The Arts & Culture Alliance is pleased to present five new exhibitions at the Emporium Center in downtown Knoxville from June 2-30, 2023. A free gathering with the artists will take place on Friday, June 2, from 5-9 p.m. and features live music inside the Emporium by Ben McLaughlin. Most of the works will be for sale and may be purchased through the close of the exhibition by visiting in person or the online shop at knoxalliance.store.
One of those June exhibits is by Knoxville residents Barbara Bolton Cornett: Arboretum Obscura and Emily Greenquist: The Hardin Valley Project.
Barbara Bolton Cornett, originally from London, Kentucky, now resides in Knoxville with her husband, corgi and two cats. Being a native of the Appalachian Mountain Region, she has a love of nature, wildlife and the great outdoors.
She is also an avid traveler and loves exploring the world and its many fascinating places. A large part of her photographic inspiration comes from her travels and time spent in nature, and documenting her journeys and explorations through her photography is something she truly enjoys. Her photographic journey was initially inspired by her beloved aunt who had taught her as a child to manually operate a film camera.
As a child she would capture images of blossoming redbud trees, blooming flowers and the like. Her inspiration was reignited when her daughter entered the world of competitive cheerleading. Capturing the best images possible with challenging setting and lighting circumstances became her own personal competition. Barbara completed several photography classes in the UT Non-Credit Program and earned her Photography Certificate in 2021. Her website is here.
She writes: Arboretum Obscura came about over the course of several years and miles of hikes throughout a variety of locations in the Appalachian Mountains. Trees that grew in seemingly impossible terrains, trees that had grown incredibly haphazardly, trees that seemed to overcome extreme disfiguration and mutation, they all intrigued me. As the years went by it became a type of game to see just how many strange and unique trees I could find during a hike. Documenting these treasures through photography began quite naturally. Over time, it evolved into this project of intriguing images from the many interesting trees that I have discovered. Sometimes, however, my imagination runs a little wild. What do you see in the trees?
The Hardin Valley Project is a new exhibition of photographs showing the development of Hardin Valley over the last three years, captured on 35mm black and white film. Emily Greenquist received her BFA in Photography from Brigham Young University in Idaho in 2011. She has lived and photographed all over the country and has been settled in Knoxville since 2019. She is a full-time mother to three girls.
She writes: I have not lived here long, but even in my short four years living in Hardin Valley, I have seen a lot of change. I remember running to the store in the middle of lockdown and noticing one of the empty farmhouses had completely disappeared. I was astonished. It was beautiful. Why was it torn down? But I knew; we all know. The land it sits on is more valuable than the house.
All that was left was yellow straw covering naked earth where a house sat for 100 years. Also in the frame, a “turn only” arrow in the road suggests the valley is going in a different direction.
Since 2019, Knox County has gained more than 18,000 people, and there is westward movement within the county, so Hardin Valley has exploded. As a photographer, I felt the call to document these old houses before they were erased and replaced with subdivisions. I then took it a step further and documented the change itself, sometimes revisiting the same locations several times. I started with the still-standing empty farmhouses, then captured the farmland that was cleared, hills being excavated, subdivisions being built up, and property being posted for sale. As I photographed this project, I often thought about the emotional balancing act between the sadness of change and the need for development.
Suzanne Cada is deputy director of the Arts & Culture Alliance