A visit to the Knoxville Museum of Art

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On Friday night, my wife, son and I went to the Knoxville Museum of Art. We went there specifically to see the "Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee" exhibit. This exhibit is one that is now a permanent installation at the museum. The exhibit features art and artists from East Tennessee.

I've never been one to value art, but I love the scenery around East Tennessee and expected that this exhibit would have a lot of beautiful scenes based on the description that I had read on their web site. So I expected to see a lot of mountains, trees, streams, flowers, and the like; all things that I enjoy about this area. It never occurred to me that I would see pieces that to me are "abstract".

My first surprise came when we walked in the door of the museum. I was thinking that museums are quite places where people go and simply look at art. No talking, much like a library. When we went in, we were greeted and found several people in the museum all talking freely. There were no guys standing there looking inquisitively at a blank canvas with a pipe in his hands - so much for my stereotype! Most of the people there looked very much like us, so we felt comfortable having a look around. We went upstairs to the exhibit that we had come to see.

Walking in to the exhibit, I was presented with a beautiful picture of the type that I was expecting - a nice mountain view. Then I turned left. I was surprised by what greeted me there. There I saw a couple of what I guess would be called statues that were made from what appeared to be driftwood. On the wall, I saw the first of the paintings that were strange - it looked to me like someone spilled a variety of paint colors, but to someone it is art.

It seemed that every time I turned the corner I was surprised by what I saw. Around one corner I came face-to-face with a ram head carved in marble. This piece was created by an Italian man that had relocated to East Tennessee.

The variety of styles amazed me. Some "oil on board paintings" that were there looked almost 3D - I nearly touched one just to see if it was something more than paint, but when I got close I could see it was just paint, but the artist made it look so real! The use of colors also varied among the pieces. Some pieces, such as the carved ram head, were one simple color (white in the case of the ram head). On the other end of the spectrum, there were several prints that used a lot of bright, vivid colors. Among my favorites, the prints of scenes around East Tennessee, the colors were generally realistic which around here still allowed for a lot of color variety. The pieces that were my favorite turned out to be "simple" photographs. The photos were black-and-white prints of the view from Mt. LeConte. These pieces were breathtaking. It was really surprising to me how beautiful these pictures were without the use of color.

The exhibit had pieces that were up to one hundred years old. In looking over them, I realized that the age of the paintings was not apparent when looking at them. For example, I expected the abstract pieces to be more modern, but found that some of them were over 40 years old.

The exhibit was different than I expected. I did enjoy going and seeing all of the pieces they had to show; so much so that we took some extra time and explored a couple of other exhibits that they had while we were there.

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