There’s a new piece of art in town and anyone who loves the history of Ringgold or loves art or is just a curious type will want to see and study it.
The mixed-media 6-foot by 8-foot abstract cityscape by artist and former Ringgold resident Keith Abney belongs to attorney McCracken Poston, but Poston decided to make it public art by asking Caffeine Addicts on Nashville Street in Ringgold to display the piece.
The story behind the huge painting that depicts the city of Ringgold through the years and ties in other elements related to Poston’s career and the artist’s memories goes way back.
“I knew Keith and his family back when they had an Exxon station in Ringgold,” says Poston. “But I didn’t know Keith had become an artist. One day in 2010 I was at an auction and saw a painting by someone named Keith Abney. I learned it was the Keith who used to hang out at the gas station with his sister and I thought that one day I’d like to own one of his paintings.”
Fast forward to 2016. Poston was doing some legal work for someone who knew Abney and suggested a trade — a painting for legal services. Poston’s client got in touch with Abney and got the ball rolling. What sort of painting did Poston want, Abney asked. Poston said he liked the Times Square cityscapes Abney had done and it was decided Abney would do a similar one of Ringgold.
A year passed. Then two. Then three. Abney occasionally sent Poston pictures of the work underway.
Finally, the painting was finished. Poston was astounded.
“There was no reference point in the pictures Keith had sent me,” he says. “I had no idea the painting would be so big.”
As might be expected in a piece of abstract art, there is a lot of complexity. Abney says the painting kept changing and evolving as he worked on it. There are several paintings below the final one. “It was when I decided to enlarge the old Chow Time sign and make it a focal point that things started coming together better.”
Another focal point of the painting is Poston’s law office with its red awnings. Abney added symbolism to the painting by including a gold dome above the office to represent Poston’s time as a Georgia state representative and to represent work Poston did for Abney’s father that led to the Ethics in Government Act written by Poston and passed in 1992.
Also represented in the painting is a reminder of Poston’s defense of Alvin Ridley when he was accused (and found not guilty) of killing his wife.
Abney’s maternal grandfather and his mother were both artists. His mother once owned a frame shop and art gallery in Chattanooga. Abney says he’s never had any formal art training.
“I lived in New York for a while,” says Abney, “There’s a lot of creative energy there that inspires you to develop your own skills and style.”
One incident that inspired Abney and remains a fond memory is his second grade teacher who had students draw shapes on pieces of paper then switch with one another and continue the drawings. Abney says it was a good exercise in creativity.
Abney says creating the Ringgold painting was therapeutic for him. “I was nervous about doing it at first, since it was my hometown. But I got to relive a lot of good memories through it.”
After three years working on the painting, how did Abney know he was finished? “It wasn’t like other works I’ve done. This one was different — I just had a response from within that said it was done.”
Poston says he’s thrilled with the painting and it gives him great pleasure to be able to share it with the public. “Thank you, Keith Abney,” Poston wrote on his Facebook page, “for pouring the love of your hometown into your art.”