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Museum presents new exhibit honoring artist Ethel Davis

January 25, 2019

TUSCUMBIA, Ala. (AP) — Ethel Davis died four years before her dream of an art museum for the entire Shoals was realized, but her legacy lives on at the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art and the numerous students she taught how to paint.

Davis, an artist and educator who lived most of her life in Sheffield and Tuscumbia, helped teach some of the most prominent, influential people in the Shoals, including doctors, lawyers and “socialites” at her “art barn” according to Leighton resident Louse Lenz.

On Sunday, the art museum will present a new exhibition called “Foundations — The Living Legacy of Ethel Davis,” to highlight this visionary artist, educator and advocate. The exhibition continues until Friday, Feb. 22.

Davis studied art at Montevallo, Birmingham-Southern and under New York artist Palp Pierson. Her art was known across the South and gained recognition nationally.

The Tennessee Valley Art Association was incorporated in 1964, but Davis died Nov. 2, 1968, four years before the Tennessee Valley Art Center was constructed. Her goal of an art museum was fully realized in 2009 when the art center became the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art.

In keeping with the spirit of Davis’ original Art Barn, the exhibit will include a hands-on creative space called the “Art Barn.”

This space will give every museum visitor the chance to create art using a variety of media, including some non-traditional supplies such as ash and shoe polish that Davis used in her own work. It will remain open for the duration of the exhibition and is available to all visitors with no extra charge, Museum Curator Mollie Schaefer-Thompson said.

She said Davis taught in an “art barn” adjacent to her home.

Schaefer-Thompson said the workshops will take place on Thursday, Jan. 31, and Thursday, Feb. 14, and will include a walk through and a workshop in the style of Ethel Davis. Admission for the workshop is $15.

When visitors arrive and enter the art barn, they will be greeted by a nearly life size portrait of Davis painted by Tuscumbia portrait artist Martha Carpenter, who trained with Davis as a child.

She said it will be a full figure painting of Davis surrounded by some of her artwork grouped around her.

“I had always wanted to do a portrait of Ethel,” Carpenter said.

The 72-inch by 36-inch painting will be unveiled during the opening of the exhibition.

The Tennessee Valley Museum of Art’s new Systems Administrator Jim Berryman, said while Davis could paint realistically with traditional techniques, she invented her own experimental style using non-traditional materials and a vibrant use of color.

“She explored so many styles,” Schaefer-Thompson said.

She said Davis didn’t begin painting seriously until she turned 50. Her early work involved landscapes, then moved into a more impressionistic style and the exploration of cubism.

“That’s why it’s so inspiring,” Schaefer-Thompson said.

Berryman said Davis also explored themes of religion and everyday life and recorded an era and time gone by.

“She was very technically skilled but yet she often used child-like depictions in her art,” Berryman said. “The themes she was exploring in much of her work were more important than technical execution to her. She had a clear notion as to who she was as a person and as an artist, and that tied into the rest of her character.”

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students, and free on Sundays. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. The museum is at 511 N. Water St. in Tuscumbia.

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Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/

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