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Sprecher Receives Grant for New Work, “The Garden”

Jered Sprecher, a professor in the University of Tennessee’s School of Art, describes his artwork as existing in the “sliver of space between abstraction and representation.”

“I look to the lived daily experience of the present coupled with the artifacts of the past. My work compresses time into the surface of painting, that old technology. Increasingly flora, fauna, and natural phenomena hold my attention, as I wrestle with this imagery that we daily experience through our technology,” he says.

With the support of research development staff in the Office of Research and Engagement, Sprecher recently won an award from the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) for a new project called “The Garden.”

Sprecher’s vision for the project calls for a collection of paintings of large-scale plants and flowers with a digital edge to them that will imbue the pieces with strong natural and technological imagery. The exhibit will fill a room and envelop the viewer on all sides.

“We love to have images of plants and flowers, trees and animals around us,” said Sprecher. “I’m taking that love for such images and the prevalence of digital technology, and I’m exploring how that affects how we understand the world around us.”

He currently has a prototype on exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum in an exhibition called “Appalachian Now.” The piece, “Invisible as Music,” is an eight-foot by 12-foot painting with strong colors depicting flowers and a person almost camouflaged by the floral imagery and “glitches of technology.”

Sprecher said he is drawn to images of flowers.

“We can easily dismiss them as just pretty things, but there’s a long history of poets pondering them, scientists examining them,” he explains. “Within the history of art, flowers are objects of beauty, but they also talk about how quickly life can pass away. At the same time, I think that, with the prevalence of digital technology, there are moments when we can be overloaded with it, or it can be misused. I’m interested in how those things come together.”

Working with Hannah Schmidt, research development coordinator, they captured his ideas from a previous proposal, which wasn’t funded, and reworked them to meet the needs of the TAC opportunity.

As a result, Sprecher received a 2020 TAC Individual Artist Fellowship and was awarded $5,000. He plans to use the grant for supplies to complete “The Garden.”

“[The project] is so big that it can go through supplies really quickly, and the costs add up,” he says.

Sprecher says Schmidt’s input is especially valuable, considering she has a master’s in art history. Her knowledge of art allows her to help faculty present a convincing argument as well as offer style points for writing the proposal. He encourages his colleagues in arts and other disciplines to contact her to explore funding opportunities.

“What’s nice about the colleagues at the ORE is that they’re willing to sit down and listen to what your plans are, what your dreams are. They’re willing to help you do some of the leg work and to figure out, ‘Are there resources there? What can I tap into?’”

Schmidt can be reached at hschmidt@utk.edu or 974-1413.