published Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Mostly gone, not forgotten: In-Town gallery exhibits paintings that find beauty in abandoned places

“Train Depot.” Oil on paper.
“Train Depot.” Oil on paper.

  • photo
    “View from Signal Mt. Rd. Walmart.” Oil on panel.

IF YOU GO

* What: “Un-scene Chattanooga,” exhibition by Victoria Pearmain.

* Where: In-Town Gallery, 26A Frazier Ave, through Feb. 28.

* Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

* Admission: Free.

* Phone: 267-9214.

* Website: www.intowngallery.com.

To some, the empty lots and dilapidated factories that dot Chattanooga are unwelcome reminders of the Dynamo of Dixie days, industrial blemishes marring the Gig City’s gleaming surface.

Victoria Pearmain sees something more.

“There’s life there,” says Pearmain, an oil painter and member at In-Town Gallery on Frazier Avenue. “It’s signs of human interaction with the landscape. They have lives of their own. They are abandoned, but they are not without meaning and purpose.”

Finding beauty in unexpected places is the central theme of of Pearmain’s “Un-scene Chattanooga” exhibition, a series of 10 industrial/natural landscapes, which will be featured on the front wall at In-Town through the end of the month. All the paintings, as well as her regularly exhibited work throughout the gallery, are for sale. Prices range from $75 for matted, unframed paintings to $1,200 for the largest framed work. The average painting, she says, will sell for $400.

The subjects of “Un-scene Chattanooga” depict industrial sites such as the shuttered US Pipe & Foundry lot on South Broad Street or natural landscapes that abut major commercial lots, including a hidden glen on the edges of the Walmart parking lot at the foot of Signal Mountain.

These are vistas that most Chattanoogans probably drive by without noticing, but Pearmain says she’s drawn to them by the odd juxtaposition of natural and man-made forms and their sometimes-jarring color combinations.

“I think that basically everything deserves to be painted,” she says. “There is a beauty to me in those locations.

“If someone were to say, ‘Why don’t you stop painting these funny old buildings and do some majestic paintings,’ I’ve tried to do majestic paintings, but if it doesn’t inspire me, it doesn’t turn out well. I have an affection for these places.”

Pearmain grew up in a Massachusetts family surrounded by artists, including two aunts and an uncle. She began drawing at a young age and later studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. There, she was instructed by George Nick, whose urban landscapes influenced her own work, as did artists of the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement of the early 20th century.

Pearmain graduated in 1988 and moved to Chattanooga in 1990. At first, she says, she was struck by the seeming homogeneity of the color — “It’s all green,” she remembers thinking — but as she explored the Scenic City’s nooks and crannies, new facets revealed themselves to her.

Some of the most fascinating, she says, were the overlooked locations, and if her work in “Un-scene” can help the viewer see beauty in industrial cast-offs, she’ll feel like she’s accomplished something important.

“I want them to … see something interesting, see something worth looking at,” she says. “New isn’t always better. Progress towards new, modern concrete and glass isn’t always what’s beautiful. The older buildings … [are] the character of the city.”

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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