Art NotesArts & Culture

Vernon Thornsberry, Sean Dunn, Plein Air Painters and More

While programming is slowing down elsewhere for summer, the Lyndon House Arts Center is going full force with five new exhibitions. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 7 from 6–8 p.m. All exhibitions will be on display through Saturday, Aug. 4, while the Lounge Gallery’s show will remain on view until Saturday, Sept. 1.

FULL HOUSE: Beyond its role as one of the most significant gallery spaces in Athens, the Lyndon House serves as a meeting location for over 18 guilds and artist groups who regularly convene to share ideas, techniques and opportunities. Showcasing the wide range of interests held among these groups, the biennial invitational exhibit “Full House” encourages artists to show off what they’ve been working on. 

This year, the exhibition includes pieces by members of the Athens Art Association, Athens Area Arts Council, Athens Fibercraft Guild, Athens Photography Guild, Charity Bee, Classic City Woodturners, Cotton Patch Quilters, Fiber Frenzy, Lyndon House Arts Foundation, Lyndon House Handspinners, Modern Quilts, Printmaking Collective, Stitch and Chat, Studio Painters, Teen Cartoon Illustrators Club and the Visual Arts Guild of Athens. Additionally, the exhibition invited artists enrolled in the Open Studio Membership program, which offers access to seven studios full of coveted equipment like a potter’s wheel, kiln, print press, loom and darkroom. 

PLEIN AIR: Over the past 24 years, the Athens Area Plein Air Artists have gathered once a month at interesting outdoor locations to paint, draw or photograph whatever catches their eyes. UGA Associate Professor Emerita Claire Clements founded the group after reading into how stimulation, challenge and service to others could lead to the continued growth of brain cells. She sees plein air painting as an approach to this idea: The subject matter is stimulating, while the artistic process is challenging, and the camaraderie and shared encouragement among artists is an act of service. 

Presenting local scenes through the perspectives of artists, the exhibition “Our Point of View” captures blooming gardens and parks, historical buildings and objects, charming neighborhoods and beautiful countryside. Because no one teaches during sessions and artists are free to use whichever materials they wish, the pieces range in media from watercolor to acrylics, oils, pastels and colored pencils. Works by 24 artists are represented, including Jack Burk, Olivia Carlisle, Elizabeth Barton, Judy Buckley, Lola Gazda, Alice Pruitt and Anna Desio.

VERNON THORNSBERRY: Originally from New Orleans—an influence woven into his musical performances—Vernon Thornsberry has been an Athens icon since 1986. When he isn’t baking cakes at The Grit, zooming around on his scooter to deliver coffee for Jittery Joe’s or leading a late-night dance party at Go Bar, he’s hard at work in the studio. “Works by Vernon Thornsberry” includes several portraits, still lifes and local scenes, and is the first opportunity to view his paintings since his last major exhibition, a pop-up show held at Firehall No. 2 over two years ago. 

Primarily self-taught, he credits photographer George Dureau—who was also a mentor of famed artist Robert Mapplethorpe—with offering encouragement and resources early on, as well as introducing him to working with the nude. While Dureau’s body of work is frequently found to be carnal and unsettling, Thornsberry instead takes a modest approach with inspiration from classical artists like Raphael, da Vinci and Michelangelo. Often, the artist will insert close friends and familiar faces from the community into scenes that appear to be from a far-away place and long-ago time. The Lyndon House will host a special Third Thursday event with Thornsberry on June 21 from 6–8 p.m. 

METAL ARTS: Established five years ago, the Athens Metal Arts Guild was formed for both nationally recognized professionals and skilled hobbyists alike. As one of only two such guilds in Georgia, AMAG meets every other month at the LHAC to learn from guest speakers and demonstrations. 

The guild’s exhibition, “The Many Facets of Metalsmithing,” demonstrates a wide range of techniques not limited to forging, casting, enameling and keum-boo. Eclectic and impressive pieces are featured by a dozen artists, including Sylvia Dawe, Courtney Poole Pendergrast, Leslie Litt, Barbara Mann, Carol McKay and Jim Norton. 

SEAN DUNN: As a prize for earning the Arts Center Choice Award during the 43rd Juried Exhibition, Sean Dunn was offered a solo show in the Lounge Gallery, a space dedicated to quarterly exhibitions by artists who are either beginning or re-invigorating their careers. Already well known as a guitarist in Five Eight, Dunn’s first solo photography show was held at the University of North Georgia’s Watkinsville campus in fall 2015, and featured large-scale images shot while on the road with the band. Flash forward, and Dunn’s work has appeared in Playboy and at The Bitter Southerner, as well as in group shows at Slow Exposures and the Oconee Cultural Arts Center. 

While Dunn has long-term projects documenting both Cuba and New Orleans currently underway, this exhibition, “A Road to the Sky,” spotlights a recent trip to northeast India. Each scene offers a glimpse into everyday life—a woman shopping for textiles, an empty beer bar and restaurant, cows milling about at night. You can almost feel the heat and grittiness through the hazy skies and sun-bleached paint.