Alum art show: “Imaginary Friends”

Through the month of October, Maryville College alum and artist, Aaron Carroll’s most recent collection titled “Imaginary Friends” will be on display in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ Blackberry Farm Gallery.

A menagerie of portraiture, many of the pieces in this collection combine some of Carroll’s real friends or known figures, with other iconic or made up ones. A primary focus in his art over the years, Carroll finds a lot of interest in the human face and its many little nuances and expressions. These ideas definitely go hand in hand with creating portraits.

“For a long time, it felt kind of empty or forced anytime I tried to convey a message or a meaning with a painting. I just want to paint accurate faces and photorealistic portraits. That’s it. I’m just captivated by people’s really subtle emotions,” said Carroll, who generally works from preexisting images or ones he’s taken himself.

“I usually start working from a solid image and often peruse through random google image rabbit holes. When I come across an image that strikes me, I’ll think I’ve got to paint that. I’ll tweak it and make it my own, or I take my own photos a lot if it’s someone close in my life,” explains Carroll. When it comes to some of the works’ meanings, Carroll keeps the ideas broad and open to the viewer.

“While making ‘Hedonic Treadmill,’ I was thinking about how we have a kind of never-ending pursuit of happiness, and it’s how we sort of measure progress in our own lives,” said Carroll. A mixed media piece including computer parts that form an ambiguous skyline, “Hedonic Treadmill” depicts a man emerging from the “city” as his head appears to be exploding or exuding smoke from the “burning buildings.”

An effect Carroll accidentally created through the creative process he adds. Another piece, “Dead Cellphone Buddha” is a mixed media work with a patterned background surrounding the figure. The title is a direct reference to the image Carroll used to paint from, a screenshot from a Beck music video. Another prime example of how he sources images from nearly anywhere.

“That one is from a song called ‘Cellphone’s Dead.’ I was listening to the music in the background, and I looked up and there’s this creepy, sort of horror movie style little girl with pigtails dancing. She just has this very thousand-yard stare on her face, so I thought it would make a cool painting,” said Carroll. He goes on to explain how she started to look like a form of buddha through the process, adding to the name.

As a body of work, Carroll has created and captured those captivating gazes he finds interest in himself. All the while, Carroll uses vibrant colors that are equally engaging. On October 26 at 6 p.m., there will a reception with Carroll present to speak with casually. The Blackberry Farm Gallery is also open every week day during the day. To look at some of Carroll’s future work, you can follow him on Facebook at Friendly Faces – Aaron Carroll Art.

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