OMFA's Festival of Trees a 'grand tradition'

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | Colin Davis, left and Jaleel Parris work to decorate the Watermelon Christmas tree for the 43rd Annual Holiday Forest Festival of Trees Exhibit at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art.

Owensboro Museum of Fine Art Executive Director Mary Bryan Hood said the 43rd annual Festival of Trees is a "grand tradition for the community" with Glenmore Distillery sponsoring the event since its inception.

"They were our first corporate sponsors when we opened the museum," she said.

The Festival of Trees includes 18 decorated holiday trees interpreting the exhibition, "Art+Food+Health: At the Table with Joyce Garner." There's a watermelon tree, two pie trees and a tree decorated by the Owensboro Herb Society that features a plethora of fresh herbs and salad fixins'. The trees were all created by local artists, museum employees and area businesses.

Garner, a self-taught painter based out of Louisville, was born in Covington "with deeper roots in Laurel County," according to her biography. She and her daughter co-founded a gallery in Louisville called the Garner Narrative Contemporary Fine Art.

The exhibition includes 35 of her paintings that depict her self-described "allegory of people coming together around a table" and include "helpful figures of speech: get everyone together around the table, turn the table, wait on tables, get a seat at the table, set the table, put something on the table (or take it off), table it for now, no room at the table, under the table."

Some of the large paintings had to be brought into the OMFA rolled up and then stretched onto the wooden frames once inside of the museum because they are so large, Hood said.

Her artist statement goes on to describe her process for creating the works, in which she often begins by painting a big circle for the table, and some chairs -- empty.

"Then I get to seat a person," she said. "They might be young/old, shy/extrovert, sly/unknowing, a participant or a watcher or a witness, involved or oblivious or dreaming. I don't want realism in the faces but I do want expression that is readable."

All of this is done in order to depict complications of families through time, she said, as well as her wishes for the future.

"Emotional dialogues take place that are interactions not just within a family but with the history of the family, which includes society at large and our natural world," she said. "My intent for my work is that I love to sit in front of a piece in the mornings with a cup of hot tea in my hands, and let my mind go. I want art that gives me a place to go."

The exhibition will be open through Feb. 16, 2020.

The festival and exhibition will kick off with a preview gala from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the OMFA. It will feature holiday food as well as entertainment by the Louisville jazz group, The Greg Walker Trio. The event will also feature a group decorating project in which guests will help to create three miniature Christmas trees and will then be raffled off to one of the participants. Raffle tickets for that activity are $10 each, or free tickets will be given to those creating decorations for the trees.

Admission into the gala is $50 each, with discounts to $40 each for subscribers of the OMFA Friends of the Foundation. Reservations may be made by calling 270-685-3181 or by emailing

For more information visit

Bobbie Hayse,, 270-691-7315, Twitter: @BobbieHayseMI

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