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APSU art professor inspired by insects

October 28, 2003


Kell Black is grateful for the beetles–not the British band, but the backyard bug.

His cut-paper work, Beetles, is one of 270 pieces currently on display in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts exhibit The Surprising Art of Tennessee.

When I first moved to the South, my wife and I were surprised by the huge number of bugs down here, says Black, who earned his masters from the University of Connecticut, Storrs.
October 28, 2003


Kell Black is grateful for the beetles—not the British band, but the backyard bug.

His cut-paper work, “Beetles,” is one of 270 pieces currently on display in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts' exhibit “The Surprising Art of Tennessee.”

“When I first moved to the South, my wife and I were surprised by the huge number of bugs down here,” says Black, who earned his master's from the University of Connecticut, Storrs.

“It used to be, when we lived in Georgia, that if something fell on the ground, she wouldn't pick it up, because she was convinced it was already infested with bugs.”

While his wife was disgusted, Black was inspired. “I was struck by beetles and how gorgeous they were,” he says.

Guided by beetle specimens borrowed from Nashville's Discovery Center, Black created life-size, exact paper replicas of the insects in 2001.

In 2002, exhibition curators decided “Beetles” was definitely part of Tennessee's surprising art. “There's something that makes you stop short when you see the beetles,” Mark Scala, Frist exhibition curator, told The Leaf-Chronicle. “He really has made a complete illusion.”

Black attributes the success of the piece to the unique subject matter and technique. “It's paper that has been cut to such a degree of detail,” he says. “People are always saying, ‘Wow! You must have a lot of patience.'”

Because his works require time-consuming techniques, Black has taken leave from the University for the fall. “I am gearing up for a big one-person show at the Customs House in January,” he says. “It will be a combination of drawings and things made out of paper.”

The replicas exhibited in this flight-themed show are much bigger than beetles and include a B-52 bomber and a zeppelin.

“The B-52 has a wing-span of about 6 feet, and the zeppelin is close to the same size,” says Black.

The Customs House Museum and Cultural Center exhibit is scheduled tentatively for Jan. 7 through March 6.

Black's “Beetles” and Assistant Professor of Painting Suta Lee's “Still Life” will
be on display from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, until 8 p.m. on Thursday and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday until Jan. 18 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

For further information regarding “The Surprising Art of Tennessee,” telephone (615) 244-3340.
—Terry Stringer