Crews, Thurston exhibit at TVUUC

Tracy Haun OwensArts 865, Feature, Fountain City, West Knox

Bobbie Crews and Clay Thurston are a married couple who share a talent for art. Through Aug. 7, these local artists will be exhibiting their work together at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Gallery at 2931 Kingston Pike.


The show “Portraits” is their second joint exhibit at the gallery. It includes portraits by Crews and Thurston’s nature photography, specifically birds, which have become his favorite subject.

Crews, who moved to Knoxville in 1990, began painting “as soon as I was old enough to hold a paintbrush,” she says.

She has done landscapes, murals, interior design work, courtroom sketches and more, but portraits are her favorites.

“I always come back to my people,” she says.

Retired Unitarian Universalist minister Judith Meyer with Crews’ portrait of her, on display at the TVUUC gallery through Aug. 7 (Photo courtesy of Bobbie Crews)

She’s painted some of her favorites: her late mother, her husband, her three grown sons, her grandson and twin granddaughters and her own twin, Bob. She also successfully captures those she knows less well, and several “faces around town” are shown in the gallery.

Seeing her works together allows her to reconnect with the stories behind the paintings.

“A portrait isn’t just a likeness — it’s capturing a story,” Crews says. “If you can capture a certain look the person carries, you go a long way in telling their story.”

For the last few years, she’s found an unexpected sideline in paintings of cars. Growing up in the Rust Belt in Northern Ohio, Crews became quite familiar with car culture. When she began putting automobiles into murals, she noticed that she was seeing cars as the same way she saw people, as having stories to tell. She has traveled to paint at several Concours d’Elegance, prestigious automobile shows.

Thurston moved to the area in 1972 and taught health and P.E. in the Oak Ridge school system until he retired. He’s been doing art photography for about 30 years, and he also teaches seminars and workshops to other artists.

“It’s so much fun,” Thurston says of capturing the herons, egrets, cranes and cardinals who populate his work.

Florida is one of Thurston’s favorite places to photograph birds. Nature preserves in northern Florida and the Everglades are an outdoor photographer’s paradise.

Crews and Thurston also travel regularly to the Great Smoky Mountains, and to New England, especially Maine, which she names as one of their favorite places.

“Things simplify a little bit there,” she says.

The two, who have been married 11 years, met through the art community here. Crews says the East Tennessee arts community is extremely encouraging of other artists, and that there is a kindness here that isn’t always found elsewhere.

“I like that artists are always striving to do more and better,” Crews says of the local scene.

Crews and Thurston have had studio space at The Emporium Center on Gay Street and have been involved in several shows there. Crews still has an artist’s studio there but is currently building a studio space at the couple’s residence in Fountain City.

The gallery at TVUUC is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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