By William Barshop

The Kentuck Art Center is back in business with a new temporary gallery opening Feb. 6. The Transitory Episodic Momentary Provisional Gallery, fittingly called the TEMP Gallery, will host art exhibits as Kentuck prepares its main building, according to Holly Roberts, Kentuck’s Program Manager.

“It’s one of the most important things we do, in between the festivals every year,” Roberts said. “We want to perpetuate the arts and expose artists that we love.”

An infestation of bats put gallery exhibitions on hold in 2013, and the necessary extermination did even more damage that required repairs.

“In 2013 we had to cancel a lot of exhibitors,” Roberts said. “This year for me is reaching out to get them back in here.”

One cancelled show Roberts said would return at the TEMP Gallery is the work of Joy Gauff, who makes ceramic pieces Roberts called “dark and kind of bizarre.” Kentuck usually offers gallery space to the Best in Show winner at each Kentuck Festival of the Arts, but this year’s winner Olive Kraus had to reschedule

The annual festival draws audiences and artists from all over the country, and is one of the country’s most respected events of its kind. The 2013 festival was one of Kentuck’s biggest ever and ushered in a new executive director, Amy Echols.

The ribbon cutting on Feb. 6 will coincide with Kentuck’s monthly Art Night and the reception for the first artist to host an exhibit in the TEMP Gallery, Ethan Sawyer.

“We haven’t had an exhibition in a while so it’s a chance to reintroduce ourselves,” Roberts said. “It’s a really good time, with food and music in the courtyard. And it’s a way for the community to get together.”

The event will start at 4:30 p.m. and Kentuck’s resident artists will have their studios open.

After one too many failed attempts to hear what someone is trying to say, most of us will give up and hope a “smile and nod” will move the conversation forward. Montgomery artist Ethan Sawyer wants you saying ‘what?’ again and again with the exhibit he is bringing to Tuscaloosa called “Over the A.M.”

The exhibit will be the first featured at Kentuck Art Center’s new TEMP Gallery starting Jan. 28. Sawyer, originally from Dauphin Island, Ala., said the show revolves around misheard language and double meanings, intending to expose some of the English language’s absurdities.

“I’m slowly teaching myself Spanish and I imagine someone going to learn English,” Sawyer said. “You could see ‘read’ but you could also see it as ‘read’ and that’s also the color ‘red.’ That jumble of words and interpretations and sounds is confounding.”

The show promises to have audiences scratching their heads and straining their ears. Did you hear gibbous, the phase of the moon cycle or give us, an eerie command?

“My granddaddy was hard of hearing you had to practically shout at him for him to hear,” Sawyer said. “In the show it’s like that. Everything sounds familiar but everything doesn’t ring as true.”

Sawyer said the combination of film, woodwork and paintings are inspired by miscommunications, such as the confusion wrapped up in daily conversations. The title is made up of words Sawyer sees as multi-faceted. “Over” could refer to space or time or frame of mind. “A.M.” could mean the morning or the radio waves, or even the verb “to be.”

“To you it sounds like one thing but the person on the other end hears something totally different,” Sawyer said. “So there’s this grey space that’s interesting to me. Once you both get your ducks straightened out you’re like ‘whoa I was not on the same page.’”

“It’s kind of an ongoing thing,” Sawyer said. “I’ve always liked literature and English and language. Not that I didn’t like math and science. I use math every day in my woodwork.”

After moving to Atlanta, where Sawyer said he first got a taste of the contemporary art scene, he took up woodworking both as construction and as a craft that would shape his future career.

“I got a job as a laborer, a carpenter in a job site. I really took to it,” Sawyer said. “And then I got a crew of friends of mine, a really talented group of people who put artisanship into woodwork. These weren’t plain stick-frame pieces they were making.”

Sawyer said structure is one thing he brings to most of his artistic endeavors, and woodwork is the foundation of that idea. Along with functional pieces like tables and drawers, he’s made towering sculptures out of wood. He recently applied quilting patterns to sheets of metal to create bizarre, spiky patterns.

“You know quilts are something cozy something you wrap yourself up with so it was interesting to me to put them in hard metal.”

Sawyer said he’s never felt isolated to any particular medium for his creativity, and enjoys dabbling

“I like that I can wear a few different hats,” Sawyer said. “I never really put down art. It ebbs and it flows.”

Between sculpture, photography, writing and painting, Sawyer said he goes on binges of creative output that seem like they will go on forever. His urge to create can be exhilarating, but he admitted it can distract him from pressing tasks or drain him of his energy.

“Sometimes you’ll get to a point you feel like you’re only breathing out,” Sawyer said. “And it looks like I’m making stuff just for the sake of making it. So that’s a sign to take some time to watch a movie or do some research and get inspired.”

The next step for Sawyer is to relocate his shop in Birmingham to his parents’ farmland back in Dauphin Island.

“There’s something about those small towns and rural areas,” Sawyer said. “Maybe you don’t get the exposure you’d get in Birmingham or a college town but I need that atmosphere.”

The exhibit runs Jan. 28 until Feb. 28 at Kentuck’s TEMP Gallery. The artist reception for the exhibit will be held Feb. 8 along with Kentuck’s monthly Art Night.

“It’s an honor for me to get some work at Kentuck,” Sawyer said. “I admire the way they’ve brought up self-made artists for all these decades.”

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