Home ♃ Recent Stories ☄ Best of Birmingham’s Premiere Art Festival (Photos)

Best of Birmingham’s Premiere Art Festival (Photos)

Jeremy Martin on his paintings: "My work is toned by ... a responsibility to uplift and improve cultural representation by making art for all to see." (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)
The Birmingham Times

Each spring Birmingham becomes the center to one of the Southeast’s largest displays of paintings, sculptures, photography, jewelry and decorative arts.

Dozens of artists showcase their works at the annual Magic City Art Connection (MCAC), which along with Memorial Day, is a clear sign that summer is near.

In addition to the diversity in art, there is, of course, a diversity of thought among the artists on how they approach their craft.

Bessemer’s Joseph Frye, an award-winning artist and owner of a Pottery and Sculpture business and MCAC regular, enjoys working with different forms.

“I like texture and carving into the clay,” he has said. “What inspires me … is the idea of working with something to form it, … making something from nothing and forming it into something.”

Susan Callaway, photographer from North Augusta, SC said her goal is to capture the essence of beauty in nature. She wants to create a picture that is not static “and instead channels the energy that flows in every natural thing around us. To help you to feel nature, to encourage you to see with not just your eyes, but with your heart.”

Asia Mathis is a nationally exhibited artist living and working in Nashville, Tennessee. She said her work “centers around the human search for authenticity and belonging. The question of modern identity, or where we are truly at home when much of our ancestral culture may have dissolved … “

Here’s a closer look at some of the artistic talent for the 40th year celebration of the Magic City Art Connection at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

Bios: The Magic City Art Connection

Photos: Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times


Tallahassee, FL

Andrews: “I judge a painting based on one very subjective thing — does it speak. Does it communicate to the viewer something about the place that I felt. Something of reverence, mystery, calmness or whatever else made me decide to paint it. I am not interested in the minutia. I do not care about the blade of grass. I am not painting a photograph, I am painting a place and a feeling.

“From an early age I was always interested in visual art. Thirty years ago my wife gave me a watercolor set to get me off the golf course. It worked. I have been painting ever since. My training was in doing. Lots and lots of time with a brush in my hand. I am interested in mood over information. I love the power of simplicity. But there has to be some complexity in the simplicity. It has to be visually interesting. I am not going to tell you everything. You have to join in the process.

That’s it. My name is Steve, and I am a painter. Thanks for looking.


Michael Banks Art michaelbanksart.com

Banks was born in 1972 and was raised by his mother in a housing project in north Alabama. He graduated from high school and was a star athlete. As a child Banks loved to draw and paint and create with whatever materials he could find. His mother encouraged him, and he continued to create until November 1992, when his mother died. In his grief, Michael’s desire for making art left him. He fell into a great depression and stopped painting.

For five years Michael’s life took many different turns during his struggle with depression and alcohol addiction. Finally, in 1997, he recalled the hope and encouragement that his mother had given him and he began to paint again. Since then he has experimented with various techniques combining both found objects, building materials as well as artists’ materials. He developed a style using roofing tar as an undercoating on wood with artist’s paint incising subtle nuances.

While painting Michael is totally absorbed in his work, reacting without deep thought or planning. Painting, for him, is almost an automatic process. When questioned about what he means by a certain part of a painting, he often responds, “It surprises me what I have painted when I have finished. I was just in my groove and this is what came out. Wow.”

Michael has won many honors with his work which has been exhibited in New York, Denver, and Atlanta. The Hurn Museum in Savannah, Georgia presented a One-Man exhibition of his work in 2005 and has a number of his works in their permanent collection.

(Bio from michaelbanksart.com)


North Augusta, SC

Callaway: “My goal is to capture the essence of beauty in nature, to create a picture that is not static and instead channels the energy that flows in every natural thing around us. To help you to feel nature, to encourage you to see with not just your eyes, but with your heart.

“My photographs are generally vibrant colors. This is a reflection of what I was feeling in the moment as much, or more, than it is a reflection of what I saw. I have my photographs printed on metal which enhances the color and detail and allows the flow of energy with frameless presentation.

I live in North Augusta, SC and enjoy time with my children and grandchildren. I also love to quilt and create abstract art with alcohol inks and crayon.


Sarasota, FL

“I was anxious to get away from the potter’s wheel and vessel form so I returned to what I had been doing as a child – making animals. The only necessary difference was that my new animals had to be large and hollow. I knew that any armature I used would have to be removable. I came up with a technique of building a rigid skeleton with tin foil and vermiculite, as well as large amounts of masking tape. The armature is covered with white earthenware and the animal’s features are sculpted. After drying to a leather hard state, the animal is then cut in half and the entire armature is removed. The two halves are then carefully rejoined and bisque fired. Generally, this part of the process takes 1 to 3 weeks. The animal is then broken into pieces using the wooden handle of a hammer. Then each piece is glazed separately and fired. Some of the pieces are fired a second time with lusters or another layer of glaze in a different color to create depth and design. When the firing process is complete, I use a paste epoxy to reconstruct the animal creating the finished product.”


Simpsonville, SC

Kym Day is a realist oil painter from McKinney, Texas, but raised in Georgia and the Carolinas. She received a BFA in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MFA in sculpture from Clemson University. Recently, she has had the pleasure of completing artist residencies at the Bascom in Highlands, NC, and at 701 CCA in Columbia, SC, and teaching at Clemson and Lander Universities. She now works from her home studio in Greenville, SC and shows her paintings nationally.


Bessemer, AL
OBTS Pottery & Ceramics

Joseph Frye is an award-winning artist and owner of OBTS Pottery and Sculpture, LLC. Each of his unique organic, creations are hand built using a clay foundation. He enjoys incorporating carvings and patterns with the use of objects that have an artistic appeal. Some works could be considered “mixed media”.

Joseph uses clay as a canvas to blend imaginative color combinations. He often fuses glass to create the illusion of water in his “Living Water Collection.”

The process is both planned and spontaneous. Some works start out as sketches. Joseph enjoys taking his time with each piece, allowing the clay to take shape and display its own personality. It is abstract expressionism at its finest.

His work has multicultural, diverse influences from his intercontinental travel to Africa, South America, Israel, and the Caribbean Islands.

Joseph frequently exhibits his work at fine art shows across the country. He has a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Eastern Michigan University and over 30 years of experience. Joseph taught fine art classes at a local college and currently offers pottery classes for children, adolescents, and adults.


Lingerfelt was born and raised in Japan, graduating from Tokyo Musashino Art College in 1985. She began her art career in Tokyo, Japan as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator.

She left Japan to travel across the globe for 10 years (1985-1995), then back to Japan for 7 years, teaching arts and crafts. She moved to GA in 2002, and in 2015 obtained a BFA at Kennesaw state University. Her work is inspired by the mystical aspects of the places she visited, The human condition itself, and of the natural world. She now lives in Dallas, GA and has found her passion to create art in order to brighten up the world we live in, inside and outside.


Birmingham, AL

Martin: “Born and raised in the Sunshine State of Florida. My talents are a gift from God. My grandmother at an early age helped me hone into my talents. Through my support system and parents, I have been able to better my craft throughout the years. His work reconnects with the suffering of the African Americans to display political beliefs, concern, anxiety, aspiration, emotions, and grief. My work is toned by an undercurrent of moral and collective responsibility to positively uplift and improve cultural representation by making art for all to see. Thus, I chose art as my way to communicate and to invoke positive discussions.”


Nashville, TN

Mathis: “My work centers around the human search for authenticity, and belonging. The question of modern identity, or where we are truly at home when much of our ancestral culture may have dissolved, been actively destroyed, or is one in which we do not wish to be a part of. The same holds true for the environment, and the modern problem of being disconnected from the land, which can create a kind of ‘hole’ in our identity. My work reflects my personal experiences around these issues.”

Mathis is a nationally exhibited artist living and working in Nashville, Tennessee, with her family. She began her relationship with clay during high school art class, and went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 1999. Mathis spent the next few years developing her ceramics skills, and her own style of artwork, while earning a living showing at local galleries in the Nashville area, and touring the country selling at high end arts and craft fairs.

In 2009 her first child was born and she then spent the next several years full time mothering, and homeschooling. She returned to studio life in 2018 and is continuing her journey with clay through continued education and consistent studio time. She has taught workshops at Buchanan Arts and at Centennial Arts Center in Nashville. Her work was recently featured in the “Best of Tennessee Craft” exhibition at the Tennessee State Museum, and she is a member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.


Louisburg, NC

Mullen: “My paintings are centered on conceptualization evolving over time. For that reason it is important for me to devote equal or more time to each painting I do. Although my skills as an artist increase with each work, my creativity is also expanding. Therefore I must concentrate on painting longer so to accommodate for new ideas.

“My style of painting involves creating a complicated background of hundreds of grids of varying colors. When done the background will loosely look the intended composition. From there I concentrate on adding detail to segments of the painting. This method allows me the most expression because different parts are all done at different times. For example a typical landscape composition might have twenty different trees.

“Painting all the trees during the same session will tend to create too many similarities and thus a boring composition. Patience and time allows my paintings to reflect my varying emotions and moods and in a strange way create a sense of balance and harmony in what are sometimes very detailed and confusing compositions.


2D Mixed Media
Vicksburg, MS

A Jackson, Mississippi native, Porter is an internationally known painter, printmaker and photographer with a signature gallery in historic downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi. Her artwork is in private and corporate collections around the globe and has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions for the past 30 years.

Most recently, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., added one of Porter’s pieces to their collection. In 2015, her Backyards and Beyond painting series became a permanent exhibition in the Ground Zero Hurricane Museum in Waveland. Her work is featured on CD covers, including one featuring the voices of Maya Angelou, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan.

Porter’s work is also featured on the cover of Beyond Katrina, a book by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and hangs in the Mississippi Senate offices in Washington, D.C., and is in the collection of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Marsha Barbour.

In 2009, Porter received the Mississippi Institute for Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award and was included in the 2011 Mississippi Invitational at the Mississippi Museum of Art. She has also been the recipient of a Visual Artistic Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. She recently returned from Annapolis, Maryland, where she completed an Artist in Residence at Maryland Hall for the Visual and Performing Arts. H.C. Porter’s work involves a process of transferring her photographic images into silkscreen and completing the piece with layers of textured acrylic paint and Prismacolor pencil.


2D Mixed Media | 3D Mixed Media
Martinez, GA

Runnels: “I began my working life in my early 20s as a graphic designer, but quickly and unexpectedly found myself with a paintbrush in my hand. After returning home from a life-changing, yearlong mission trip in 2010, I became a full-time artist. For the last decade I have been working to touch people through my artwork and bring hope, joy and beauty to homes and lives.

“I create mixed media pieces of artwork depicting dreamlike, nostalgic and natural scenes using a combination of collage, pattern, texture and layers of acrylic paint. My subjects vary a great deal from people walking in the rain, street/location scenes to animals and nature. But the thread of similarity throughout my pieces are the collaging of pages from old books, sheet music and other found papers into my artwork. A few years back, I felt using words and phrases in my work could help me tell the meaning behind each work of art. It could also help me tell my story, help others see their own story in my work and it could be a daily whisper of encouragement and hope to anyone who sees my pieces.

“I am married with two young children so I create new original pieces when I can, and have many canvas and paper print options of sold works as well.


Ocean Springs, MS

Salters is a native of our beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast. Growing up here gave Salters an appreciation for the many places and things one is lucky enough to experience on a daily basis. This inspired him to become a photographer.

Capturing a photograph that will make anyone who sees it feel as if they were right there with him as he captured the shot, is his focus. Salters said that he especially enjoys photographing local landscape as well as architecture. Recently, he has become interested in the many species of shore birds along our Coast. Typically, he prefers taking long exposure shots and printing in color as well as black/white. As for the future, David plans to broaden his areas of interest. He foresees himself growing as a photographer. David is self-taught and understands that there is always something to learn and that the possibilities are endless. Contact Information: dbsalters@att.net

In addition to photography, he loves traveling, and enjoys anything to do with the great outdoors.


Nashville, TN

Tony Sobota is a Nashville based painter obsessed with color, movement, and structure. Since 2016 he has closely followed Nashville’s frantically changing real estate landscape, forming his interests into an ongoing series of observational studies and architectural abstractions. He has since oriented his process around abstract color grids.

Mostly self-taught, his popular Art of Construction series won him first place at the Nashville Arts and Business Council’s Periscope Pitch 2017. He has been awarded several grants for public art projects in the Nashville area such as his 2019 “Little Kurdistan Community Mural”, featured on NPR. Since 2010 he has exhibited at multiple gallery shows in the region, including being selected to Artfields 2021 and winning Best in Show at Nashville’s prestigious American Artisan Festival. His collections include Metro Nashville, Graduate Hotels, Chartwell Hospitality, and the Nashville Soccer Club.


Warrenville, IL

Thaddeus: “As an acrylic painter, I use my soft bristle brushes to tell a story of love and pride in vivid, contrasting colors and strong whimsical line work. I portray a love for life and the magnificent creations this world has to offer, and love of the diverse array of people that occupy our spaces and the relationships they enter into. In my work I celebrate pride in the communities we come from and live in, and pride in ourselves, embracing who we are in bold fashion.

“In the 20-plus years that I have been exhibiting and selling artwork, it has been a privilege for me to paint for many homes and businesses in the form of canvas paintings and murals. Many of these pieces have been custom as I always strive to find ways to meet the specific needs of my clients. In addition to my original acrylic paintings, I offer prints on paper or stretched canvas using the giclee printing process. Giclee prints are available for over 100 of my paintings in various sizes. Fascinated with the infinite possibilities of color, I am always integrating new color schemes into my work.

“An indicator of when a piece of mine was created can often be found in the color scheme of that piece. I do not limit myself to one theme in my work- the zest for life that my work embraces is the only overarching subject matter. While I am inspired by so much I see in the world around me, inspiration to me is not a calling to recreate that which I already find beautiful; instead it is an influence on my vision- calling me to create something new.


Winston Salem, NC

Vale: “As an outdoor enthusiast, I’ve been privileged to follow adventure to many breathtaking scenes of inspiration. I’ve found joy in documenting these wild scenes along the way, from my former home in the alpine mountains of Utah to my travels throughout the Western U.S. to my current home nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Using my photos and memories as reference, I translate the powerful beauty and gentle tranquility of nature into modern, stylized paintings.

“My landscapes present nature as seen through the eyes of an idealist – one who finds serenity and bliss in the subtle refinement and cultivation of nature’s rugged beauty. Each painting then becomes a window into my mind, a postcard from an adventure gone by, and a happy, restful space for a restless mind.”


Greenville, NC

Wilson: “When I make art, I want to capture the creative pulse of the human experience and reflect the beauty of the world. My love for art started at an early age watching and helping my artistic father hand paint signs, which lead me to a thirty-year career span as a productive professional artist, freelance and corporate graphic designer, and teacher at Pitt Community College. My works are created with the same hope to inspire the people who encounter it.

“Growing up in rural NC with a strong family network set the path for my art, and the things I treasure most are evident in my works. My art is a blend of figurative works that are inspired by my optimism and pride of my culture with inspiring and aspirational images from high achievers and icons to historic figures. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to motivate, uplift, and educate people through my art. I’ve been honored with over 150 local, national, and international awards and recognitions, including the Pastel Society of America’s prestigious National Arts Club Award, The Pastel Journal Founder’s Award, and recognition in the Wall Street Journal as “one the most successful artists that you’re likely to meet.“