published Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Art across America: Civic Arts League members offer their views of the country

With an American Indian riding across the plains toward the viewer, “Coming Home” by Janice Kennedy is a picture within a picture.
With an American Indian riding across the plains toward the viewer, “Coming Home” by Janice Kennedy is a picture within a picture.
  • photo
    “Cocktail on Goat Island, Maine,” by Jo Thomas.


* What: “Images Across America.”

* Where: Ringgold Art and Frame Gallery, 7825 Nashville St., Ringgold, Ga.

* When: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, through Nov. 14.

* Admission: Free.

* Phone: 706-935-2844.

* Website:

Civic Arts League members had more than 3.7 million square miles to consider in choosing works for the exhibit “Images Across America,” but several of its members were partial to the country’s northeasternmost state.

Maine is the 39th largest in the United States, but it was foremost in the imagination of several league members.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful state,” says Carolyn Jo Cannon of Chattanooga. “It’s a lot like here but different.”

The fourth annual juried exhibit, which includes 36 works by 19 artists, will be on display through Nov. 14 at Ringgold Art and Frame Gallery.

Several of the Civic Arts League members have reason to be partial to the Pine Tree State. Art Director Jo Thomas has held weeklong, outdoor painting sessions in the state for the past three years; she and her husband spend their summers in Maine.

This summer, she says, five arts league members attended, staying at a coastline home at Bailey Island on Casco Bay, 20 miles south of Brunswick, Maine.

“You never hear anybody say ‘the elegant coast of Maine,’” Thomas says. “They say ‘the rustic coast of Maine.’ Some of the homes there date back more than 100 years.”

Now a resident of Ooltewah, Thomas says she lived in the state with her husband from 1977 to 1995 and that her children were born there. They bought a second home — known as a “camp” to locals — inland from the coast on Goat Island on Pennesseewassee Lake in 1984 and have spent summers there since 1995.

Thomas submitted two Maine-based oil paintings for the exhibit, “Cocktail on Goat Island, Maine” and “Shaw Farm.” The first, she says, is a “fun one” of a black cat drinking out of a vase of flowers. The cat and the picnic table on which it sipped are from her summer home.

The second, Thomas says, is taken from a photograph of an actual farm in South Paris, Maine, an hour north of the coast.

“It’s a typical scene,” she says. “You might see it anywhere in New England.”

Cannon attended the Maine paint-out earlier this year, and both of her watercolor submissions reflect the state.

“Sunset on Lake Pennesseewassee” was based on a photograph she took during the day the group spent at the Thomases’ home, while “Sunset on Bailey” was painted from a photograph she made at their coastal digs.

Even Janice Kennedy, a league member who was not on the summer paint-out, submitted one of her two acrylic works, “A Perfect Day,” from a photograph she made in Maine.

“My husband and I have gone up there a number of times,” she says. The shot was from “a coastal area where the trees were just beautiful. It was a calm day, a calm scene.”

Kennedy’s other submission, “Coming Home,” is a “picture in picture,” she says, and is strictly from her imagination. A calming Western landscape on canvas with an American Indian riding across the plains toward the viewer forms the background, she says, and an Indian woman in the foreground — on a separate work painted on thin board — appears to be waiting for him.

The idea, according to Kennedy, is that his trip down the “path is one he has made many times before.”

“It was an image in my head,” she says. “It was difficult to get it down on paper.”

Peggy Jennings, a league member from Ooltewah, submitted a pastel, “Surviving Red Rock Canyon,” a landscape from a photo she made at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nev., and “One Bridge,” an oil scene from a photograph her daughter made when she was visiting her in Michigan.

All the works in the exhibit could be “whatever you think an image across America would be,” says gallery owner Raye Brooks. Other submissions include a trumpeter, a street scene of Apison, Tenn., Prater’s Mill, an American flag and the Statue of Liberty with fireworks in the background.

“How much more American can you get than that?” she says of the latter.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the various works, as well as proceeds from the auction of works painted at the exhibit’s opening reception, will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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