The Art Gallery at ORUUC will present an exhibit of paintings by Ricky Beene, opening Sunday, July 15, at 11:30 a.m. with a reception and gallery talk.  The exhibit will continue through September 7.

Rickey Beene has lived in Petros for most of his life, and has witnessed the town’s struggles since he was a child.  In 1993, Beene’s wife gave him a digital camera, and he began taking photos of the residents of Petros. His daughter taught him to manipulate his photos on a computer and play with color and composition.  Beene decided to teach himself to paint by photographing and painting portraits of people in Petros.  “These are people who tend to get pushed aside and ignored,” he said “These are working people. Many of these people’s lives have been spent just working good, hard jobs. To me they’ve always been the people who were more or less ignored by the art community. I’m one of those people. So I wanted to paint these people with the dignity and grace that I know exists in them.”

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Hundreds of portraits hang in his studio, in vivid colors and expressions that convey the subjects’ strength, pride, sadness or pain; emotions that are as much a part of the town of Petros itself as they are the people he paints.

Beene has been an English teacher, a home builder, a poet, a prison guard, and a landscape gardener.  He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Carson-Newman University and a Masters degree in English from East Tennessee State University. He says that gave him all the training he needed to start learning to paint.  He says, “If you can read, you can teach yourself just about anything”.

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