'Portraiture: The Etheric, Astral and Apocalyptic'

Dennis Palmer's unconventional portraits examine contemporary cultural phenomena

By Ann Nichols


Artist and musician Dennis Palmer has a rich interior life. Reflective as a child, he continues to ponder life and the end of the world.

Artistic director and co-founder of The Shaking Ray Levi Society, Mr. Palmer brings his passion for the unconventional, improvisational and humorous to his art as well as his music.

An exhibition of his most recent work opens at Tanner Hill Gallery on Friday. His solo show, "Portraiture: The Etheric, Astral and Apocalyptic," is composed of paintings and silk-screened prints on paper.

Inspired by the art of Reverend Howard Finster, Basil Wolverton, Dr. Seuss books and Walt Disney artists Alice and Martin Provensen, Mr. Palmer creates colorful portraits of imagined creatures, spiritual entities and monsters. However, he dwells on each character's humorous nature instead of his or her dark side.

The artist has vivid childhood memories that inform his work. The air-raid siren on top of Belvoir Pharmacy in the 1960s conjured up images of the end of the world for him.

"I was always frightened of an 'atomic dee-bil,' " he said. "If we were digging a hole in the yard, we were always afraid that if we dug to deep we might wake up ol' scratch and he'd call upon his winged demons to drop atom bombs on us in Chattanooga for disturbing his nap time."

Mr. Palmer uses his portraits to explore the detritus of the pop cultural landscape. He said that our "current apocalyptic culture" is characterized by alienation, contradiction and consumerism. Yet, people still have a desire for connection, meaning and spiritual significance. He credits the media for our chaotic existence.

"Folks actually believe the media-born chaos like it's a new gospel and, of course, it is hyped daily by the likes of Glenn Beck and his fellow hysterics at Fox News and all of corporate media," he said.

While "plain ol' ordinary pain, suffering and death" is an everyday apocalyptic experience, he said, positive thoughts can produce positive outcomes. Our thoughts do create our reality.

The artist will be present for the opening reception Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The show continues through Feb. 26.

Tanner Hill Gallery, 3069 S. Broad St., Suite 3, is open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and by appointment. Call 280-7182.

Upcoming Events