The Simplicity of Life, Beth Meadows, September 2023
Beth Meadows has worked with Mike Berry to create an art show now open at The Maker Exchange. Dogwood Arts brings new artists every few months to highlight their art, and the community is invited to an opening reception on Oct. 5. I sat down with Beth to discuss it and found a deeper story than I anticipated. Beth has always known she wanted to be an artist but only recently embraced all that means and has created work more authentic to her than any she has made before.
Even as a child, Beth knew she had an eye and talent for art and creating. She pursued an art degree at UTK and achieved that goal in 2007. Her first art show was in the (former) Candy Factory Bldg. as a senior at UTK. She has been creating art in some form or fashion since that time. She has done mason jar art, commissioned pieces, has a postcard club, coloring pages, wearable art, collages, and upcycles wrappers from food to “clothe” supermodels on paper.
Her website states: “Beth Meadows creates mixed media drawings and paintings on wood that mix her life in East Tennessee with an aspirational life inspired by contemporary fashion, graphic, architectural, and interior design. Her style is modern meets folk art, where things are drawn in a flat, cartoon-like way. Beth is fascinated by human behavior and why we do what we do. Her subject matter often deals with interpersonal relationships and how that stems from the relationship we have with ourselves.”
That last sentence is what intrigued me most. As a therapist by trade (retired LPC here), I, too, am curious about people and why we do what we do. Learning that Beth uses her fascination about self and others to inspire her art was something I needed to know more about.
A few years ago, Beth started a business she calls The Empathetic Organizer. As a sentimental hoarder, Beth collected pieces from family members that were meaningful to her or items she could not bear the thought of being tossed out. The accumulation reached the point where she decided to control the clutter and get organized. She described feeling disordered, frustrated, and unorganized.
She read a couple of self-help books that got her started. The first was “Getting Things Done” by David Allen, and the second was “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Through this process, she found a new passion. She wanted others to experience the freedom she found by going through the process of eliminating clutter that had emotional ties to it. She still has this business and takes clients from all walks of life, experiencing what she did and looking for that little extra help to take control.
Once that organizational system was fine-tuned in her home, she had more emotional and physical space to create. Having been diagnosed with ADHD in her teens and confirmed it as an adult, Beth has learned skills that make her space and mind work for her instead of against her. Her ADHD looked like tension headaches, interrupting others in conversation and talking over them (if you don’t get it out, you might forget what you were going to say!), a hard time sitting still and relaxing, and pressure to meet others’ expectations of her. She described herself as not being present and missing her own life.
This summer, Beth met Rabbi Alon Ferency. He has a growing reputation for helping artists in the community find their inspiration. His tagline on Instagram says, “Helping you put more of yourself in your art.” Through her time with him, she had the “ah-ha moment” she had been looking for. Beth found an awareness of the things that had her stuck and unable to create the art that gave her joy. She wasn’t painting and felt pressure to make things she felt others wanted, not what she enjoyed. I think most of us can relate to a tendency to people-please and the frustration that can accompany that feeling.
Her new awareness led to an acceptance that she could not live without making art. She is now making art that inspires her, which has opened her up to more creativity and a renewed joy in her work. The anger she had felt due to the (self-imposed) pressures to meet the expectations from outside sources became fuel to make her art. She now creates with more looseness versus her previous perfectionism. Beth says she enjoyed this work more than ever and feels like it shows.
There are 15 pieces from Beth on exhibit and available for purchase at The Maker Exchange. The title of the show is The Richness of Life. She feels that her and Mike’s work is about being present and the joy of simplicity. You will see several of her pieces that work together to tell a story. The exhibit will be on display until Dec. 10. You can inquire to purchase the pieces from Mike or Beth by scanning the QR code next to each piece or clicking HERE. You can meet the artists at the opening reception on Oct. 5 from 5-8 at The Maker Exchange.