Pellissippi State exhibit features sculpture, photography from K-12 art teachers

Black-and-white photo by Jane Reeves
“Mom,” a photo by Jane Reeves, is part of a body of work exploring family and questioning home as a refuge.

Photography by Jane Reeves and sculpture by Jessica Courtney, artists who serve as K-12 art teachers in Southern Indiana, are featured in the newest exhibit at Pellissippi State Community College.

Their works will be on display until Oct. 4 in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Gallery is located on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The exhibit, part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, is free and open to the public, as is a reception with the artists 3-5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, in the Gallery.

“Our visual arts teachers in K-12 education are on the front lines introducing our children to a better understanding of our immense visual culture,” said Pellissippi State Associate Professor Herb Rieth, who knows both artists and invited them to show their work at the college. “K-12 arts and design teachers work long hours, with ever-diminishing resources, to bring their knowledge and talent to very diverse populations. They are often underrepresented in showing their work because they frequently do not have time to work on their own artistic output.  Pellissippi State’s Visual Art faculty value the work these individuals do in the community and want others to see their powerful work.”

Reeves has chosen to exhibit a body of work exploring family and questioning home as a refuge. The collection has been in juried exhibitions in San Diego; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Louisville, Kentucky.

“Growing up poor, queer and sexually abused, I learned about isolation,” Reeves explains in her artist statement. “I learned to push away the people I loved the most. I put distance between my family and me. Physical distance became an obsession. Moving from place to place, the geographic solution.  Leave town, disappear, reinvent myself. I adopted new friends’ families as my own, as if I didn’t come from anywhere.”

That changed for Reeves when she was 25, during treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Reeves reflects that she understood suddenly that everything that had happened to her also had happened to her family, and she began visiting her family often, bringing her camera as a protective device.

“The camera helped explain to me something I had never let myself see up-close before – the whole process of running away, of closing up inside myself, of hiding,” Reeves says. “Through this journey of self-discovery, I have found the beautiful in the disturbing and the disturbing in the beautiful.”

Sculpture by Jessica Courtney
These pieces are among the sculpture Jessica Courtney has on display at Pellissippi State, artifacts of successes and failures in her studio practice.

Courtney has been working in precious metals since 2007 and began exploring the capabilities of 3D rapid prototyping in 2009. As the conversation surrounding her work began to focus on the duality of craft and the role of the computer in producing 3D printed sculpture, however, Courtney’s need to construct complex and precise work gave way to her desire to create intuitively. She began to create art using materials that could be found in an average craft closet or a child’s art bin.

“The playfulness that exuded from this work has inspired change in every level of my life and practice,” Courtney says.

The collection of work on display at Pellissippi State is sprinkled with artifacts of successes and failures from Courtney’s studio practice “while living a life constrained by gender roles and convoluted sexual identity,” she explains in her artist statement.

“I walked through life as a queer woman in heteronormative clothing for years before realizing that the solution to my anxiety, emotional unrest and isolation was always within my grasp,” Courtney writes. “The liberation I found while creating this work has transformed my life; I no longer feel a need to deny any part of myself.”

The Arts at Pellissippi State is an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances and fine arts exhibits. For more information about The Arts at Pellissippi State this season, visit or call 865-694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability at this event or any campus event, call 865-539-7401 or email