published Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Combining camera & canvas: Photographer, watercolorist work together on exhibit

Jim Caldwell's "Aerial View Railroad Trestle at Reliance, Tenn."
Jim Caldwell's "Aerial View Railroad Trestle at Reliance, Tenn."
Sandy Brown's "Over the Hiwassee."
Sandy Brown's "Over the Hiwassee."

  • photo
    Jim Caldwell's "Sycamore Near Highway 411 at Wetmore Springs, Tenn."

If you go

What: “Lens and Brush: The Visual Textures of East Tennessee.”

Where: McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, 522 West Madison Ave., Athens,Tenn.

When: Now through July 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Admission: $5, adults; $3, seniors and students

Information: or 745-0329

Though he has always appreciated the natural beauty of East Tennessee, Jim Caldwell says it wasn’t until he developed a passion for photography that he started seeing in a new light.

“When I started looking through the lens of a camera, I saw things differently,” he says. “It highlighted nuances and normal things I wouldn’t have noticed with my naked eye. Looking through a lens made me appreciate nature, and it’s now my favorite subject when shooting photographs.”

For watercolor artist Sandy Brown, Mother Nature is inspirational.

“We, here in East Tennessee, are blessed by living in one of the most visually stunning areas in the world,” Brown says. “As I came to realize this fact, I also became aware that the longer we lived here, the easier it was to take all of this beauty for granted. I started looking closer again, intrigued by the rich lush textures that could be found all about us. I love going outside, hiking the trails, and physically experiencing the beauty of our landscape.”

Caldwell and Brown have joined forces for “Lens and Brush: The Visual Textures of East Tennessee,” a display of photographs and art presently on exhibit at McMinn County Living Heritage Museum in Athens, Tenn. In the exhibit, Brown uses her watercolors to interpret Caldwell’s photos.

“It is a highlight of my career,” he says about the collaboration. “The fact that there’s so much variation in an interpretation of the same scene is amazing. We all see things differently, and I love Sandy’s interpretation. When I first saw her paintings of my photographs, I was extremely impressed. Her use of color is amazing. In fact, I thought that one of my photographs was rather bland, until I saw her interpretation. I loved what she saw in my photo.”

Brown says she was inspired by Caldwell’s photos, although she was at first “frightened” at the prospect of interpreting his photographs through her art.

“However, Jim gave me free rein, from which photos I selected to my re-interpretation of them,” she says. “As an artist, my focus has always been on painting relationships rather than things per se. When working with Jim’s photos, I was able to take a portion of what I saw of interest to me and develop a new but related work of art. This excited me.

“I’ve never worked with a photographer in any capacity,” Brown says. “I felt it was a good exercise for me to revisit my initial observations with fresh and renewed perspective. I was excited at the prospect of using textures I found in Jim’s photos as inspiration for a completely new painting, and pairing them side-by-side in an exhibit showcasing the beauty of this area and our love of it.”

It was Brown and Amy Blackwell, McMinn County Living Heritage Museum executive director, who approached him with the idea of having an exhibit of his art and Brown’s interpretive paintings, Caldwell says.

“I thought it was an awesome idea, and I was honored,” he says. “I was immediately on board.”

Showcasing — and protecting — the beauty of East Tennessee is a priority at the museum, Blackwell says.

“The Living Heritage Museum celebrates the rich heritage of our community, both cultural and environmental,” Blackwell says. “We hope this exhibit will cause viewers to reflect upon the importance of land conservation.

“We strive to share the talents of local artists,” she continues. “The exhibit has been extremely popular and has attracted visitors from Chattanooga, Knoxville and beyond.”

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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