by Stacey J. Smith, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
When Dr. Brenda Caldwell won a citywide art contest as a first grader at Vollentine Elementary School, she had no idea that it would propel her toward turning paper towels into transformative works of art.
Fast forward 40 years and Caldwell is an artist using paper towels as the main medium in designing pieces that help transform the hearts and minds of emotionally wounded individuals who need to discover their worth and value, despite their life experiences.
Fondly known as Dr. B., she says her artwork is influenced by her faith and deep desire to bring hope, healing and inspiration to others. A visionary artist, she is also a self-described “Hopeologist.” She believes her art serves a purpose in people’s lives.
Her exhibit, From Bounty Pieces to Masterpieces, has been on display at the Goodwyn Gallery at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library for the month of September. Caldwell’s use of paper towels happened one day when she was wiping her hands after using strips of copy paper and dried paint to create a textured look. She realized the paper towels had a better thickness and her trademark technique was born.
For almost seven years, she has been creating art using paper towels. The self-proclaimed, Paper Towel Artist, calls her artwork, “three dimensional canvas sculptured art.”
“I was inspired to choose the name Paper Towel Artist after reading the story of Japanese artist, Chie Hitotsuyama, who creates fascinating life-size sculptures of animals out of old newspapers. Her story gave me the confidence to pursue establishing myself as the creator of 3-D canvas sculptured art using paper towels.”
Her art exhibit includes several animals, a guitar and clothing – all made from paper towels.
Caldwell held her first art auction in 2015 at the Midtown Art District. Then of her original pieces sold in less than an hour. The prices range from $1,500 to $4,000. She donates some of her artwork for local fundraisers and has done several commissioned pieces. She will also duplicate some of her artwork, but it will still be custom designed to suit you.
This fall, Proctor & Gamble Company, the makers of Bounty paper towels, will feature her artwork on their social media platforms. Since she is receiving more exposure, Caldwell realizes she has to practice good time management to create new pieces and be available for interviews and presentations.
Caldwell hopes her artwork will minister to someone in a special way.
“I want people to feel inspired, empowered, strengthened, hopeful and above all, God’s love. Because my gift is that of encouragement and spreading hope, I see my paper towel art as symbolic of the correlation between my art process and my calling to inspire others to turn an ordinary life into an extraordinary life by being willing to be torn from negativity, soaked in positively and molded in creativity.”
Feedback from the exhibit that has been posted on social media include:
“Her artwork is a metaphor for her ministry because she takes something ordinary and turns it into something extraordinary, which is just what she does as she ministers to people to help turn an ordinary life into something extraordinary.”
The Rev. Kenneth Robinson, President/CEO United Way of the Mid-South
“Phenomenal, Amazing, Inspirational and Divine are a few words that describe the artwork of Dr. Brenda Caldwell. If you haven’t already, please stop by the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Library soon. I promise you that it shall be a life changing experience. Stop by and be blessed.”
– Teresa Cooper, program director for (SRVS) Shelby Residential Vocational Services
(If you miss Dr. Brenda Caldwell’s exhibit at the Central Library, it will be on display at the KROC Center of Memphis from Nov. 15 through January 7, 2019. For more information, visit www.brendacaldwellart.com.)