By Ann Nichols
Creativity has been the common denominator for Tom Farnam and Judith Mogul since they were children. Farnam made sculptural objects as a young boy, and Mogul sewed constantly.
The artistic paths and careers of these two artists eventually brought them to Chattanooga in the 1980s. Here they met, married and carved out a life devoted to the arts.
An exhibition showcasing their work during a 25-year period opens Friday at 1800 Main. "The Late Show" is composed of large-scale oil paintings by Farnam and wall reliefs and sketches by Mogul. A reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.
Farnam grew up in Columbus, Ind., and although he said he made "Easter Island-type forms" as a child, he has focused his art in the two-dimensional realm since college. He received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University and his Master of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the University of Texas. There he learned to love working on a large scale.
"The press size determines the scale, and in graduate school, I got a chance to so some large pieces," he said. "I enjoyed the arm and body physicality as opposed to just wrist movements that I had been accustomed to."
When he and Mogul got a studio together in the mid-1980s, Farnam began working predominantly with oil on canvas. The size of his paintings ranges around 5 feet by 6 feet large. He says his images are related to growing up around trees and looking through branches in winter and the overlap and the linear quality of the structures. Farnam strives, with his abstract paintings, to give the viewer a feeling of "being in a tree, not just observing one."
Another influence is music -- whether it be classical, jazz or rock.
"I pick up rhythms and spatial situations from what I hear," he said.
Farnam is also a woodworker.
Mogul, a native of New York, received her undergraduate degree from The State University of New York and worked as a textile designer in Manhattan for a while. Realizing that her job left no time for her own art, she quit and studied art in France. When she decided to get her Master of Fine Arts degree, a friend suggested that she consider graduate work at the University of Georgia in Athens.
"I got on a Greyhound bus and as soon as I got to the South, I loved it," she said. "I felt like this was where I belonged."
Mogul received her Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from UGA and eventually made her way to Chattanooga, where she became the visual merchandising manager for Loveman's department store, which later became Proffitt's.
Having started out as a landscape painter, she was influenced by her new job to begin combining materials such as fabric, cardboard and paper into collages. When she met Farnam, he gave her leftover pieces of wood from his job as a woodworker, and she began working exclusively with that medium.
Mogul has created several series of wall reliefs constructed of layered pieces of wood. Cars served as the inspiration for her first, and one of these will be included in the show. Next, she profiled her family, and that continues to intrigue her. Some of her most recent work is made from cardboard or throwaway items such as a McDonald's hamburger box.
What is important to Mogul is constructing textured, dimensional surfaces that address perception, layering and space.
"When I was doing the window displays for Loveman's and Proffitt's, I was conscious of how a three-dimensional presentation would be viewed two-dimensionally by people walking by," said Mogul. "This made me very aware of perception and how objects are arranged in space."
Another important concern to Mogul is that she not repeat herself.
"I want to do work that challenges me and allows me to speak from a personal point of view," she said.
Mogul finds teaching art classes for children and adults helps keep her in touch with the reality of making art.
"The Late Show" will remain on display through Feb. 23.
1800 Main, at 1800 E. Main St., is open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday. For information, call 718-2543.
Email Ann Nichols at ann firstname.lastname@example.org.