Straddling worlds: Newcomer Ken Herrin introduces his mixed-media art at 4 Bridges

Straddling worlds: Newcomer Ken Herrin introduces his mixed-media art at 4 Bridges

April 7th, 2013 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment




If You Go

What: 4 Bridges Arts Festival.

When: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

Where: First Tennessee Pavilion, 1826 Reggie White Blvd.

Tickets: $7 per day, $10 two-day pass.

For more information:

When Ken and Aimee Herrin moved here one year ago from Oregon, one of their first outings was last spring's 4 Bridges Arts Festival.

"I was really struck by the quality of work and how well the show is produced," says Ken, an artist in mixed-media sculpture. "It had been a long time since I'd done this type of art show, but it seemed a great way to jump into the Chattanooga scene."

So he applied for the 2013 festival -- along with nearly 550 other artists from across the country, according to Kathryn Dunn, 4 Bridges festival director.

And he made the cut, one of 145 artists who received an invitation to show.

His local debut is made more auspicious by the fact he was also named one of four winners of the festival's Emerging Artist Award. The others are Mark Bradley-Shoup in oil painting; Meghan Roach in semiprecious jewelry and Jim Bridgeman in ceramics.

"Emerging Artists have to live within a 300-mile radius of Chattanooga, have a solid body of work completed in the last two years but not currently be earning a living as a professional artist," says Dunn.

Since the award is meant to help an artist launch a career, its prizes include 500 business cards, free booth space at the festival and a booth image photographed by staff of the Association for Visual Arts, which puts on 4 Bridges.

Herrin describes his sculptures as "a little bit off the beaten path in the sense that most of it hangs on the wall. It straddles the worlds of 2-D and 3-D."

A woodworker by trade, he uses that skill to create wooden bases for his mixed-media work. The bases, or frames, sometimes give his finished pieces the appearance of shadowboxes, although building a shadowbox is not his intent.

"I incorporate a lot of found objects into the frameworks I build. As a woodworker, I've worked on a lot of old and historic buildings around the country and I've collected remnants I've found, or just things I see walking along the street. I try to give them new life."

The found objects are combined in shapes that are not figurative or representational, just abstract in nature. Herrin says he tries to strip an object of its previous meaning and "allow the piece to be something different from what it historically was."

For example, after finding two white, porcelain furniture casters, he incorporated them into his work by inverting them. With the casters upside down, it emphasized "their nice round shape" rather than their function, he explains.

Abstract work can be a tough sell, he admits, but believes his use of found objects helps viewers relate to his work.

"Even if I put the objects in a new context, when people see old stuff that has the patina of handling and time, they have a relationship to those items. It allows viewers entry into something that might be foreign to them. I like to think that I have something of a common language that allows people to engage in the work I do," says the artist.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.