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Tom Foster's Vanishing Memphis

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Did you know there was once a proposal to build a monorail connecting Crosstown and downtown? Artist Tom Foster did the rendering.

In case you don't know, Tom Foster is Memphis. If the compulsive artist (and a co-creator of the "Midtown is Memphis" logo), doesn't have his Sharpies out, drawing one of his ubiquitous bar-band posters, he's either busy assembling another edition of Strawberry Funnies or The Tressler or another one of his art/alternative news zines. Or he's outside somewhere, drawing the ever-changing landscape.

For almost half a century, Foster, who started publishing artwork in science fiction magazines while he was still in high school, has drawn every imaginable aspect of his hometown, from bus stops to burlesque shows. He's captured father and son musicians Jim and Luther Dickinson at work in Ardent studio and sketched high-profile trials like that of former state senator John Ford and Dr. George Nichopoulos, the rock-and-roll physician famously charged with over-prescribing medication to Elvis Presley.

"It really hit me that so many of the things I've drawn aren't there anymore," Foster says, lifting a sketch of the old Lichterman Nature Center cabin from a thick stack of posters, drawings, comics, and zines. "Everything I've drawn has burned down, or been torn down, or abandoned, or it's been turned into a pawn shop. We've lost a lot of unique and beautiful architecture, and it's been replaced with shoeboxes."

"Vanishing Memphis," which celebrates its opening on Friday at the Love Shack on Walnut Grove, probably won't include Foster's monorail fantasy. It will feature drawings of other nifty things that really were here but are now gone or forever altered, including the Lichterman cabin, the pie factory in Cooper-Young, and the Central Avenue ice factory.

Opening reception for Vanishing Memphis at the Love Shack (2886 Walnut Grove) Friday, April 12th, 6-9 p.m.

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