If you go
› What: “Where We Eat” series by Jane Newman.
› When: Through July 28; artist reception 5-7 p.m. July 13.
› Where: Reflections Gallery, 6922 Lee Highway.
› Admission: Free.
› Phone: 423-892-3072.
› Website: reflectionsgallerytn.com.
Anyone who's ever sat across a restaurant table from local artist Jane Newman knows the food she's ordered may be of less interest than her surroundings.
Before she picks up her fork, she's likely to grab a cellphone camera to capture the scene in front of her. These tablescapes, collectively titled "Where We Eat," have become a series of paintings on view at Reflections Gallery through the end of July.
While the scenes may differ in elegance and accoutrements — cloth or paper napkins, milkshake or wine glasses — Newman says each one in the series reminds her of a memorable meal at restaurants in Chattanooga or Cleveland, Tenn., where she grew up.
"I can look at each painting and remember the conversation shared — helping my daughter work through relationship issues over coffee and chocolate chip waffles; catching up with my son's life plans and social life while enjoying pimento cheese on grilled sourdough with pickles; a relaxing dinner with my husband ending with fabulous chocolate cayenne pepper ice cream; solo lunch splurging on THE best french fries imaginable."
Newman says she came up with the idea for the series after the fourth painting, "Cafe Roma," and a family brainstorming session decided on just the right name.
"We knew we didn't want it to be cutesy because they are really paintings of memories," she says.
"These places — The Public House, The Spot, Cafe Roma and Waffle House — are places where we eat as a family, but they are also places we eat as a city. They are where we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for celebrations, business meetings, Bible studies, problem solving or just relaxing. These are the places where we slow down, catch up and fill up. They are Where We Eat."
All are places she visits regularly, but not all meals make it onto canvas.
"It's all about the lighting," she explains. "For a setting to become a painting, there has to be lighting effects that inspire the possibility. Interesting textures are also inspiring, like exposed brick walls glowing by candlelight or brushed metal tabletops that reflect sparkling water glasses. Dramatic lighting and luscious textures equal desirable painting possibilities.
"These meals were not planned for paintings," she continues. "In these four paintings, the light just caught my eye at a particular moment, and I snapped a few photos with my phone. Either the sun moved while we ate, kissing the corners of shiny objects, or the sun set, bringing the candles on the tables aglow."
Newman says the inspiration for this series — "and anything I paint" — comes from her passion "for capturing moments in everyday life — what I refer to as glimpses of Glory, that moment when the lighting is just right, casting shadows across the surfaces of plates and salt shakers, reflections glistening in shiny objects like an old-fashioned metal milkshake cup and when the sunlight or candlelight sparkles and glows on wine glasses or metal diner napkin dispensers.
"As an artist that is a mesmerizing moment, and it's creatively fulfilling to reproduce it with paint on a canvas, especially a large canvas. It allows the creator inside of me to become bigger than life. So when the atmosphere in a restaurant feels right, and the lighting is magical, I am inspired to try to capture the experience."
Newman says she typically paints still lifes and portraits. Her preferred medium is Winsor & Newton acrylic paint on stretched canvas. The "Where We Eat" paintings are acrylic on canvas, and she has other pieces in the show at Reflections Gallery that are acrylic on gesso board.
"My favorite objects to paint are cut sparkly glass, shiny reflective surfaces, ordinary objects like old-fashioned milk bottles, jam jars, iced tea glasses half full, honey jars and wands, old rotary dial phones, antique tablecloths and candid happy children."
As for whether there are more helpings to come in the "Where We Eat" series, Newman answers with an emphatic "Yes."
"I have had the best time painting these pieces," she says. "I have a few shots of another eatery that I am working on piecing together now. And I hope to capture many more dining experiences.
"When we dine out, my family and friends know that if the light starts dancing across the table that my camera will be clicking with the hope that there will be a photo that sings, "Paint Me!"
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.