HOGANSVILLE — For the upcoming exhibit at The Suffering Artist studio and gallery, owner Sarah Swanson sums it up with a question: “Who says that being cultured and having chocolate on your face doesn’t mix?”
The gallery will trade wine and cheese for cookies and cupcakes in Small Works and Big Sweets, which starts May 21. The show will feature family-friendly work by 16 artists.
The goal is for the exhibit to appeal to children. Swanson hopes it will spur children’s interest in art and become an annual staple.
Twelve of the artists featured will be members of the Visual Artists Alliance of LaGrange. VAAL chairman Thea McElvy said the idea of the family-oriented exhibit is “very innovative.”
“I think it’ll get a lot of conversations going between parents and children, and just creative thinking,” she said. “Our world is so geared toward this fast-paced, microwave society theme, and I think people are getting ready to slow down. … Family dinner tables have become more fashionable. I think they’re ready to slow down and enjoy some culture.”
McElvy said pieces on display will be “quite a variety” and the show will have “something for everybody.”
“This will be our first time showing here in the gallery, and I hope we can get some more events here,” McElvy said.
The artists represented will range in art styles from portraits, abstract and landscape paintings to clay sculptures and 3D art. McElvy’s featured work will include acrylic on canvas with her colorful portraits, mostly of celebrities and pets.
Her style underwent a drastic transformation in 2014. Unsatisfied with her artistic style — she felt it lacked passion and a distinct voice — she was inspired during a visit to the A.T. Hun in Savannah.
“The colors and the styles in there make my heart pound,” she said. “It’s like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I’ve been there many times, but for some reason, this time I had a jolting epiphany. … When I got home, in a leap of faith, I broke out my ‘Willy Wonka’ palette and got to work.”
Altering the color palette and putting a new, unique twist on her subjects helped McElvy reinvent her art. She even took up a new name for her new style, signing her paintings as “Mac.”
“When I started working with Becky Guinn at Valley (Alabama) High School, the students had a difficult time pronouncing McElvy, so they called me Ms. Mac, and it stuck,” she explained.
McElvy now works with Sheltering Arms Educare in Atlanta, and said she saw firsthand how children will respond and ask questions about art during a recent training session at Woodruff Arts Center.
“They had a lot to say,” she said. “Sometimes even a child’s point of view can bring an ‘a-ha’ moment. The best thing about an art talk is there is no wrong answer. Everyone’s opinion matters.”
The show will feature artists of a variety of ages, Swanson noted. One artist, Kaitlenn Brown, is a senior at Newnan High School.
“Hopefully, we can get other students to participate in the future so we can show our support for aspiring artists,” Swanson said.
Artists featured are Ray Stewart, Amber Stidham, John Stidham, Michelle Johnson, Brown and VAAL members Sandy Cox, Dawn Douglas, Becky Guinn, Cindy Fulks, Kilsup Van Lieu, Mary Sumners, Mary Fields, Terri Codlin, Margaret Reneke, McElvy and Swanson.
The show opens May 21 at The Suffering Artist 311 E. Main St. in downtown Hogansville. Admission is free.
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.