A Carroll County artist painted one of the ornaments for the Christmas tree that stood in the Tennessee residence of Gov. Bill Lee and his wife, Maria Lee, this year.
Paige Fisher Espey of Huntingdon used her artistic talent to paint Carroll County’s official ornament. Each of the state’s counties had a handpainted ornament on the tree.
She explained that Carroll County is an area of Tennessee that is sprinkled with farmland.
“I enjoy the open fields because it makes it easier to see the sky…and in return, rainbows that are emphasized in the painting on the ornament.”
Her husband, Will Espey, is a cotton farmer in Carroll County, and his father and mother, Allen and Jennifer Espey, own a cotton gin.
“This may have something to do with my seeing so many rainbows after my brother passed away,” she said. “Farmers definitely have a habit of “keeping an eye on the sky”… and if my husband ever sees a rainbow, he always texts me to tell me to go outside and look up.
”She says she uses her artwork as a creative outlet to express the contradicting emotions that she personally experienced during the loss of her brother, Will Fisher.
“My work explores the parallels between the painting process and the grieving process, as both are inconsistent and extremely messy,” she said. “Both require a lot of attention while also allowing freedom for growth. My paintings exude joy while the juxtaposition of black and white represents the up and down pattern of feeling experienced in the midst of heartache.”
In the month Paige’s brother passed away, she saw 15 rainbows, with one appearing directly over the funeral home after his burial.
“On the darkest days of my life, these rainbows somehow bring me a peace that I cannot explain,” said Paige. “In my paintings, I use acrylic paints, oil pastels, ink pen, watercolors, and soft pastels layered on top of acrylic adhesive to create an abstract image that triggers positive emotions. The rainbows often rest on top of a darker, looming background, with the bright colors remaining the main focus. Marks of darker oil pastels are layered on top of the colors to suggest that the pain which accompanies loss never fully disappears, yet it dissipates over time.”
She says In the way that rainbows are formed after darkness and rain, the concept behind her rainbow paintings was born after incomparable loss.
“The paintings serve as a reminder that because of death, we have life,” she said. “They serve as a symbol of joy and hope because there are brighter days coming, if we can change our perspective.”
She mentioned that she enjoys the acrylic and pastel mediums, as they allow layering without the fear of error. I
“If I make a mark I do not like, I can simply cover it up with a different color or texture,” she said. “I don’t have too many rules to follow, which is calming. I find great peace painting in our backyard shed that we converted into my home studio. The space is bright, healing and inspiring.“
She says the intention behind her work is to influence the way people view grief and to encourage positive action after loss.
Paige grew up in Union City and attended Union City High School. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
After her graduate school comprehensive exams, Paige needed a creative outlet. It was in 2016 that she started painting and selling watercolor cards as a hobby. Her paintings have developed more depth and meaning over the past few years, allowing her to paint on a part-time basis, instead of just on the nights and weekends. She still enjoys working with children and adults with special needs when she can.
Paige currently resides in Huntingdon with her husband, and baby son, three dogs, one cat, and five chickens. She says that living in a rural area helps keep her mind focused on her work. In her free time she likes to thrift shop and sell vintage items though her small business, Little Yellow Door.