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Life & Work with Evelyn Reed Burnette

Today we’d like to introduce you to Evelyn Reed Burnette.

Hi Evelyn, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born and raised in Memphis. Both of my parents encouraged my interest in art. Growing up, I remember being in awe of my mom’s artistic talent. I would watch her draw and beg her to teach me. She taught me to do realistic art.

I ended up following in my mom’s footsteps by attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where I received my BFA in painting and my degree in art education. Currently, I am an art teacher and I am creating art in every spare moment I have available. I started painting for myself again when the school shut down in March 2020.

At first, I went back to my roots of painting realistically. I remember the first abstract painting I did. It was weird and unfamiliar, but exciting. My dad saw it and said, “You need to do more of this.” Slowly my style has evolved to be primarily abstract. It’s funny to me now because in college I had very little interest in abstract art.

Now, I cannot imagine a time when I did not love it. Abstract art has become an avenue for me to process, grow, and connect.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Once I started teaching I lost myself in the lessons I was doing with my students. It became important for me to uphold a certain standard for myself and the projects my students were making, so much so that it became my whole creative focus.

Then, one of my colleagues invited me to come to a clay class with her after school. That was the first time I felt myself get my creative balance back. Until that class, I did not realize how important it is for me as an art teacher to also be creating art that is for me.

Especially now, as teachers are feeling more overwhelmed than ever, painting has become an important meditative process for me.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
At this point in my life, I am an abstract painter.

I work with acrylics but I previously painted strictly with oils. I would say that doing commissions has been the most rewarding and creatively challenging aspect of being an artist. I thoroughly enjoy getting to interview people about their vision and how it meshes with artworks that I have done.

I think my favorite thing about painting is that it has given me a space outside of my comfort zone and allows me to make connections with people that I would not normally have.

Art has become my ice breaker. I was recently offered an artist residency at the Renaissance Center, a high-rise office tower in Memphis. It was an incredible moment for me.

Whitney Calhoun, the property manager, shared with me that she is a real art lover. Being selected as their artist for the lobby space was overwhelming. Memphis will always be the place I call home and I hope to continue to share my art with my hometown.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
When starting this journey of getting back into the art game, I had no idea how hard it was to put together a website, be my own social media team, self-promote, and get my name out there.

I have always considered myself a dedicated person, but starting my art studio really put me to the test. Being a teacher and a professional artist has been challenging, but I guess I am too stubborn to give up. It’s weird when the thing you love also becomes a side hustle because it changes the way you approach it.

I am lucky to have people in my life that help me continue to pursue art. They help me not lose sight of the real purpose; that painting brings me fulfillment and happiness all on its own.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Rein and Rye Photography

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