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Summary

Knoxville News Sentinel

SOUTH KNOXVILLE

Knoxville News Sentinel

SOUTH KNOXVILLE

Artist A.E. Rochelle has no shortage of ideas

Ali James, Shopper News

“I don’t have a problem with ideas, I have an art to-do-list that is 10 years long,” said Annie Rochelle, a South Knoxville-based artist. “I am constantly working. I haven’t found an art medium I don’t like. I am always playing catch-up with my ideas.”

Rochelle grew up in Knoxville and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art, majoring in painting and minoring in art history, and studied art history in Italy. An art teacher by day, Rochelle also juggles her fine art commissions while creating art to sell in her Etsy Shop, www.etsy.com/shop/aerochelle.

“I have pieces in Gallery 1010 and the Maker Exchange that were recently installed and in other galleries around the country,” said Rochelle, who signs her work A.E. Rochelle. “I am still getting established as a fine artist.”

After graduating college, Rochelle worked as an exhibition technician and as a gallery attendant at Knoxville Museum of Art. “I watched people watch art as I like to call it,” she said. “It was a great way to observe how people look at art and what makes a successful piece of art.”

Rochelle spent a lot of time drawing in between guests. “I couldn’t work on larger pieces. I had to work on smaller pieces that I could fit into my pocket and carry around. Figure studies and illustrations became something to keep me occupied.

“I can paint realistically, but it’s not what I like to look at,” said Rochelle. “I have always had a type of irreverence in my art. I like to take that juxtaposition of Art with a capital A with a modern sensibility.”

Rochelle talked about her “Chance Configurations,” created with acrylic, gouache and pencil on linen.

“I mixed high art with playful colors in a composition that utilizes chance instead of thinking about it,” said Rochelle. “The choices (of color and pattern) are decided by the roll of the dice.”

Much of Rochelle’s art is inspired by nature. “I always thought if I wasn’t an artist I would be a scientist. I love learning about the natural world,” she said. “I have worked a lot of jobs, including Stanley’s Greenhouse and as a floral assistant. I do a lot of botanical illustration and find those forms in nature to be really interesting and am still investigating that interplay.”

Rochelle had been preparing to create her own coloring book for years. “I collected the line drawings for illustrations before I colored them with watercolors. I would scan the line drawings from the aspect that I might do this in a future,” she said. “The coloring pages (available for sale in her Etsy shop) culminated with the pandemic. I love making art that people can spend time with. I would like to do more coloring sheets.”

Recently Rochelle created a Dolly Parton piece for Dollyfest: “Dolly after Botticelli.”

“The line art was incredibly complex, the interactions between Botticelli and the modern icon of Dolly, who has become a patron saint, almost a protector,” she said. “I mixed it with the ecology of the area and Dolly from the ’60s, ’80s and 2000s.”

Rochelle sells prints, stickers and is investigating letterpress printing on seed paper.

“I love the idea of my art coming full circle to make new art, this idea of having a life beyond an art form,” she said. “I can’t stand throwing stuff away. I have kept all of the watercolor scraps from my archival prints and use dyes from soaking black beans or cooking beets and infusing this paper with seeds to make new paper.”

OPINION

Caregivers don't get sick time

Leslie Snow, Shopper News

I read the text from my sister and feel a wave of guilt wash over me. “Can you send me the dates for your vacation?” her text says. “I want to put it on my calendar so I can be there to help with Mom and Dad.”

I reach for the small calendar I carry in my purse to double-check the dates. My chest tightens as I count the number of days I’ll be gone. Fourteen. “I can’t believe I’ll be gone two full weeks,” I say aloud though there’s no one around to hear me. “What was I thinking?”

But then I remember. We booked this trip at the end of 2019, before COVID, before so many things in my life changed.

I pick up my phone to text my sister, Robin, the dates for our upcoming trip. I imagine her looking at my message and gasping at how long I’ll be gone. How long she’ll have to fill in for me. The guilt builds. Without logic or reason, I feel the need to explain all the things I’m sure my sister already understands.

I send another text. “It’s hard to believe nearly three years have passed since we booked this vacation. Mom and Dad were still living in Cleveland back then and no one had heard of the Coronavirus.”

She doesn’t respond right away but I tell myself it doesn’t mean anything. “She can’t be frustrated with me. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

I say those words to myself, but I must not believe them. Because when my husband gets home, I say them again. “I hope Robin doesn’t mind coming in while we’re on vacation. It feels like a lot to ask someone, but she’s just doing the same things I do all the time. And when we booked this trip, we couldn’t have known what would happen. No one could have known.”

He listens to my rambling explanation then shakes his head. “You haven’t done anything wrong, Honey. The vacation was canceled once because of COVID and once because your mom had surgery. You need a break and there’s nothing wrong with taking one.”

I hear his words and I know they’re true, but they don’t do enough to calm the voice in my head. The one that says, “Your parents need you. You’re burdening your sister. You’re asking too much.”

I think back to that 2019 version of myself, the one that could so blithely book a two-week vacation. I long for the innocence of that “before” time. Before my dad’s dementia got so bad, before COVID, before my sister passed away, before my mom’s cancer came back for an encore appearance.

I offer up a rueful smile and say what I’m supposed to say. “It will all be fine. No one blames me for taking vacation — even one that lasts for 14 days. It’s OK to lean on my sisters for help. It’s OK to go.”

That ends the conversation, but it doesn’t stop my guilt.

That’s the thing about being a caregiver, it’s a full-time job without a great benefits package. There aren’t personal days or paid sick leave. I can’t accrue vacation time or ask a co-worker to fill in. I can only explain to the people in my life that, for so many reasons, I need a good long vacation and their help in getting me there.

Hopefully they won’t mind. Hopefully they’ll understand that three years ago I didn’t know all the things I didn’t know.

Leslie Snow may be reached at snow column@aol.com.

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