"Empty Baskets"

Love. Bigotry. Faith. Hatred.

Sometimes it's the universal, unseeable forces whose sway is the strongest.


What: Invisibly Visible, featuring artist Charlie Newton.

Where: Exum Gallery at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 305 W. Seventh St.

Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; exhibition on display through March 1.

Phone: 266-8195.

Gallery website:

Artist website:

The potential of intangibles to shape individuals and society is at the core of "Invisibly Visible," a newly opened exhibition featuring works by local painter Charlie Newton.

"That's the power of a painting -- you can try to address some of those things in an artistic format that are not necessarily obvious to the viewer," Newton says. "Since it's a visual language, it can speak to the psyche or the soul or the emotions more readily."

Now 61, Newton was raised in Chattanooga. At age 5, he became enamored with art after seeing a colored- pencil drawing of Batman and Superman in a neighboring apartment while he was being watched by a babysitter. The strength of the connection he felt to the image -- the first original work he'd ever seen -- still resonates today.

"There was something about the vibrancy of the colors; for me, it was a spiritual moment," he says. "I knew from that day forward what my purpose was in life."

Newton began producing work of his own almost immediately, later honing his craft as a student at Howard High School and later Riverside High School, now Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. After graduating, he received arts degrees from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a graduate degree from Old Dominion and Norfolk State universities.

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"Jaw Bone"

In addition to his painting, Newton and his wife run Splash, a free arts outreach program for teenagers in the College Hill Courts housing project, which has been plagued by gang activity. Along with the arts program, which began in November 2013, he also leads a church congregation out of the former James A. Henry Elementary School, which is located in College Hills.

"Invisibly Visible" features 24 of Newton's paintings, with canvasses coated in thick, texturized layers of vividly colored paint depicting shapes that blend abstract and recognizable forms.

Most of the works were created in the last three years but predominantly in 2014, when Newton says he experienced an artistic breakthrough. After years of searching for a way to make his painting more evocative, he struck on a method of intentionally altering the canvas, tying it in places and draping it in others, to create curves and folds that make the pieces seem more expansive and open to interpretation.

This new, more abstract approach, he says, is his attempt to express the unseen forces that influence society.

"I wanted to make a statement that would bring the viewer's mind to seeing things differently and maybe considering the fact that there may be some tangible, invisible power that is present and available," he says. "There are a lot of things that are invisible yet visible."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.