Featured Artist: Chris Little

Posted on October 26, 2014

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By: Kendra Lyons

Photo Credit: Kendra Lyons

Photo Credit: Kendra Lyons

When Chris Little couldn’t get enough credits he needed taking aerobics in college, he opted for sculpture class. Though Little has been making things for as long as he can remember, “I didn’t call it art until I took sculpture class,” he explains.

Little took some time on a Saturday to welcome me to his Bartlett home and show me around his magical five acres of land, where I found art hidden and tucked away almost everywhere I looked for it. We walked the property together and he would point up to the sky at a bicycle stuck in a tree explaining how he “harvests” art by literally injecting it into nature.

Little does everything from painting trampolines to creating abstract faces out of concrete to making glass designs on mirrors incorporating symbols from astronomy and inspiration he finds in religion and family. Most pieces have a first name. He would casually point to a piece of art and tell me its first name and how it got the name, usually inspired by a book he read or something he saw in a movie.

Little is an ex-marine who then went on to be an interpreter for the deaf and currently serves as a special needs teacher. Little’s wife, Shannon, explained that they use their property for all kinds of things, from a natural gallery for Little’s artwork, to a meeting place for artists to have “Fool’s Fire,” to outdoor classroom space for University of Memphis students, to a place for the kids at St. Jude to come hang out. One time, the kids painted a tree pink, which now stands in what the Littles call their, “Painted Forest.”

Little’s work is all made of “found objects,” – things that Little can find pretty much anywhere – and makes the lost into something truly remarkable.

A lot of his “found objects” are also infused with a time capsule, especially in the customized mailboxes that he makes. The time capsules hold everything from magazines to notes to photographs that Little hopes to leave behind for whoever finds it in the future.

On Little’s property is a wooden shed, which Little constructed himself, all from “found wood.”

The shed is made of wood paneling and old doors, among other sources of wood that Little found in nature.

Little epitomizes the cliche that someone else’s trash is another’s treasure.

On Little’s property you’ll see old tricycles that children are finished playing with that now stand proudly as a twirling chandelier in the trees, glass bottles that hang in the sky, glistening in the sun, axes stuck in the trees that have become part of the tree as they have become fully “harvested;” old political signs become wallpaper for the ceiling in his workshop. Little makes old things new again, and puts them on display in unexpected and inspiring ways, making the ordinary, extraordinary.

Little talks of some of his work as if it is just a fun project and others as if they are living, breathing things. “That one still has a spirit,” he says casually as he points to a concrete face he created out of leftover concrete from another project.

Little’s art is incredibly unique and really does feel like it has a life of its own, especially when Little is there to explain where he got the ideas from. Others aren’t so inspired, like a large piece of metal that was converted into a face, Little says simply as if it were the most natural thing in the world, “it’s just what I saw when I looked at it.”

Shannon pointed out a sign in Korean that was stuck in a tree in the Painted Forest and explained with a laugh,  “We still wish we knew what it said.” Little says he got the sign because his buddy who owned a Korean restaurant told him if he could get the sign down, he could keep it. Seemed like a fair trade to Little.

Little doesn’t feel inspired by any artist in particular. He likes to find objects and put them place in nature and let nature absorb it, and the rest just comes as it does. If he feels like “throwing paint on” a trampoline and “seeing what happens,” he will. And the backdrop of the “Little Art Farm,” as Shannon calls their property fondly, will ensure it looks nothing less than beautiful.

See Little’s work for yourself on April 1st at the museum at the Library on Central. More details on the event TBA.  

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Posted in: Arts