“Everybody’s always wanting to change things. Everything gets changed. Everything but the fiddle. It has to
stay the same. It has a perfection of form you just can’t beat. That’s one thing I really like about it.” Gene Horner,
Along a country road near Rockwood, Tennessee, in a workshop filled with tools, homemade patterns and templates, and decades of memories,
Gene Horner turns scraps of wood into a musical instrument he has revered since he was a child growing up in the Crab Orchard Mountains on
the Cumberland Plateau. Gene’s father played the fiddle, as did his father before him. At the age of 15, Gene found his grandfather’s
fiddle and patched it up to “where I could scrape around on it.” Gradually, Gene began to focus less on playing fiddles and more on
These days, Gene spends countless hours carving, cutting, and shaping, hand-making up to 20 or 25 fiddles a year. Even a recent hospitalization
and loss of a leg only slowed him down but didn’t stop him. The reason he carries on is quite simple: Gene is in love with the fiddle.
“When you look at the thing, it’s a perfection about it. Notice how it’s smaller
up here and it’s narrow in the waist here, place for the bow to operate. And
it broadens out down here. Whole lot like a woman.” – Gene Horner
Like viewing a master’s subtle brushstroke in a painting, or an angle or curve in a sculpture, you realize the artistry seen in Gene
Horner’s fiddles is amazing and rare… and was worth every moment of its creation.
Don’t get the idea that Gene is all work and no play. See what happens when some friends from down the road drop by with their instruments
– some of which are Gene Horner creations! Visit
Light and shadows fall into everyone’s life. So it’s logical that Michael Shane Neal uses them as tools in his profession of painting
portraits -- not just of one’s physical likeness - but of their innermost being.
“When I’m looking at a subject, whether it be a landscape if I’m out painting a cliff on a beach somewhere, or
if I have you to come in and sit, I’m immediately asking myself questions: what is it that makes this scene or makes this person who they
are? It’s as if I’m an actor studying for a role and I’m seeing how can I really get into that mindset.” – Michael
Shane Neal, portrait painter
In his Nashville studio, or in the home and workplace of the subject he is painting, Michael brings an old fashioned work style and commitment to
his oil portraits. And the people in these portraits happen to include the rich, the famous, the powerful… such as former Tennessee governor,
Phil Bredesen, Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Congressional leaders like Senators Robert Byrd and Bill Frist. In painting
such people, Michael is not about to create a portrait based on only a handful of photographs and a couple of sittings. He will spend hours, days,
evenings in long talks with the subject, photographing, sketching and painting them at their work and at home.
“So I really do get to know them in a way that most people don’t.
And I actually get to know them in a way that sometimes they don’t even
know themselves, because I have really studied who they are and I have looked at them so intently.” – Michael Shane Neal
In an age when people quickly snap off pictures anytime, anywhere with digital cameras and smart phones, the patience, passion and insightful detail
of Michael Shane Neal brings a refreshing look to the art of portrait painting. See more for yourself at Michael’s website:
Still living in rural west Tennessee, Simon Jackson remembers the day when he believes his artistic gift was given. He was six years old. As he stood
on his back porch, catching drops of water after a rain storm, Simon says a miniature bolt of lightning flashed and lit in his hands. From that
moment, the boy was able to do “extraordinary things.”
What Simon Jackson does now with that extraordinary gift is create meticulously sculpted three dimensional works of art that uniquely echo the past.
Amazingly detailed barns, houses, and homesteads that capture reality on a miniature scale.
“If I’m interested in doing a certain building, it has to be something that
would really strike me as something dramatic and fantastic. And it would
have to be something that would have a lot of history behind it.”
– Simon Jackson, miniature artist
Simon’s art is a history lesson patiently sculpted from wood, metal, and other materials. Often recalling the rural south and ‘simpler
times’, each work takes months to complete. It’s a journey that begins with a memory, a photograph, sometimes a visit. Almost always,
the building and the setting have emotional and sentimental significance. One of Simon’s first small scale creations was the birthplace of
his mother – and one of his later miniature masterpieces is the homestead where Simon was raised by his sharecropping family. The barn, the
farm tools, the butter churn, even the chickens – they’re all there. No detail is too small.
“It’s good to see, to remember where you’ve come from, so you will not
forget the appreciation of where you are now.” – Simon Jackson