• James McKissic: Solo Show at Unitarian Universalist of Chattanooga

    My work is presently on view at the UU Church of Chattanooga. The show includes new works which you may enjoy. Check it out as it will be up through mid March.

  • Effort to put more African American art in local museums

    Some Chattanooga residents say they're so interested in seeing black art in local museums they're willing to purchase it themselves.

    "There is a powerful connection you can have with artwork, and sometimes it's not even beautiful. Sometimes it's raw," said Ellen Simak, chief curator of the Hunter Museum of American Art.

    Simak is among more than a dozen people working with Friends of African-American Art to bring more black artwork to Chattanooga. Each member in the culturally diverse group pays $150 to help buy African-American art for the Hunter and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

    The plan is to buy a work of art for the Hunter Museum one year and the Bessie Smith Center the next. The partnership is intended to enhance the visual art experience at both galleries, Simak said.

    Friends of African-American Art will host its first community meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Hunter. "Lois Mailou Jones: A Life In Vibrant Color" will be on display during the gathering. Jones was a black painter and a retired professor at Howard University.

    "It's going to be a real enjoyable evening," Simak said. "We're going to offer tours of the Lois Mailou Jones show. We've got some jazz music going on that refers to the impact of the Harlem Renaissance on her work. And then there's a brief program about Friends of African-American Art."

    Jones' work is featured in museums throughout the world. She died June 9, 1998, at age 92, and her artwork will be featured at the Hunter from Jan. 30 through April 24.

    "The Lois Mailou Jones show gives us perfect opportunity to give people a chance to see African-American art at its finest and a chance to really launch this joint effort," said Simak.

    Local artist James Mc-Kissic organized Friends of African-American Art after attending Leadership Chattanooga.

    Leadership Chattanooga, established by the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation in 1984, is a 10-month leadership development program that prepares participants for prominent business, cultural and political roles.

    "So many artists are doing amazing things, but visual art gets left behind," McKissic said. "A lot of history is in the way we represent ourselves."

    Rose Martin, executive director of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, said the Friends of African-American Art creates a formal partnership between a major museum, the Hunter, and a smaller museum, Bessie Smith.

    The partnership gives the cultural center more opportunity to own black art and could be a model for museums in other parts of the country, she said.

    Simak said the Hunter buys new art pieces each year, while Martin said her museum has purchased only one new piece in the three years she's headed the cultural center.

    "For us this is really, really a great resource and a good partnership," Martin said. "When you have a smaller museum, you don't always have the funding, resources and donors you really need to expand your collection."

    Ihttp://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/jan/24/effort-to-put-more-black-art-in-local-museums/?printIRead the Article HereI

  • Times Free Press 2010: When James McKissic learned the Carolina Chocolate Drops were coming to town, he was thrilled.

    “They just awaken something old and deep within me,” said McKissic, director of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. “When you listen to their music, a lot of their songs have a universal message. They relate to what’s going on now even though the type of music might be one that you don’t hear as often.”

    A trio of musicians who pay homage to the lineage of black string bands, musicians whose music predated jazz and the blues, the Carolina Chocolate Drops found their beginnings as students of Mebane, N.C.-based old-time fiddler Joe Thompson. According to the documentary “Black String Revival,” Thompson is one of the last living practioners of the musical legacy. Young black string bands, including the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are helping to resurrect a musical tradition that faltered after the 1950s.


  • GLAAD Out Auction 2009

    OUTAuction NYC – Art and Entertainment all for a good cause!
    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the GLAAD Board of Directors, our Honorary Committee and Arts Advisory Committee and this year’s Planning Committee invite you to join us for OUTAuction NYC - our eighth annual art event to celebrate established and emerging artists, while recognizing GLAAD’s Top 100 Artists.

    Since 2002, GLAAD has produced this annual fundraising event to support our programmatic work. Part art auction and part glamorous cocktail reception, OUTAuction NYC is the must attend event of the fall season.

    Come join us and bid on 100 unique pieces of art. Last year’s live auction featured work from Pablo Picasso, Herb Ritts, Steven Klein, and Marc Chagall. Past artists include: Ross Bleckner, Ryan McGinness, Patrick McMullan, Annie Leibovitz, Karim Rashid, Mario Sorrenti, Peter Max, Rosie O’Donnell, and many others. Celebrities who have participated in the past include: Tom Ford, Susie Essman, Patricia Fields, Eva LaRue and Junior Vasquez among others.




    In the June issue of AmericanStyle magazine, Chattanooga is ranked as the #4 Mid-sized City on the Top 25 Arts Destinations 2010 list. AmericanStyle, a publication of Rosen Media, is an internationally respected magazine that focuses on contemporary art and craft and is geared toward art collectors. The magazine reaches approximately 125,000 readers who purchase art and travel extensively to visit galleries, art events and artist studios. The magazine is distributed through bookstores and galleries worldwide.

    The population of the mid-sized city category, in which the readers awarded Chattanooga second place, ranges between 100,000 – 499,000. Other cities included in this category are quite well known for their art venues, including Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami. This high ranking is determined by the readers and is a testimony to the value the arts add to Chattanooga.

    This is amazing coverage for the arts in Chattanooga and the community as a whole. It will bring both art enthusiasts and collectors to our community, which will generate revenue, not only for art galleries and art venues, but also for restaurants, lodging and retail as well.

    What: AmericanStyle magazine’s article featuring the Arts in Chattanooga and AmericanStyle’s Top 25 Arts Destination 2010 list ranking Chattanooga as the #4 Mid-sized City.

    Where: The magazine will be on sale at Barnes and Noble and online atwww.americanstyle.com

    When: At retailers after May 1, 2010.

  • UTC Alumni News

    December 2008
    James McKissic (’95) Featured in Chattanooga Times Free Press
    December 19th, 2008
    James McKissic (’95) was recognized in the Chattanooga Times Free Press as a “person to watch” in the Wednesday, December 17, 2008 issue. McKissic is Chief Operating Officer for the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga where he uses his background in visual arts to postively influence the lives of youth in the greater Chattanooga area.

  • McKissic at CAAM
    Tennessee artist, James McKissic, is having a solo art show entitled, Root Workers and Railroad Tracks, at the Chattanooga African American Museum (CAAM). The CAAM is located at 200 East Martin Luther King Blvd in Chattanooga, TN.

    McKissic, a 2007 recipient of the Four Bridges Art Festival Emerging Artist Scholarship, is exhibiting 17 paintings. Most recently he has exhibited his work at UNUM Corporate Headquarters and WTCI PBS Studios as part of the Association for Visual Artists Corporate Lending Program. He also shows regularly at the Fine Line Gallery in Atlanta’s Grant Park and OutLoud Books in Nashville, TN. Mckissic has show his work at Nashville Black Pride as well and sells to collectors throughout the region.

    “With this show at the Chattanooga African American Museum, I want to let people see what I’ve been doing over the past couple of years. I chose the title Root Workers and Railroad Tracks because so much of my work and my aesthetic are based on my experiences as a southern, African American, gay man.”

    Three of the large scale paintings in the show celebrate the lives of Michael Sandy, Lawrence King and Ronnie Paris, three youth of color who were victims of hate crimes; others are inspired by the writings of African American LGBT writers Audre Lorde and Richard Bruce Nugent.

    The exhibit runs from Friday, August 22 to October 31. The CAAM is open Monday – Friday 10:00 – 5:00. For more information, call the CAAM at 423-266-8658 or visit www.jhmckissic.artistportfolio.net or www.caamhistory.com. To bring the exhibit to your own community, e-mail James McKissic at jhmckissic@gmail.com.

  • Artist Interview: James McKissic
    Tell us about your educational background. Do you have formal training in art? If so, who were your instructors and how did they influence you?

    I always wanted to be an artist and loved painting and drawing as a child. I studied art in high school and college and did very well in my classes, especially drawing in college. Jere Chumley and Martha Kidwell are two former teachers who encouraged me as a student and as a painter. When i graduated from college, I had enough art credits to have a minor in painting. Later on, while in graduate school, I stopped painting because I just didn't have time. But I always felt like something was missing from my life. If you are an artist you can't go too long without pursuing some creative projects. But I felt stumped. I guess I was in the visual art version of writer's block. On a whim, I signed up for an abstract painting class at the Creative Arts Workshop while living in New Haven, CT. This class broke the block and I've been painting regularly ever since. The most important lesson I've learned came from local artist Charlie Newton. His advice to me was, "Paint every day." I don't paint every day, but I make it a priority to paint as often as possible and to constantly work out ideas in my idea/sketch book. This keeps me going.

    Tell us about your early artistic influences and experiences. When did you decide to pursue art?

    The family I grew up in did not encourage art as a career option. It was more of something to do on the side, for fun, as a release . . . a hobby. My family, though, exposed me to a great deal of art while growing up. There was a print of Henry O'Tanner's, The Banjo Lesson, in our living room and reproductions of Hughie Lee Smith, Romare Bearden and Cezanne paintings throughout our home. I remember keenly my mother discussing these artworks with me. She took my sister and I to museums throughout the region often and exposed us to visual and performing arts regularly. I did not have a moment where I decided to pursue art, but in my early thirties, I decided to begin showing my art publicly. I made public exhibition a goal and I've been working at it ever since.

    The influences and experiences that have fed into my artistic vision are numerous.

    The first time I saw Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This is my favorite painting in the entire world, one I cannot stand before without acknowledging the genius of Picasso and the magnitude of his place in art history. Anytime I'm in New York, I visit MOMA and spend some time with this amazing work of art.

    I love movies, and many movies and music videos have had a deep impact on my artistic vision: Young Sould Rebels, a 1991 movie by Isaac Julien, Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Marcel Camus' Black Orpheus, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Kasi Lemmons' Eve's Bayou and Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood are some of my favorites. These films changed how I looked at the world and also changed the way that I painted.

    Then there is the music that can always pull me out of a slump, anything by Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Coltrane's A Love Supreme and old Aretha.

    A few years ago I visited the show, Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris, at the Knoxville Museum of Art. This show helped me to see the work I was doing in the larger context of African American abstractionists, and gave me the courage to keep going, painting for myself. An entire new world was opened up to me and I began to research and read the life stories of highly respected African American abstract and nonobjective painters like Norman Lewis, Frank Bowling and Sam Gilliam. I am so glad tyo be alive in this time, because the Internet is such a vast source of biographical and visual information about African American artists.

    How would you say that your work has advanced over time?

    I have definitely moved from attempting to paint realistically to pulling themes, forms, shapes and colors from deep within my soul.

    Can you go into detail about your artistic process? How do you begin a piece? When do you know that a piece is finished?

    I will "sit on" and idea for weeks and weeks, allowing it to change and coalesce in my mind. During this time, I'm asking myself questions about what colors represent the idea I'm drawn to? What shapes? What forms? I always work to music, from Talib Kwali, and Meshell Ndegeocello, to Cecil Taylor, Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Bey. Music seems to loosen me and allow me to move deeper and deeper into any painting that I'm working on. Is a painting ever finished? At some point, I just stop. Though I have gone back to a painting a couple of years later and added to it.

    How do current world events influence your work? In other words, how does contemporary life impact your creative practice?

    My work is always a response to contemporary life . . . my life. Everything I do is in response to me being who I am and navigating a world that often seems out of control. For example I have been exploring three themes recently in my work lately what it is to be a post-civil rights movement Black man in America, living in a world of information overload, the shame of homophobic violence against lesbian and gay youth of color.

    Painting is the way that I work out the major questions in my life and try to gain understanding. It's like meditation or prayer.

    Tell us more about the philosophy behind your art. What motivates you to create?

    I am always motivated to create by questions. Not long ago I read a news story about Ronnie Paris, 3 years old, who was “boxed” to death by his father because he was afraid that the boy was going to grow up to be a sissy or be gay. My response was how can something like this happen? What type of world do we live in? Why aren't more people outraged by this? What was going through the child's head as this horrible thing was happening to him? These questions just get inside of me and the only way I can make peace with them, and put them to rest is to paint them out.

    My art is always created in response to questions and the search for understanding.

    Why did you choose to work in the medium(s) that you use?

    Acrylics, oils, crayons, collage, etc. are the way that I've always done things. They work for me.

    What is your studio like? Can you go into detail about your studio routine? Do you work in silence-- listen to music?

    I paint outdoors on my deck and I always listen to music.

    What are you working on at this time?

    I'm spending a lot of time getting ready for an upcoming show at the Chattanooga African American Museum. They are hosting a one-man show which opens on August 22, 2008.

    You can learn more about James McKissic by visiting his website-- www.jamesmckissic.com. He also blogs at www.blackvisualartist.blogspot.com

  • 4 Bridges Arts Festival Sponsors Emerging Artists
    March 15, 2007

    Five artists will be given the chance to showcase their talents at the nationally acclaimed 4 Bridges Arts Festival as recipients of the Emerging Artist Scholarship.

    Cleveland, Tn. native James McKissic hasn’t stopped drawing since early childhood. He has studied visual art, video production and filmmaking while attending UTC, Cleveland State Community College and Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, Ct. Currently Mr. McKissic paints large works on canvas in a style that recalls the pioneering work of Clyfford Still and Ad Reinhardt, early masters of Abstract Expressionism.

    “I create non-objective paintings in mixed media that evoke my rural, agricultural, African American ancestry and often celebrate personal expression,” he explains.

    Mr. McKissic was a member of the inaugural class of the Bill Holmberg Arts Fellowship, a leadership program produced by Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga.

    Chattanooga native John McLeod is a fine arts graduate of Millsaps College in Memphis. His current works are abstract three-dimensional compositions comprised primarily of stone, wood, and bone.

    “I attempt to reveal inexplicable truths of the human experience that I believe most people share but can never adequately describe – impulses, desires and yearnings that are at the core of our existence,” he observes.

    Alpharetta, Ga. native Kirsten Stingle has a background in theatre, and she began producing ceramic sculpture shortly after the birth of her son in 2003. Her most recent work utilizes a juxtaposition of the human figure with found objects in order to suggest imaginary narratives.

    “I often employ utilitarian objects as props, extending their implication into a new context in order to suspend reality and invite the viewer into another world,” she remarks. Ms. Stingle is currently an apprentice at The Clay Collective in Roswell, Ga.

    Chattanooga native James Barnett has been working in a variety of media since childhood. His current body of work was created using acrylic and photographs on randomly cut pieces of canvas.

    “In these pieces, I try to capture the social and cultural ironies of my environment by isolating themes of seeming banality or bad taste and contrasting them against backgrounds of organic abstraction or by grouping seemingly opposite themes,” he remarks.

    Chattanooga native Jessica Westbrook’s photography explores the visual cues that describe and define our living experiences. Ms. Westbrook often displays her work in “modular systems”, or large repetitive grid layouts.

    “The things around me are used to determine, measure, and identify the value of my life. Objects, conditions, and timing describe how I am constructed as a consumer and participant,” she explains.

    Ms. Westbrook received her MFA from Tyler School of Art. She is a founding member of the SEED artist collective.

    Each year the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) awards scholarships to talented artists. The recipients are given free booth space to exhibit their work at 4 Bridges Arts Festival. The artists also receive a hands-on training session with professional artists, as well as 500 business cards to help promote their creative endeavors.

    “The Emerging Artist Scholarship is a unique opportunity for budding artists to gain valuable working knowledge of what being a professional artist is all about,” remarked Festival Artistic Director Eric Ledford. “Their fresh perspectives add another layer of diversity to the artwork showcased at the Festival.”

    The 4 Bridges Arts Festival is set for Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, at the First Tennessee Pavilion in downtown. This nationally recognized annual event is free and open to the public.

    Last year, the Festival was attended by more than 20,000 art lovers.