Art » Art Feature

Artists on their Dream Space, Part 2



In July, we asked local artists Lester Merriweather, Joel Parsons, and Mary Jo Karimnia what their dream art space might look like. By "dream art space" we meant either a space where art is created or a space where it is shown, or both. Merriweather, Parsons, and Karimnia came up with answers that were practical (it would have funding but no carpet) and fanciful (it could be "a place to day drink"; it could involve trips to Iceland). 

This week, we posed the same question — What is your ideal art space, for your own work or for Memphis? — to photographer and teacher Haley Morris-Cafiero and painter Melissa Dunn. 

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of artist profiles inspired by Meghan Vaziri's portraits. See more of Vaziri's work at

MCA’s Haley Morris-Cafiero
  • MCA’s Haley Morris-Cafiero

Haley Morris-Cafiero: 

A dream space for making work would need to be large enough to hold my stuff but not large enough to allow me to be one of the stars on a hoarding TV show. I would also need a space that blocks out all of the sun as I make daguerreotypes and wet plate collodion pieces that require controlled light. Also, I would never get anything done if I could look out the window and find shapes in the clouds.

I am drawn to exhibition spaces that allow for traditional exhibitions and more experimental installations in the same building. The most memorable galleries that I have visited were successful at both, and it was phenomenal. Excellent lighting and lighting control is essential to any exhibition space.

Morris-Cafiero is the photographer behind the provocative "Wait Watchers" show. The Magenta Foundation will publish a book of Morris-Cafiero's work in fall 2015. She is the head of the photography department at Memphis College of Art.

Melissa Dunn: 

I look for a shift — the need to stop and be with art. This pause can happen in a nook like TOPS Gallery, a "proper" white cube gallery, a museum, someone's house, a coffee shop, or on the street. 

On the route to my house I find myself at the light on the corner of Lamar and McLean almost every day. There, on a beige billboard, someone painted a huge smiley face with the phrase "NOBODY KNOWS" underneath. In those moments of waiting I notice how this strange and poignant tag changes with different light at different times of the day. Would it have the same impact in a different space?

For Memphis, the ideal lies in having access to a variety of spaces — commercial galleries, alternative spaces, university and college galleries, and museums. 

The glaring omission in the Memphis art landscape is a contemporary art museum. Granted, contemporary art is thankfully being curated at the University of Memphis, Rhodes, Memphis College of Art, at some galleries, and a bit at the Brooks, but Memphis needs a museum dedicated to art being made right now from around the world.  To fully experience this I have to travel, and that's not ideal at all.

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