When Jeffrey Morton moved to Southeast Tennessee from the Northeast 15 years ago, he felt an affinity for the lowly kudzu — that ubiquitous vine that grows rampantly over all manner of natural and manmade objects in the South.
"Unique to the American South is the kudzu plant that thrives in a climate different from its home. In Japan, kudzu is a decorative plant with a pretty purple flower. However, in a new location, kudzu is used to fight erosion. At first, I thought 'This foreign plant doesn't belong here, and neither do I,'" Morton explains.
"But after crawling through the landscape of Signal Mountain and navigating the invasive vine, making drawings and paintings from it, I have learned to love the strange plant and the landscape of my adopted home," he says.
Morton's appreciation for the vine will be visually displayed in his kudzu-inspired installation that opens Friday, Jan. 11, at the Creative Arts Guild, 520 W. Waugh St. in Dalton, Georgia. The artist will be honored with an opening reception Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the guild.
Guests will have the chance to hear from the artist about how the concepts of place, intrusion and permanence influenced his work.
Morton, professor of art at Covenant College, says his exhibit, "Invasive," includes 10 oil paintings on linen. The smallest is 36 inches square; the largest, 60 inches square. There will also be charcoal, pencil drawings and a few photographs included.
The kudzu work is a collection of four large canvases done in spray paint on canvas.
"I collected about 90 feet of kudzu vines and brought them back to my studio. Once there, I arranged the vines on top of my white canvas, creating circular and all-over patterns. Then I coated the canvas with black spray paint. Once the vine was removed, a negative image appeared to create a glow of white cotton. Think of an analog black-and-white negative in film photography," says Morton.
Morton says while that specific work did not take long to make, it is part of a larger practice from the last 10 years of exploring the subject of kudzu.
"Some of the paintings in the show took me two years to create," he says.
"My general desire with my work is for my viewer to experience the strangeness I feel when I step into a field of kudzu. I want my viewer to feel the tug of walking through a problematic landscape."
"Invasive" will run through Feb. 21.
For more information: 706-278-0168.