Chattanooga Now Lostnest artists find focus in two-day exhibit (with video)

Chattanooga Now Lostnest artists find focus in two-day exhibit (with video)

May 11th, 2014 by Barry Courter in Chattanooga Now - Art

Brent Weston is one of five artists who will be displaying their work during an art exhibition called Lostnest. Weston says the name refers to a time in his life when he was dealing with mental issues that caused him to spend time in prison. Art has helped him reclaim his life, he says.

Brent Weston is one of five artists who...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


* What: Lostnest, an art exhibition featuring works by Brent Weston, Fennel Blythe, Stephen Nemecek, Aaron Cowan and Ashley Hamilton.

* When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday, May 17; 3-6 p.m. Sunday, May 18.

* Where: 1511 Williams St.

* Admission: Free.

* Information: While the event is free, organizers would appreciate an RSVP, which you can do by sending an email to

Making art has been a very personal, and often private, endeavor for all the artists who will showcase their work for a couple of days this month inside an old denim warehouse on Williams Street.

None are veterans of public appearances, and it was only at the repeated requests of their friends that they even decided to display what they do.

For two of the artists, Brent Weston and Fennel Blythe, expressing themselves through their drawings and paintings helped them through rough times, they say.

"Art has done a lot for me," Weston, 45, says. "It has helped me in dealing with psychosis.

"Many of these pieces are inspired by an experience I had in 1994 when I was incarcerated outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County for something I did while I was manic. I am bipolar and didn't know it at the time. Since then I've been dealing with that and the name of this show - Lostnest - is based on the fact that there were lost years of my life, and this is kind of like a representation of those lost years and getting them back.

"I'm picking up the pieces, the broken stuff, the unfinished pieces, the fragments, the scattered paintings and I'm bringing them into an installation-type atmosphere in a way that my brain works with things three-dimensionally."

Fennel Blythe works primarily in ink, salt and water, but has added red wine and wood ash to her palette.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

For 74-year-old Stephen Nemecek, art is a way to express himself after many years spent in the linear world of computers as a teacher at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Already the holder of three degrees, he is working towards a bachelor of fine arts.

"I'm a very senior senior at UTC," he says.

Aaron Cowan

Aaron Cowan

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Many of his pieces are created from found objects, including metal, wood and canvas meant to evoke whatever the viewer sees.

"I don't have a narrative or a metaphysical view. I find what I make."

On May 17, performance artists Aaron Cowan, 26, and Ashley Hamilton, 22, will work together on a piece that deals with "the challenges that come with interpersonal relationships, the expectations of being a man and being a woman and where those boundaries come from," Cowan says.

It will be a loosely scripted, interactive piece, he says.

Stephen Nemecek retired as a computer teacher and is now earning a degree in fine arts. He works with found objects to create his art.

Stephen Nemecek retired as a computer teacher and...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Cowan will also construct a piece featuring an inflatable dome, fabrics and a video projector that ties in with the exhibition building's former days as a blue-jean factory. Cowan says he is still working on the pieces, but both works will look at boundaries and growing from young adult to adulthood.

"I feel like too many times people forget what it means to be a kid," Cowan says.

Pieces by Blythe, 45, are done primarily in ink, salt and water, and she has begun adding red wine and wood ash into her paintings.

"I wanted to add some more organic materials into my work," she says. "The salt adds patterns and texture and, with the right light, it can add a shimmer to it. It's really elegant in a low-light situation."

She also does graphic design on paddleboards in her studio and will likely have some of those on display as well.

Though some of her pieces contain recognizable patterns or shapes, that's not intentional, she says. Her original life plan was to become a marine biologist, which she says influences some of her more organic pieces.

"It's an improvisational type of painting. I just start laying things down. I don't think about anything. I just start drawing, and it just turns into something. I have a master's degree in biology and the last year at school I took an art class and something inside me just went off."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.