Kudzu as art­work

Re­cep­tion Fri­day opens Mor­ton in­stal­la­tion

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - ARTS - STAFF RE­PORT

When Jef­frey Mor­ton moved to South­east Ten­nessee from the North­east 15 years ago, he felt an affin­ity for the lowly kudzu — that ubiq­ui­tous vine that grows ram­pantly over all man­ner of nat­u­ral and man­made ob­jects in the South.

“Unique to the Amer­i­can South is the kudzu plant that thrives in a cli­mate dif­fer­ent from its home. In Ja­pan, kudzu is a dec­o­ra­tive plant with a pretty pur­ple flower. How­ever, in a new lo­ca­tion, kudzu is used to fight ero­sion. At first, I thought ‘This for­eign plant doesn’t be­long here, and nei­ther do I,’” Mor­ton ex­plains.

“But af­ter crawl­ing through the land­scape of Sig­nal Moun­tain and nav­i­gat­ing the in­va­sive vine, mak­ing draw­ings and paint­ings from it, I have learned to love the strange plant and the land­scape of my adopted home,” he says.

Mor­ton’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the vine will be vis­ually dis­played in his kudzu- in­spired in­stal­la­tion that opens Fri­day, Jan. 11, at the Cre­ative Arts Guild, 520 W. Waugh St. in Dal­ton, Ge­or­gia. The artist will be hon­ored with an open­ing re­cep­tion Fri­day from 5: 30 to 7: 30 p. m. at the guild.

Guests will have the chance to hear from the artist about how the con­cepts of place, in­tru­sion and per­ma­nence in­flu­enced his work.

Mor­ton, pro­fes­sor of art at Covenant Col­lege, says his ex­hibit, “In­va­sive,” in­cludes 10 oil paint­ings on linen. The small­est is 36 inches square; the largest, 60 inches square. There will also be char­coal, pen­cil draw­ings and a few pho­to­graphs in­cluded.

The kudzu work is a col­lec­tion of four large can­vases done in spray paint on can­vas.

“I col­lected about 90 feet of kudzu vines and brought them back to my stu­dio. Once there, I ar­ranged the vines on top of my white can­vas, cre­at­ing cir­cu­lar and all- over pat­terns. Then I coated the can­vas with black spray paint. Once the vine was re­moved, a neg­a­tive im­age ap­peared to cre­ate a glow of white cot­ton. Think of an ana­log black-and-white neg­a­tive in film pho­tog­ra­phy,” says Mor­ton.

Mor­ton says while that spe­cific work did not take long to make, it is part of a larger prac­tice from the last 10 years of ex­plor­ing the sub­ject of kudzu.

“Some of the paint­ings in the show took me two years to cre­ate,” he says.

“My gen­eral de­sire with my work is for my viewer to ex­pe­ri­ence the strange­ness I feel when I step into a field of kudzu. I want my viewer to feel the tug of walk­ing through a prob­lem­atic land­scape.”

“In­va­sive” will run through Feb. 21.

For more in­for­ma­tion: 706-278-0168.

JEFF MOR­TON CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Jef­frey Mor­ton’s kudzu art was made by ar­rang­ing the vine on white can­vas, coat­ing the can­vas with black spray paint, then re­mov­ing the vine to cre­ative a neg­a­tive im­age. The four large pieces, shown, will be stacked on the gallery floor. The vine will ap­pear to be mov­ing up­ward, just like it grows.

CRE­ATIVE ARTS GUILD CON­TRIB­UTED I MAGE

“An­odized Wood” by Jef­frey Mor­ton.

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