What: "The Cartoon Buffet," works by Bradley Wilson.
When: Opening reception 5-8 p.m. Friday. Gallery hours, Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Exhibition continues through July 31
Where: In-Town Gallery, 26A Frazier Ave.
Apparently, even looking at naked bodies can get a little old after doing it too long.
Nearly 20 years of teaching life-drawing classes left Bradley Wilson with a stack of sketches several feet thick and a serious desire to try something new. Three years ago, Wilson, the visual arts and gallery director of the Creative Arts Guild in Dalton, Ga., decided to stretch his art -- literally -- by distorting the forms of his painting subjects into whimsical pseudo-caricatures.
A collection of Wilson's work, "The Cartoon Buffet," will go on display with an opening reception Friday at In-Town Gallery, where Wilson has been a member artist since 2007.
"I got tired of just dryly copying the model. I wanted to play with it and take what I saw and exaggerate it and have more fun with it," Wilson says. "I'm very interested in this approach. I could see myself doing this for a while."
Despite pursuing his twisty, exaggerated artistic road for years, the majority of the 12 paintings and two dozen drawings in "The Cartoon Buffet" were created in the last 10 months, says Wilson, a Chattanooga native who returned to the Scenic City about six years ago after a decade teaching in the Alabama school system. The works range from loose drawings in plastic sleeves to full-size, framed paintings and will be available for sale for $20 to $1,400.
Wilson says his creative process is generally haphazard. Rather than follow a prescribed plan when confronted with a blank canvas, he begins by painting aimlessly until a form begins to take shape. He'll then pursue the emerging subject until he either completes it or loses interest, at which point he'll rotate the canvas like a cloud gazer combing the sky for hidden shapes.
By the time the painting is done, Wilson says, it might look nothing like what he expected when he first set brush to fabric. What started off as a twirling ballerina might turn into a cat with eerily long legs slinking through the tunnel-like coils of a snake. The surprise is as much fun for Wilson as he hopes it is for the viewer.
"I've found that my ideas I have are not as interesting as what comes out of the process of painting," he explains. "I do better at just kicking out things that emerge unplanned.
"For me, [painting] is not a linear path; it's a meandering path that can lead you to who knows where."
Wilson's last exhibition at In-Town, "Hard Lessons in Zoology," was in 2010. Although it also featured abstracted forms, the exaggeration was less pronounced than this time around
"You could see this exhibition as the next step along that path," Wilson says.
A news release about "The Cartoon Buffet" describes Wilson's style as "humorous," but he's quick to point out that the word "cartoon" isn't a reference to zany, Bugs Bunny-like figures but rather to the fine-arts term for a design transferred onto another surface for use in a fresco, mosaic or other work. Despite their unusual, playful appearance, the pieces in "The Comic Buffet" should provoke more thought than chuckles, he says.
"It would be nice if they were able to come to the work with an open mind, not expecting a painting of a bird to be a specific breed of bird but to be open to the idea of experiencing something they are familiar with but in a different way," Wilson says. "That's something I'm doing for myself."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.