs] I was like, “Well, that’s what this is. You could wear this painting on your foot for three months and not get a hole in it. It’s badass. It’ll protect you from wolverines and everything else.” [laughs] I love painting on it. It’s really heavy, too. You look at this stretched canvas right here—it’s a joke. You could poke your finger right through it, but that Carhartt fabric is the real deal. 

Before I started painting on that fabric, I was painting on stretched canvas. That stuff is way too expensive, though. I started looking around and I realized that there is crap everywhere to paint on. So, I was painting on old pieces of wood, old metal, and anything else I could recycle in some way. In fact, I really don’t paint on stretched canvas anymore at all. I bought most of the canvas I have a while ago. It just seems ridiculous to me to pay 15 or 20 dollars per canvas. It was once I had started painting on wood and stuff like that that I got the Carhartt fabric. When I tried it, I loved it. I’ve had other artists ask me how I can paint on it, because it’s not stretched, and I guess most artists use an easel when they’re painting. I just lay out on the ground, though. I made a huge banner for these folks one time, and it was like eight by three foot, but I just laid it out on the ground. 

Are your paintings oil or acrylic? 
It’s all acrylic. Everything I do is acrylic. I want to mess with oil paints, but I just haven’t done it yet. I’ve only been painting for three years, so I’m really trying to focus in on the acrylics so I can learn how to use them better. 

With the cases and fabric, do you have to prep or prime them before painting? 
Yeah, I use Gesso. It’s basically just a type of primer. It’s awesome, though, because you can put Gesso on pretty much anything and acrylic paint will stick to it. If I didn’t use that on the cases, none of the paint would stick. I’ve tried it before. I use white Gesso, because when you try to paint on something dark it’s really hard to get the colors right. The white makes the colors pop much better. They make clear Gesso, too. At the end of the day, it just gives the paint something to bite into. I really don’t know what I’m doing, though. [laughs

Ultimately, do you have a goal you’d like to reach through painting? Or is it just something you’re having fun with?
I don’t’ really have a goal. I just want to go wherever I can with it. Like I said, I’ve been really surprised by how far I’ve gotten with it so far. It’s taken me a lot farther than I ever got through playing music. It’s fun and I enjoy it, but it would probably be a hassle if it was how I had to make my living. Although, at the same time, I would love to make a living doing it, because it would beat the crap out of what I’m doing now. [laughs] I just like it and I really enjoy it, man. I don’t care if anybody else likes it; I dig it. I would still do it whether anyone liked it or not. That’s not why I ultimately do it. I’ve got all kind of things I’ve made that are just lying around the house.
The name of your art page on Facebook is Bad Apple Paintwerks. Where did that name come from? 
Amy’s always throwing out names and, if it were up to her, she’d call it something like “Apple Blossom Something or Another.” [laughs] Well, I wanted to take that and make it something a little edgier, and that’s where Bad Apple came from. Basically, I was just wanted to find a way to put all my stuff in one spot where people could look at it online. The Facebook page didn’t cost anything, so that was great. It’s worked out pretty well so far, but you’ve got to put a link to my stuff in here. [laughs] I’m sitting just over 100 likes right now and that’s got to change. [laughs] Seriously! It hasn’t always been Bad Apple Paintwerks, though. Before that, it was Buffalo Pick, which was kind of an inside joke.

You definitely deserve more “likes” than that. We’ll put a link in here and try to get more people on your page for sure. 
Man, in all honesty, you’re the only person in all of Madisonville who’s bought one of my pieces. It’s hard to sell art here. It just feels like there’s something holding people back in Madisonville, but I’m not completely sure what it is. 

Well, that actually relates back to something I wanted to ask you about. Why should people appreciate the talent of local artists and musicians? 
That’s somewhat of a personal question. If you don’t appreciate art, then that’s your deal. You can’t make someone appreciate something like art against their will. And, really, art has no face value by itself; it’s not worth anything on its own. Art’s value comes from the personal connection someone might have to it. For me, it’s pretty easy to say why art is important. If you’re sitting around feeling bad because you’re stuck in one place—which can also apply to the creative part of your brain—art can serve as a vehicle to move forward in a sense. For me, it’s kind of like yoga; I feel better when I’m creating and when I’m not I don’t feel balanced. It’s just something that I have to do. It can be painting or playing guitar—I’ve just got to do something or I’m not as happy as I could be. I’ve got to do it whether someone looks at it or not. But I can’t tell somebody else why it’s important. 

Well, in closing, do you want to give any shout-outs? 
I want to thank Flavor Flav and Chuck D. [laughs] I also want to thank the Hopkins County Art League, because they’re trying to do their thing. I think it’s a good deal. Anybody in town that’s into any kind of art should probably check them out. In doing so, they might meet some great, new people. I met a ton of people through the Art League that have helped me out in other areas as well. There aren’t a whole lot of young people that are members, but I think that could change. If more young people were involved, I think it could bring something new to the table at the very least.  

_________________________________________________

To check out Pat Harvey’s artwork, visit his official page, Bad Apple Paintwerks, by clicking here.

To learn more about the Hopkins County Art League (HCAL), click here

Sugg Street Post
Writing/Interview by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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  • Published in Art

Kristian Rowland – Confronting Existence

"credit" Jessi SmithHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (8/21/13) – Famous abstract expressionist Philip Guston once said, “Painting is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.” While one may capture a moment or emotion in a photograph, a painter is left to convey their feelings on an entirely different plane. A painter creates a work of art out of nothing more than emotional intention and a self-determined method of displaying it. One of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso, described painting as a blind man’s profession, “He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.” The same may be said of local artist and Hopkins County resident, Kristian Rowland. Rowland’s work seems to outwardly express his inner struggles with life and his need to find his purpose within that existence.

"credit" Jessi Smith
The Sugg Street Post had an opportunity to sit down with Kristian Rowland and really delve into who he is, as well as the reasons he creates such brilliantly-colored and oftentimes abstract pieces of artwork.

What inspires Rowland’s creativity? It all boils down to his passion for humanity and the intensity of his expressive endeavors to uncover the secrets of human existence.

“Emotion, real life situations, and struggle inspire me,” explains Rowland. “Struggle is a big inspiration for me. Anger inspires me. The human form inspires me. I think the human body is, literally, perfect, and I think faces are fascinating. I feel like people put on masks every day. We have to adapt to what we are doing during the day and it’s hard to be yourself. I find myself constantly trying to cope with real life and trying to understand the limitations we have. Why does everything seem to be working against us? Why do we live in such a messed up place that is so beautiful at the same time? It’s a double-edged sword.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Kristian Rowland was born in Madisonville, KY and has lived in Hopkins County his entire life.

“I had a really cool childhood. It was pretty adventurous,” says Rowland. “When I was young, I used to play out in the woods all day. I was always building forts, drawing, and painting. It was a lot of fun. I played sports growing up, but I was always ‘in my head’ instead of ‘in the real world.’ I was always reading comic books and stuff.”

Reading comic books is what actually influenced Rowland to start drawing at an early age.

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“I taught myself to draw by tracing comic books. My favorite comic book growing up was probably Spider-man. Then, when I got older, I was more into Batman. Eventually, I got into stuff like Spawn and Daredevil. It got darker as I got older,” laughs Rowland.

In time, Rowland started to develop a passion for drawing the human form.

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“I just really admire the human form,” says Rowland. “The human body is like a machine. It does whatever it wants to do.  It cleans itself and heals itself. It can regenerate new skin cells. It’s really wild when you really think scientifically about all the things the human body can do.”

Although he had been participating heavily in them, Rowland started to realize that school sports weren’t really his passion near the end of elementary school. He began putting more time and effort into his drawings, and by the time he’d reached his sophomore year at Hopkins County Central High School, he decided it was time to take art more seriously.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I felt like this is what I was supposed to be doing,” says Rowland. “I just knew that was what I needed to do with my life. I had some really cool art teachers at Central. Mrs. Evans and Mr. Crabtree really helped me out. I took every art class I could.”

Rowland was always experimenting with new ideas during the creation process. He was never satisfied working within the strict confines of someone else’s ideas.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“You know how sometimes you can bust the head of a pen open and it drips everywhere? I would do that on purpose,” laughs Rowland. “I really like the drippy, Ralph Steadman look [most commonly associated with the works of iconic author and journalist, Hunter S. Thompson].”

Eventually, Rowland started branching out into new and different mediums, all the while experimenting with varying processes to achieve a final product he could be proud of.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I started using charcoal, spray paint, acrylic, and oil,” says Rowland. “I like to use more than two mediums when I paint. I feel like I get more out of it. I feel like it’s more expressive. I use a little bit of everything.”

A new endeavor Rowland is toying with is the creation of his own clothing line.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I would like to start my own clothing line, but it seems too business-like for me. I’m trying to beat the system and it’s beating me,” laughs Rowland. “I’d really like to mess with some graphics and put them on t-shirts and stuff.”

And while Rowland says he respects pop art by artists such as Andy Warhol, he ultimately feels like pop art is hit and miss when it comes to his personal tastes.

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“I love street artists like Shepard Fairey,” shares Rowland. “I think street art is probably what the future of art will be, honestly. I really respect street art. I actually want to do street art. I really love Banksy. Banksy is the man right now.”

One of Rowland’s favorite things to paint is faces. However, he enjoys put ting his own spin on them.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I find myself painting a lot of faces,” says Rowland. “I like taking an idea for a face and just distorting it. I also love painting the human form. The human body invokes so much emotion in people. Let’s say you painted a picture of a nude prostitute, made it really huge, and people saw that in a gallery. They are either going to be pissed off and think it’s nasty, or they are going to love it. You’re going to get something out of it, and that’s the point of art. Artists are trying to conjure up a wealth of human emotions.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Rowland says that he utilizes a range of colors in his works to both voluntarily and involuntarily symbolize differing emotions as well.

“For me, blues are more mellowed out, while reds are more angry,” explains Rowland. “Sometimes I pre-plan it and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it’s just random and I won’t even understand it. A lot of people believe that creating art is like a communication between your conscious and your unconscious mind. To me, it makes sense. Sometimes when I’m painting, I’ll get this really weird feeling in my gut. It basically tells me to do something and then it turns out awesome. Then, my rational mind will be like, ‘Why did you do that?’”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Even though creative spurts will arise intermittently, inspiring him to create when emotions are high, Rowland says he much prefers planning a painting out before starting on it.

“I actually like to plan it out a little bit,” says Rowland. “I really like to sketch out an idea first. I’m at that point now where I feel like my technical skill isn’t really where I want it to be. So, I’m thinking about going to art school. I got accepted into an art school in Chicago, but I’m still trying to figure out if that’s what I want to do or not. I’d like to graduate school first and get that out of the way. I’d like to make a living off of my art. One day, I’d like to open my own gallery and help people out by teaching workshops. I’d like to help people learn to express themselves. I’d like to give them a place - an outlet - to express themselves. I don’t ever want to get comfortable with my art. I want to keep getting better and never stop experimenting with new things and ideas. It may be my ego talking, but I really want to leave my mark on the world. I want to inspire people to do what they love. I would love to have a group of artists transform this whole community. That’s what I’d like to do.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
In addition to the possibility of honing his craft on a grander scale through continued education, Rowland says he also draws inspiration from sharing ideas with and enjoying the works of other like-minded artists.

“Other people’s work really inspires me. It makes me feel good knowing that there are other people who might understand what I’m going through. I don’t know why creative people are so crazy but they are,” laughs Rowland. “I like reading biographies about the lives of famous artists. That really inspires me.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
So, who are Rowland’s favorite artists?

“I think that Vincent Van Gogh is the greatest artist of all time,” says Rowland. “Starry Starry Night is a landscape, abstract, and expressionism all in one. Seeing that painting in person was amazing. I actually touched it, too. I got yelled at, but I was like, ‘Forget it. I’m here. This is mine now. I touched it.’ Van Gogh is my number one. I’m also a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was big in the ‘80s. I really like Pablo Picasso’s African period as well. Egon Schiele was a really big figure artist in the 1800's and I like his work. I also really like Marc Chagall. I like all artists, really. But my big three are Van Gogh, Basquiat, and Egon Schiele.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Why, specifically, is art so important to Rowland, though? Ultimately, he says that he utilizes art as a form of therapy.

“It gives me an outlet,” shares Rowland. “It lets me step outside the box and make sense of all this. Art is my therapy, man. All art is therapy. Why else would you want to make something? You have to have the emotional drive to make it, or some kind of need to make it. That’s therapy. You are helping yourself out. On the surface, it helps me cope. It helps me deal with the daily struggle. It helps me make sense of all this. It helps me deal with the stress at work, stress with other people, and the stress of my environment.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
 “I want people to know that it’s ok to be weird and creative. It’s not a bad thing,” adds Rowland. “People are blessed with this ability to create. Whatever you believe in—creationism, the big bang, or that we’re all just randomly here—we’re all creative creatures and we need that. It helps us all out. It helps me understand myself better. It’s a visual journal to look back at paintings you did in the past. It allows you to see where you were at during that point in time.”

And Rowland believes that everyone is truly a creative person from birth.

“I feel like artists take their ability for granted. We’re blessed,” says Rowland. “I think all people are creative, they just don’t know it. That’s why all little kids like to draw. They stop drawing when they get older. They just stop doing it. They have to grow up, get a job, and work on 'Maggie’s Farm.'”

"credit" Jessi Smith
In Rowland’s opinion, art allows the community to look at itself with a different perspective.

“I feel like art and creativity helps the human race grow,” says Rowland. “Without creativity, Steve Jobs never would have made any of this. There would be no architecture. There would be no colors, no blue shirts, none of this stuff at all—whatever all this is—without this creativity. I think it expands our environment and it expands us. It helps us to understand things in a different perspective, really. It allows us to see things in new ways and it helps us expand whether we want to or not. It can even expand our minds subconsciously. I think the universe is constantly expanding and I think it might be infinite. One day, the day I leave this body, I will find out, whether I accept it or not. That’s the cool thing about death, I suppose. Death is the ultimate answer. And that’s another reason why I’m thankful for my ability to paint. Whenever I’m dead and gone, that painting [motioning towards a nearby painting] will still be somewhere. I’ve never seen anybody throw a painting away. If I ever see a really good drawing in the trash or anything—I don’t know why I’m digging through trash; I'm just speaking hypothetically—I’m taking it.”

"credit" Kristian Rowland
Another interesting thing about Rowland’s work is that many of his pieces don’t necessarily get titled.

“I don’t know what to call a lot of them,” says Rowland. “I like what Jackson Pollack said about titles. He feels like titles take away from the work, because then the person looking at it expects something. If I paint a face weeping and I call it ‘Sorrow,’ then people will be like, ‘Oh. This makes me sad.’ What if I call it ‘Salvation' or something’ Then you’ve got a completely different outcome. Whatever it is, that’s what it is.”

Finding the time to pour into one's craft can be hard to do. With that in mind, Rowland forces himself to make the time even though he works a third shift job, because otherwise he feels like he’s just spinning his wheels.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“Whenever I’m not painting or drawing, I feel like I’m wasting my life,” shares Rowland. “I try to paint or draw a little bit every day. Honestly, I just want to paint all day, every day. That’s all I want to do. I don’t want to go work some stupid job that I hate. I don’t want to work on 'Maggie’s Farm.' I work a third shift job at Bremner in Princeton [Kentucky], so I can’t really paint as much as I want to. I’ve just got so much passion for what I do and I don’t want my job to define me. When I tell people I work at a cookie factory, I don’t want them to think that’s all I will ever do with my life. I want to be recognized as an artist, because I am an artist. That’s what I want my mark to be.”

All in all, Kristian Rowland’s abstract work challenges and confronts you. The brilliant colors in his work arouse the emotions and heighten the senses. It’s very easy to get lost in his paintings as you wrestle with his—and perhaps your own—inner struggles visually.

To follow Kristian Rowland’s work, keep an eye on kristianrowland.carbonmade.com/, his Instagram account @kristian_rowland, and his Facebook page.

Now that you've had a chance to see some photographs taken by Sugg Street Post photographer Jessi Smith, scroll below to see some photographs taken by Kristian Rowland of other pieces he has created.

"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian Rowland"credit" Kristian RowlandSugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jessi Smith and Kristian Rowland

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Barbie Hunt - Living Out Loud

"credit" Jeff HarpHOPKINS COUNTY, KY (5/28/13) – If you live in or around Madisonville, then you’ve probably heard the name Barbie Hunt, which has become synonymous with creativity, spirituality, and brilliant color. Barbie has been embellishing the world with her distinctive artistic flair her entire life, of which, timeframe-wise, she refuses to release specific information about.

“If a woman tells you her age, she’ll tell you anything,” laughs Barbie.

Well-known in Hopkins County for her unique and imaginative style, Barbie is a staple in our area. In turn, many follow her work and any new projects she becomes involved in. Barbie’s art is becoming highly sought after and collected both locally and around the world.

Some of the unique treasures Barbie brings into existence include ceramic pottery, brightly painted silk scarves, collage work, mixed media pieces, and paintings of all mediums. Aside from her studio, which is located at 37 South Main Street in downtown Madisonville, you can see Barbie’s work in various places around town, such as McCoy & McCoy Laboratories and The Crowded House/Green Dragon Tavern.

"credit" Jeff Harp
I was introduced to Barbie Hunt at a young age by my grandmother, Beverly Dockrey, who belonged to a book club that Barbie was a part of. My grandmother, knowing my love of art and painting, took me into Barbie’s studio where we were introduced. It wasn’t long before I was completely inspired by this woman, her unbelievable talents, and her friendly disposition.

Since then, I have kept up with Barbie’s work and recently had the pleasure of sitting down with her in her studio to talk about her life, her great accomplishments thus far, and her hopes for the future.

Barbie grew up in Barlow, KY, a small town on the west side of Ballard County. Her father, Gayle Perry, was an agriculture teacher at the local high school; her mother, Adeline Perry, was a stay-at-home-mom, as were many others at that time.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“My parents were World War II people,” explains Barbie. “I think my mother was a frustrated artist. She was a very creative person. We always had projects going on around the house. Later in her life, she took some classes and she became a very good painter. I have a few of her paintings. My mother wanted to be creative, but the culture was to stay at home and take care of your kids. I have a brother and a sister, so there were three of us. I’m the middle child. We lived in a nice neighborhood and we had the run of the town. We rode our bikes and walked everywhere. It was a very, I guess, common childhood for people who grew up in small towns like that. There were lots of thriving small towns at that time.”

Barbie’s father was a talented musician from Dawson Springs who also put his creative talents on hold while he provided for his family and focused on family life.

“My dad played all kinds of instruments. He could play the fiddle, guitar, banjo, anything,” says Barbie. “He sort of set that aside, however, because he didn’t think that was very important. He played in a band and stuff like that during the war, but, afterwards, I would say that generation—when they got home—really settled into family life in a way that we don’t really see now. They put aside things that they shouldn’t have, like my mother who spoke two languages. We’re Americans and we don’t speak German. Of course, German wouldn’t have been a good language to speak at that time. My mother’s parents came over from Germany and my mother grew up in North Dakota. Her mother was from Denmark. She had a working knowledge of both German and Dutch, but none of that was something that carried down to us kids.”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Barbie says that her father’s musical career really started taking off as she grew older.

“I was around 10 or 12 when he really started getting into it because of new worship songs that were coming out. That’s when ‘How Great Thou Art’ was a new song,” laughs Barbie. “These songs started coming out with guitar, which was brand new to the church. Well, he got into that and started to learn all these songs. He just loved playing worship music on his guitar. In fact, before he died of cancer, he planned his own funeral and he invited all these friends of his that he’d been pickin’ with in different worship settings. We had like eight guitarists in this traditional Methodist church doing all this music that these people had never really heard. Are you familiar with the Great Banquet in Madisonville? Well, we helped to start it. We also helped to start the Walk to Emmaus in Murray, KY. My dad got involved in that and that’s when his musical talents really started showing up. After we were teenagers, he really started enjoying music and pickin’ with other people.”

Barbie’s father tried showing her how to play the guitar, but she claims her left-handed approach made it difficult for him to teach her. She got frustrated with it early on and, although she says she isn’t musically talented, she does have a dulcimer that a friend, Warren May,  made for her that she wants to learn how to play.

"credit" Jeff Harp
Although Barbie’s father’s musical talents weren’t directly passed on to her, her mother’s creative edge influenced her greatly.

“I got to paint a lot as a kid,” says Barbie. “Other kids would come to my house because we had stuff and that wasn’t normal. The schools didn’t teach art at all. Even the high schools didn’t have art classes. So, I got to do stuff with my mom at home. We did lots of paint by numbers. I learned a lot about color doing paint by numbers, which was, I think, a really good base for learning.”

Barbie’s childhood was spent roaming around in woods near her house, playing in mud, and helping her mother in a big garden outside the home. She thought, growing up, that she’d end up becoming an elementary teacher or a nurse.

“I really thought those were the only two things you could be when you grew up,” laughs Barbie. “Then I went to college at Murray State University and found out that you could study art as a subject. I took one class and I was hooked. I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with this, and I’m sure I won’t ever make any money at it, but I’ve got to do it.’ Then I took a pottery class and realized that you could really do something. I used to make mud pies as a kid and here I was making real, professional mud pies. So it kind of evolved really. I can’t say that I always wanted to be an artist and I really never even knew one. I mean, it wasn’t until I left home that my mother really started painting.”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Barbie left Murray State University with more than an education. It was there that she met her husband, Rush Hunt.

“We got married and then Rush went to law school in Louisville,” says Barbie. “I finished college there at Spaulding University. Spaulding had a great program at that time. You could take classes at any school in the city and get credit at Spaulding, so I took a pottery class under Tom Marsh. He was a great potter and teacher at that time at the University of Louisville. After that, we moved to Madisonville and Rush started practicing law here.”

Upon moving to Hopkins County, Barbie started dabbling in commercial art. She designed logos for businesses, painted, and raised Lee and Lara, their two children.

“I really wanted to go back to school,” says Barbie. “I thought that if I could really learn to make pots then that would be a legitimate way to make income as an artist. Plus, I really liked making pots. So, I went to the University of Evansville and they allowed me in the master’s program even though I’d only had one class in clay and really didn’t have a background in it. They kind of took me in on a tentative basis to see how I did.”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Barbie did very well in the program and came away from the University of Evansville with a master’s in ceramics.

“I did most of my master work in gas-fired kilns and developed a lot of glazes. All the glazes I have, I’ve made myself,” says Barbie. “When I finished that, I started working as a fulltime production potter. At that time, Martha Layne Collins was governor. During that era, there was a lot of support for the Kentucky craft market. Well, I got involved in the crafts market and I eventually had about 15 ‘mom and pop’ craft shops and gift shops in the state carrying my pottery. I really got into production works. I did that for about eight years and, at the same time, I started teaching part-time at the college.”

Barbie taught art history, studio classes, and developmental English classes at Madisonville Community College (MCC). In an attempt to score a fulltime teaching job at MCC, Barbie commuted to Murray State University until she acquired a master’s degree in English literature.

"credit" Jeff Harp
“I really enjoyed it. I had a couple of professors that were just wonderful,” says Barbie. “Plus, I love reading, which is another family pastime. We had lots of books and we were always reading, so I had already read a lot of the classics. I was particularly interested in the early part of the 20th Century in America and England—T.S. Elliot and that whole group of guys.”

Although Barbie obtained her master’s in English literature and was working towards her PHD, she was denied a fulltime position with the college. She says it was a definite turning point in her life. She wondered whether or not teaching was the path she was supposed to be on. She resigned from her part-time teaching job and turned to her art, deciding once again to try making art her fulltime job.

“The craft market changed a lot, quickly. It was hard, solitary work, and I really prefer to be with people. I was really disappointed when I didn’t get the fulltime teaching job, because I had been given a lot of ‘green lights’ on it. I thought I had been doing everything to get myself into the right position to land that job.”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Shortly after resigning from her teaching position, Barbie received a phone call from the president of MCC offering her a much different job on campus. She was offered the position of director over the newly built Glema Mahr Center for the Arts, which, at that time, was called the Madisonville Fine Arts Center.

“Rush had been on the Community Improvement Foundation for years and years,” says Barbie. “We had watched the building go up. It had been a hard building to build because it had been completed in phases as they had the money. I wasn’t involved in any of it. I saw it all go up as I was driving back and forth teaching all the time. The president wanted me to consider being the first director of this new thing. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, no! I’m not the least bit interested in that,’” laughs Barbie. “It just looked like a lot of work. So we talked a lot about what his vision was and what his hopes were. It was the first performing arts center on a community college campus in Kentucky. It broke a lot of ground in many areas. I didn’t want to just say no if it was something I was supposed to do, but gosh, it didn’t seem like something I was supposed to do.”

Although she wasn’t very interested in taking on such a large project, she decided to ask if she could see the inside of the building and was quickly taken on a tour of the new facility.

“I’d never even seen the inside of it,” says Barbie. “They had a ribbon cutting ceremony at one point and then they closed it up. They couldn’t leave it open unless they had a person running it, so it was just locked up. It was finished, unfinished really, but finished as far as what they’d had the money for. So we walked through the building. It had seats, no curtains, no lighting, and a very small sound system. There wasn’t any furniture in the office. It had a great big coatroom and a little bitty box office. It had dressing rooms with nothing in them at all—just concrete block rooms. It had another concrete block room that was supposed to be a green room someday. It had a sound booth with absolutely nothing in it except a counter, and it had no money. It had no operating money whatsoever. They had set aside a small budgeted amount to run it and they had gotten approval from the community college system to hire a director and a secretary.”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Barbie was shocked at what it truly could be and what an outrageous amount of work would have to go into it. Yet, it was in that empty building that she had an epiphany that would change not only her life, but the lives of so many others in our community.

“I knew all these wonderful women who had dreamed and raised money for 20 years to build this thing,” explains Barbie. “I saw that it was either lemon or lemonade, and right now it was just this great big lemon. These women had dreamed a really big dream and some crazy person needed to dream just as big to pull it off. Then I realized that I was that crazy person.”

Even though Barbie knew nothing about performing arts leadership, she accepted the position and was immediately overwhelmed by the project she had taken on.

“It was an insane job. God was really with me,” says Barbie. “They already had 30 events booked in a building with no lights, no sound, no money, no desk, no computer, and no paperclips. I started meeting with all these guys, because there was a punch list and all this unfinished work. One of them told me about a man named Larry Teal who lived outside of Chicago. Larry had a performing arts center very similar to mine. He told me I needed to get to know him. Well, I called him up. I was desperate. I needed help.”

"credit" Jessi Smith

Barbie made fast friends with Larry Teal. He had taken on the job of running a performing arts center on a community college campus and had already plowed the same ground that Barbie had just set foot on.

“Every detail, from getting a very structured system to adjust to the arts, maintenance, cutting a check for an artist, intermission—stuff that had never ever been done before,” says Barbie. “Larry took me under his wing. I met him at a presenters booking conference. He got me in with William Morris and some of the big boys. I got to sit in on booking meetings with all the big presenters from Florida. They treated me like one of the guys, and here I was, a young mom that didn’t know what I was doing.”

With help from her newfound friends, Barbie was able to book incredible artists right off the bat and continued to do so season after season. Barbie was also able to develop a volunteer program quickly.

“We had over 100 people within a year helping to do everything from sound and lights to seating,” says Barbie. “Larry came and helped me to develop a ticketing program as well.”

For ten years, Barbie kept the ball rolling at the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts. It was during that time she says she realized that, while she loves starting projects, she really doesn’t think she is good at maintaining them.

"credit" Jessi Smith

“I loved setting it all up,” says Barbie. “When I left, they were in good shape financially, had a large endowment, and I had gotten Glema’s name on the building, which was a dream of mine. And then, I realized it was just work. It had become work. It wasn’t a challenge anymore. I missed making art and a lot of things had changed in our lives. Our kids were in law school and they were grown. We had bought this building, Rush’s law office was in here, and we had been renting out the other side and decided not to rent it anymore. So, I started renovating it to be a little pottery shop. In 1999, I moved in and started making pots.”

Both of Barbie’s children, Lara and Lee, eventually became attorneys and moved off to fulfill their dreams. Neither was particularly into creating art, but Barbie says they both appreciate art and that they are by far her biggest fans.

“We had the most fun this past December. Our son and his wife, Kristi, finally got their dream home in Santé Fe, New Mexico. They’ve lived in Santé Fe for over ten years and they recently bought this new, huge, awesome house there. They’re both amazing people, but they have not one decorating gene between them,” laughs Barbie. “They have no interest in that, so they asked Lara and I to come to New Mexico to help them. They bought our plane tickets to come and spend the week decorating their house. We spent 15 hours the first day shopping and then we had all the furniture trucked in. We decorated the whole house in five days. It was amazing.”

During the home makeover, Barbie produced a large painting to place on a wall of the house. She was inspired early one morning while watching the sun rise up over Santé Fe. Barbie wanted to paint it, so she did.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“It got me thinking about working big," says Barbie. “I live in this little studio and it keeps me from thinking big, but in New Mexico, everything is so big. The sky is so big. So anyways, I came home and I was inspired. I could do it. I wanted to work big.”

Barbie has recently completed several large-scale pieces that are currently on display at The Crowded House restaurant in Madisonville. Up to this point, she has been creating art on a much smaller scale, but she has found her creative energies renewed after stepping outside of her usual comfort levels and working big.

Some of her most popular sellers, however, are her hand-painted silks, which she learned to do with a friend.

“We’d get together and play—make art together. She’s a wonderful painter,” says Barbie. “She painted silk for fun, so we’d get together and do silk. It became a great way for me to do color studies. The color you put on it is what stays. And mixing colors and seeing what happens when they run together and all of that helped. I really got to where I liked doing silk more than I liked doing watercolor. I still do watercolor every once in a while. I have some girlfriends and we used to go to Maine and paint landscapes. I love taking watercolors and doing that, but I don’t really see myself as a watercolor painter. It’s very structured. I’m not structured enough to be a good water colorist. You’ve got to like order and staying within the lines that you’ve created. I always want to bust out of my own lines.”

Painting silk became such a fun creative outlet for Barbie that she even developed her own method for working with silk.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“Most silk painters stretch their silks and it’s a wonderful way to work. It’s very structured,” says Barbie. “I lay out plastic on the floor or on a table. I use the real thin, almost drycleaner plastic that you get your clothes in, scrunch it, and then put the silk on that. The silk picks up all these things that are going on in the plastic underneath it. So you can control where it goes and what it does with water, dye, salt, and even sugar. Salt and sugar create texture in the dye. Do all that, lay it out flat, and let it sit. I am doing the same thing with acrylics—building up color, letting it run, stopping, seeing where it ends, going back, and layering more color on. Of course, the difference with silk would be that silk is transparent. The colors are all transparent, so you can’t totally get rid of something. With acrylics, you can just go ahead and start over if it’s a terrible painting,” laughs Barbie. “But with silk, it’s only a piece of silk. How bad could it be?”

Like most artists, Barbie is often inspired by a certain medium, running with it until she discovers something else that pulls her in a different direction. In turn, her artwork is usually made in phases.

Barbie says she is just now getting back into making pots, which she hasn’t done over the past seven years.

“My kiln died and I didn’t get a new one,” says Barbie. “Life got busy and Rush and I opened the [Main Street] Prayer Center [aka, Healing Rooms of Hopkins County] in the middle of all that. With painting, you can paint and then come back to it a week later and pick up where you left off. Pots don’t give you that freedom. I wasn’t sure I would go back to making clay, but a friend has loaned me her kiln. I’ll probably buy a new one now, but I have a kiln that I’m using and its firing fine. So, I got all my glazes back out. In the midst of all that, this wonderful young woman, Bree Jene Campbell, came to help me and she’s interested in becoming a potter. Bree is apprenticing. Having somebody here to help me do some of the work, Facebook it, and help with marketing has invigorated me to get excited about clay again. The same thing has happened with the large scale work. To have done that in New Mexico—I enjoyed the process and finished three paintings in a day. That kind of got me going, ‘Oh my gosh. I can do this. This is fun.’”

"credit" Jeff Harp
Another style of art that Barbie has an affinity for is collage. Collage is a technique where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, which create a new piece altogether. She is very well known for her collage pieces.

“I really love doing collage,” says Barbie. “I think you have to have a respect for it to purchase it, so it’s been a harder sell. Regardless, I’ve sold a lot of work and I have people now who collect my work and really appreciate it. I’m very grateful for that. Collage is a slower process. I’ve been doing it for a long time now and it’s been a very good way to force me to deal with design, color, texture, and all the areas that you might kind of become lazy with. Working small with collage has been really good. So, I’m taking some of the things I’ve been doing small and kind of blowing them up. I’ve done some larger scale pieces with collected metal and wood. I’ve sold quite a few. I have quite a few right now that I’m working on. I just collect parts, get ideas, and put them together. They come together pretty quickly once I have all the parts. There is a show in Henderson [Kentucky] that I participate in every other year. It’s a recycled art exhibit. So that’s always a goal of mine, to get a bunch of new works done for the exhibit. It’s coming up this fall, so I’m gearing up and thinking through new ideas. I used to do a lot of shows. I don’t do that many anymore. It’s a lot of trouble to haul your stuff around. But the recycled art exhibit, I really enjoy doing that one.”

"credit" Jessi Smith

Barbie considers one of her greatest artistic accomplishments a collage series that she created for McCoy & McCoy Laboratories, Inc. She was commissioned to create the series by Barclay McCoy, the president and owner of the company.

“It was such a fun project,” gushes Barbie. “The project was to do these pieces of collage using leaves and construction pieces from their old site and their new site when they were building their new building. I developed all these works that were going to be given as gifts to all the different contract companies that participated in the construction of the building. Then, I went out with Barclay and we picked out the colors for the interior of the new building. We chose all these primary colors and I just happened to be working with all these primary colors in my collages as well. When they were all finished, Barclay liked them so much she decided to keep them. So now, they are on the wall inside of the building honoring all of these companies who worked together to create it. I love that McCoy & McCoy, a local company, supports local artists. I would love to see other local businesses really take local art seriously.”

"credit" Jessi Smith

For the most part, Barbie thinks that Madisonville and Hopkins County are moving in the right direction when it comes to appreciating the arts and surrounding ourselves with it.

“I’m always striving for excellence, so there is always more to improve upon, but I think we’re doing great,” says Barbie. “What Sugg Street Post is doing is awesome. We’re getting an art gallery open on Sugg Street and Amanda’s on Main is doing well. We had our fourth Gallery Hop this year, which is amazing. That’s starting to build up steam. At the first one I didn’t sell hardly anything. The second one I sold more. The third one I sold a lot. I think it’s because people started coming expecting to buy. They saw it as what it is intended to be. Not just to go look at art, but to come, shop, and to find work that catches your heart and that you want to live with. I was in a home recently and the couple that lived there was displaying one of my pieces. It is really exciting to see people starting to own and appreciate work by local artists. I think the desire that we have to see the Dulin and Woolworth buildings become important, active buildings in the downtown is significant. I love the idea of having upstairs apartments throughout the downtown area, because it puts people living in the downtown district. Those are the people that are going to be a part of whatever scene is going on. Those are the people who will help make our downtown area an active arts community. Hopefully, we can even put studios or businesses in those buildings that will support the arts or become part of the arts scene. It would be awesome to bring other artists to live and work here. I think that is the goal that we’re moving towards and I think that’s wonderful. I think we’re going there.”

"credit" Jessi Smith

Barbie not only has a passion for art, but she also has a passion for prayer. Barbie and her husband Rush are responsible for opening the Main Street Prayer Center which is located at 35 North Main Street in downtown Madisonville.

“Rush had been at a conference learning about Healing Rooms Ministries and it was clear that God wanted us to open a prayer center,” says Barbie. “So we started one in my shop where Rush’s office space used to be before he moved to a new location, and we continued to run it in this building for almost two years. We had two prayer rooms, an intersession room, and a reception area. However, this space just wasn’t really big enough for the ministry, which grew quickly. We had more and more people coming for prayer and they had to wait a long time. We needed a bigger building, and we had a lot of wonderful, prophetic people telling us that God had a bigger plan and for us. They told us to keep our eyes open. So we got the building that we have now at an auction and moved the prayer center down the street next to Ferrell’s. We moved in May of 2011.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
The prayer center does not offer Sunday services. Barbie tells me that the center isn’t a church either; it’s a ministry.

“Healing Rooms is an international association. There are over 2,500 in the world and, since we’ve opened ours, there are now ten in Kentucky. It’s just bringing Christians together to pray, primarily for the sick, but for people that have needs of all kinds. We are open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have had some pretty amazing things happen. Lots of people have gotten healed. We have gotten reports recently that four different people we have been praying over are now cancer free. We see God heal people on a regular basis. It’s a cool ministry.”

"credit" Jessi Smith
Recently, the ministry created a kids healing team and have received a very good response.

“After we started our healing room, the kids wanted to pray for the sick because they had been in experiences where they had seen God heal people,” says Barbie. “So we put a structure together, tried it, and that next year the lead administrator of Healing Rooms came to Madisonville and held a conference with us. They got to see what our kids were doing and how it was progressing. Shortly after that they invited us to come and talk about it at a conference in Spokane [Washington]. So I put a manual together and that has put us in the frontline of being the go-to people if you want to have a kids’ team. Recently, we received a grant from the National Christian Foundation to help us build a website and to develop our material. So that’s something I’ve been involved in lately.”

Something else that has been consuming Barbie’s thoughts lately has been the Dulin and Woolworth buildings, which are located right next to her art studio. The buildings have been a hot topic of conversation around town as their ultimate fates are uncertain at this point in time.

"credit" Jessi Smith
“I’m really hoping that the building next door gets taken good care of, because it’s scary right now not knowing what the outcome will be,” says Barbie. “I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the big looming buildings next door. If they get torn down, I don’t know what will happen to my studio. At one point, we were asked if we would sell our building. I can’t say that I want to, but if that would improve the downtown, and if I could find a good alternate space, I would consider it. But, I’ve spent a lot of years moving in here and it’s hard to set up a studio. It’s a lot of work. I want to make art, I don’t want to move or renovate. I’m happy where I am.”

Barbie and I also talked about her favorite themes, colors, and symbols that frequently appear in her work.

“Over the last ten years, I have worked on this series on the cross. It’ll probably be a book at some point, because I’ve written devotions that go with each piece,” says Barbie. “I was honing in on two concepts with this series. There is obviously the cross that Jesus died on, which is the central image of the Christian faith, but then Jesus said, ‘Pick up your cross,’ so there’s more to it than the obvious image. So I did my own in-depth study of that, and so many of my collages have come out of that study. I always keep going back to that, because it’s still an ongoing observation in my life.”

“Leaves are another theme I’m drawn to,” says Barbie. “I honed in on the scripture in revelations that says that the leaves of the trees are going to heal nations and that leaves had some significance in the kingdom of God as a symbol of healing. So leaves became, for me, a symbol of healing and a Christian symbol. I have used leaves a lot. I believe that God is calling Christians to pray for the nations, not against them, and to believe that God wants to heal not just individuals, but nations.”

"credit" Jeff Harp

“Now I’ve got this new series, which is based on a concept that I’m really just starting to explore, and that is that the atmosphere that we see is only part of the atmosphere that we live in,” explains Barbie. “There is a spiritual atmosphere and it parallels, because God is a creator and he loves all of it. He loves the stars, he loves nature, and he loves diversity. He’s big. He created big. So I’m working with this series that’s big for me, but also big in concept, because I have to have something that I can see way out there. It keeps me motivated, like the cross. The more I know about it, the more I want to know and there’s more depth to it—vertical and horizontal. Our lives are supposed to be vertical and horizontal, not one way or another. But the new series is about the atmosphere. We’re under atmospheric pressure that we can’t see. Some days you just feel like there’s this cloud over you, like the Pink Panther. Well, there really is. It’s an atmospheric thing. There is pressure on you that you didn’t create. It isn’t you. You feel guilty or your feel bad about yourself or whatever—well, that wasn’t you. That’s something that happened that’s going on around you and we joke about the full moon, but there are atmospheric things that are natural and that are supernatural. So I’m pursuing that right now.”

“As far as favorite colors go, I don’t really have a favorite,” admits Barbie. “I go in stages of color. I love the river. I love fire. I love all the warm colors. I love all the cool colors. I had a black and white phase for a while. I am also fascinated by colors I can’t create. There are colors that I can’t make. We don’t have the spectrum for it. Ultimately, it’s really what God is doing in me and around me that motivates me. I wish I was more motivated by money, but I’m not. [laughs] I am motivated by these things that I see that God shows me—things that I can’t really articulate in words. I want to visually articulate them.”

Every piece that Barbie creates also has its own write up. Barbie likes to write about the piece, what inspired her to create it, and what it means to her.

“People are interested,” says Barbie. “They don’t need to know it and you can’t really say that art is something people need, but I believe your spirit needs art. I think people really enjoy knowing what was in the brain that caused you to do what you did, especially with work that is like mine. I mean, I can paint very realistically, but I just don’t want to. I value the camera. I studied photography a whole lot in college. I value the camera as a way to create art. So why would I want to do something it can do? I really value photo realistic painters and I have friends that are amazing at it. That just isn’t who I am. I don’t think like that. I just think in a different direction. So, my work has become more and more abstract, but it has meaning. It isn’t just throwing paint on a canvas. I want to communicate meaning in the process of what I’m doing. If there is anything happening in the 21st Century it’s that people are living out loud. Language is becoming a medium of communication in a new way, and so the written language is valuable to people. That’s how we are communicating. It’s not necessarily a good thing, because you can’t tell if I really like you by how I text you. You could tell by looking at me, but you have to add hugs, a smiley face, or ‘lol’ so that someone else takes it right. As an artist, I see artists as prophets on paper. We’re giving road signs of what’s going on around us and maybe reflecting culture as much as we’re directing it.”

"credit" Jeff Harp

Barbie is helping to direct the future of Madisonville in a variety of ways. She stays heavily involved with the city, although she admits that she wasn’t always a participating activist.

“As far as the city goes, I wasn’t involved,” says Barbie. “I attended a meeting where they were presenting the new city’s book. I was invited because I was on the Madisonville Historic District Commission. I was helping them start that, but I wasn’t involved in anything. I was trying to make art and helping with grandkids. It was another true epiphany in my life, honestly. I was sitting in that meeting and I was president of the Community Improvement Foundation [CIF], but CIF was not particularly involved in the community at that time. I saw that I needed to be actively involved in the community. There is so much potential for Hopkins County and this community. I decided that I wouldn’t be passive any longer. I became an activist. I do believe the Margaret Mead quote, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ I believe that. I know that’s true and, as a Christian, I know that’s true as well. That’s how Christianity grew. So, I became actively involved. CIF became actively involved. I’m not involved with the CIF anymore, but I am involved in the Downtown Turnaround Project.”

In the midst of all of that, Barbie became like family to the late community leader and local visionary, Glema Mahr.

“I had a great loss in my life. I felt like I lost my mother again when she passed away. I buried my mother and then Glema died,” says Barbie. “I became trustee of her estate and spent a year going through all of her things, having an auction, and doing all of that. Now we’re on the verge of turning her land into a real park, and it is incredible land. There are 260 acres of gorgeous rolling hills. Her and Merle dreamed of it being a city park, and my job is to do everything I can to help carry out their vision within the constraints of an economy that has shifted and all it takes to make that happen.”

Barbie and Glema dreamed about what would happen with that land quite a bit. They shared ideas and concepts together and had a great shared vision for what it would someday become.

"credit" Jeff Harp
“At one point, I thought she was going to get involved in doing it and we discussed it,” says Barbie, “but she didn’t like looking back. She was a wonderful visionary person that just enjoyed life and living fully today—living in the present. That is why she was able to live so long. For Glema, to talk about the park and to start planning it was really more like looking at your own mortality a little too much. I, of course, understood that completely. We had a lot of things cooking and then we just sat them on the table and stopped. So, now we’re moving in that direction. The Mahr Park Planning Committee is very committed to carrying out her wishes. The city leadership right now is doing a good job of working towards carrying it out and doing it very methodically. We can’t open the park until you have an entrance and a parking lot. So, the park isn’t open. I know it looks like we’re doing nothing, but the biggest thing that will ever happen to that park will be the entrance and the parking lot. We can’t have a park without it. It’s still going to be awhile, but it will be an awesome park when we get it open.”

But what is in the cards for Barbie and what is she planning for the future? How does this highly successful local artist measure her success?

“How would you know if you were successful? What would be the ultimate success measure? To have a piece in a museum of modern art or something? I am on a mission. I want to see a community of artists and craftsman that I want to be a part of created—a community of artists and craftsman who work together to create good work and support ourselves financially. To me, success is really that people value what you do at any level. Ultimately, that would mean that they would value it so much that they would be willing to pay a fair price for it. To me, success is when people start to value what you do, and not just what you’re doing, but why. It happens when they value the heart behind it, because they got it—whatever it is, whether it’s a pot, painting, or silk. I sell a lot of silk, and that has been one of the things that has encouraged me the most. People will come in wanting to buy one for a sick friend, because we name them and we pray over them. They value the meaning. They value that it’s created out of worship and out of the environment that we have here. That is success. I am very successful,” laughs Barbie. “You know what I mean? I’m not looking at the check book. I have money in the check book. I’m not making tons of money, but, as an artist, I feel successful because I’m getting to do meaningful work and there are a lot of people finding it meaningful.”

Barbie would like to find more local galleries interested in carrying her work, but, right now, she says she is very focused on her city.

"credit" Jeff Harp
“I believe in my city and I’m not one of those people that think the big city is better. I chose to live in Madisonville. We had opportunities to leave, but we chose not to. We chose to stay here, not just because it’s Rush’s hometown, but because we believe this is a good town and we’re going to invest our lives here. Part of being hugely successful is that we all make money doing what we love doing, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. We are making our downtown a destination. You can come, eat, shop, be challenged, get a tattoo, and get prayer,” laughs Barbie. “You can do it all.”

How does Barbie tie the importance of art in her life and her love of community together? Quite simply, she wants to create work that reflects her relationship with God.

“When I started growing as an artist, I didn’t even know of any other Christian artists. I was not trained that way,” says Barbie. “I know that God really loves places and I believe he wants to see cities thrive and everybody in them thrive. I think, as a Christian, I want to see transformed cities where everybody is working good jobs, living in nice homes, and doing valuable work while loving their families. I believe that everything you do to improve a city moves you toward that, and I believe the arts help, because I think God is a creative God. When we value creativity, we’re valuing him in us. It is all really out of my core belief that God said, ‘Stay in Madisonville. I’m going to use you here.’ That means every part of everything. Be involved in everything that you can make a difference in. I love starting stuff. I love working with people and seeing creative people working together. If committed people start believing in their city and start caring about their corner, then we will have a city that people will come to see. If we believe in our city and we believe that this is a good place to live—we have great schools, good jobs, and a wonderful environment—if we start inviting people to come and be a part of something wonderful, they will. That’s how people get to different cities after all.”

“Community matters. People matter. Rush and I want to know people. I want to know my neighbors and I want to know people. I want to care about people. That’s really why we started our ministry. We just want to make a place for that and I think small towns are the perfect set-up. I think that people are looking for that in a high-tech world, and we have it. We have a great city and it’s getting better.”

For more information about Barbie Hunt and her artwork visit her website at http://www.barbiehunt.com/.

For more information about Main Street Prayer Center visit their website at http://www.mainstreetprayer.org/.

You can also find Barbie Hunt Studios on Facebook

Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Jessi Smith and Jeff Harp

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  • Published in Art

Community Collage: 2013 Spring Gallery Hop

MADISONVILLE, KY (5/2/13)—Since the inaugural event back in October 2011, Madisonville’s biannual downtown Gallery Hop has developed into something very special for our close-knit community. It offers the public a chance to physically interact with the astonishing amount of creative talent our region produces and calls home; it provides a platform for artists and local business owners to merge in a very unique, mutually beneficial manner; and, above all, it provides a great evening of fun and entertainment for everyone involved.

Though this year’s spring Gallery Hop, which was held on Saturday, April 27th, faced a potential downturn in attendance due to rainy weather, a surprising number of patrons from our area took to the historic district’s sidewalks to peruse and purchase a variety of pieces created by approximately 30 different artists.

Moreover, those in attendance also had the relatively rare opportunity to witness several spontaneous street performances courtesy of talented local musicians, to taste some delicious food, desserts, and fine wine produced by locally owned-and-operated businesses, and to speak directly with the artists whose work was on display.

While the collaborative event won’t take place again until October, we at the Sugg Street Post would like to recap a few of the spring Gallery Hop’s highlights through images and words. Please take note of the artists, businesses, and organizations displayed and mentioned in the following captions and photos, because they deserve our support and appreciation.

Area resident Amy Harvey pays a visit to Madisonville's decades-old train depot during last Saturday's downtown Gallery Hop. Known as "The Center" today, the historic structure serves as the Hopkins County Art League's official headquarters and gallery space. The HDR photo work Harvey is analyzing was created by longtime city employee and HCAL member, Gina Munger. Munger's work was part of an exhibit on Saturday that included more than 200 pieces made by over 10 other Art League members. 

While primarily known for his talents on piano, bass guitar, and vocals, local musician Johnny Keyz put a rough-edged, albeit original, twist on a bygone style by way of a performance on a '30s-era accordion. The performance took place in front of the soon-to-be Sugg Street Post, ARTcycle Inc., and Big City Coffee Shop location. Passersby braved light, intermittent sprinkles to capture this unique moment both in memory and in photos. As this was the first year musicians were invited to "busk" during the Gallery Hop, other talented performers, which included Pat Ballard, Mike Cartwright, and Ray Ligon, performed on the sidewalk in front of the location. Other photos, as well as a video, of these performances can be found via the official Sugg Street Post Facebook page.

The singular, environment-friendly, and abstract sculpture work of Indiana artist Bob Zasadny eternalizes fluidity and motion in various physical forms. In the photo, Bob and I discuss his fiberglass and recycling-based approach, which he first adopted as his main medium in the early 1960s. Since his humble, yet capable, beginnings, Zasadny has garnered acclaim from noted colleagues in the art world, area media outlets, and a variety of respected institutions. Zasadny's exhibit was one of several on display at the Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce's headquarters at 15 East Center Street. 

The concept of cyclical time and repetition, which is represented in much of Tim Corum's metal sculpture work, gains added depth with a piece created from a range of discarded bicycle parts. Based out of Earlington, KY, Corum's art is on display for the public on a daily basis in Madisonville via his various, brightly-colored "ARTcan" creations, each of which are peppered throughout the downtown district. The piece displayed above was one of several works of art on display at 25 Sugg Street during the Gallery Hop. 


Steeped in faith and spirituality, the multi-sided artwork of Madisonville-based artist and gallery owner Barbie Hunt, which includes pottery, customized silks, collages, and water-based media (as seen in the above photo), has prompted attention from a wide range of audiences over the years. Not only does her ever-growing catalog of work continue to inspire local audiences, but it has helped to put downtown Madisonville in a national, art-tinged spotlight. 

Defining Carl Berges' colorful, large-scale oil paintings is a tricky pony. While the pieces may at first seem abstract, upon closer inspection one realizes that a vivid and seemingly motion-filled shot of life has materialized. Further examples of Berges' vibrant works can been seen enlivening the background of other photos found in the this "community collage." 

Producing fine wine is, itself, a painstaking, centuries-old artform worthy of praise and appreciation - especially when done correctly. Medicine Man Wines of Eddy Gove Winery, LLC (Princeton, KY), were onsite at the Madisonville-Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce during the "hop" showing patrons how this historic skill could manifest locally. From selling samples to full bottles, co-owners Jenny Franke and David Hall were happy to share the award-winning fruits of their labor with the general public. 

A talented country musician with over 40 years of playing experience under his belt, Ray Ligon is a staple of our local music community and has helped to support a variety of benevolent civic organizations. His notable mantra, "It's all about touching people with the music," has remained a fixture in both his approach to fans and his unique songwriting style over the years. 25 Sugg Street, which will be the eventual home of the Sugg Street Post, ARTcycle Inc., and Big City Coffee Shop, was privileged to have Ray perform among a bevy of eye-catching art pieces during the Gallery Hop. 

Woodworking practices date back to the dawn of human civilizations both in China and Egypt. Yet, it's a relatively safe bet that those practicing the art form in its infancy would have never imagined how the trade would evolve, let alone that the skill would even practiced some 6,000 years later. Fortunately, talented craftsmen like Charles Beal, whose original woodturnings were up for sale at the Chamber of Commerce office, are keeping this rich tradition alive and well. 

 The varied artwork of the Sugg Street Post's own Jessica Dockrey adds a bright artistic backdrop to a conversation between Hopkins County Art League members and painters Pat Harvey (left) and Rik Woosley (right), as well as myself. The lower, labyrinth-like level of the HCAL's HQ at "The Center" was host to several other artists' work, including the oftentimes bejeweled pieces produced by fellow league member Faye Dennison. 

The brainchild of local textile artist Maria Lee, the Black Dog Fiber Studio at 11 North Main St. in downtown Madisonville offers art-lovers a contemporary touch on a well-established tradition. The weaving loom pictured above showcases one of many intricate skills required to fashion Lee's various, cloth-based works. In addition to Lee's pieces, the studio was also host to several handmade soaps courtesy of  Bicycle Botanicals' Kim Hardesty.

Proud supporters of the area arts and music scene, Henderson, KY's Ruby Moon Vineyard & Winery owners Jamie Like and Anita Frazer offered Gallery Hop attendants a variety of exquisite, locally-grown flavors, as well as full bottles, from the 25 Sugg Street location. In addition to luscious dessert wines and flavorful blushes, Ruby Moon also offers drier reds that compliment meats wonderfully. Particularly, the Sugg Street Post crew was a big fan of the winery's "Chambourcin" flavor, which is pictured above. 

As 6-year-old Emma Rea Gibson will attest, artwork isn't just for the adults. Her 11" X 14" untitled finger painting piece is direct evidence. Though her mother, Jenny Gibson - who is also the founder of the Downtown Turnaround Project, ARTcycle Inc., and Big City Coffee Shop, as well as a member of the Sugg Street Post - was happy to have Emma's artwork adorning the wall at 25 Sugg Street, she knows a good piece when she see's it. In turn, rather than trying to put a number on the work, both Jenny and Emma agreed on a more apt cost: priceless. 

A current resident of southern Indiana, Nick Kredier spends much of his time restoring and repurposing "lost and found" furniture. From adding vintage-inspired touches, to a few dashes of color and text for good measure, Kreider has an obvious knack for turning many men's trash into what most anyone would consider real treasure. 

Another photo of Johnny Keyz "busking"  the sidewalks of Sugg St. on his antique accordion receives a classy monochromatic makeover. 

Though Madisonville's Gallery Hop won't be back until October this year, everyone at the Sugg Street Post is sure it will be another entertaining and successful event. A huge thanks goes out to everyone who makes the occasion such a unique and enjoyable time year after year. See you in the fall!

Sugg Street Post
Written by Luke Short
Photos by Jessi Smith

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