Exhibit at Wild Goose celebrates the great Dolly Parton

“You don’t know what he means to me, Jolene,” Dolly Parton sings on her beautiful and haunting 1973 hit, “Jolene.” Local artists Jen Wrubleski and Garrison Latimer have undertaken to demonstrate to the country singer/songwriter how much she means to them and, by extension, so many others. 

“Diamond in a Rhinestone World: A Dolly Parton Art Show” is a group show curated by Wrubleski and Latimer to pay tribute to the Smoky Mountain Songbird. The exhibition was conceived during a conversation between the curators during which each professed their respect and admiration for Parton.

“I get this sort of post-partum thing when a show ends. After a show I did last year, I just blasted all of my Dolly Parton records and sobbed and was feeling all the feels,” Wrubleski said in a December interview outside her Blockfort studio.

“I like a lot of her music, but more so it’s just her. I’m from the South and my sister lives in Knoxville, where [Parton] started the Imagination Library program (which will mail one new, age-appropriate book each month to any Knox County child from birth until age 5 at no cost to the family),” Latimer said. “My niece and nephew know Dolly as the person who gives books to children.”

As the conversation meandered from the economic impact of Dollywood on its region of Tennessee to Parton’s support of families who lost their homes in the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfire, it became clear that neither Latimer nor Wrubleski was messing around with this “respect Dolly as a person” stuff just to cover an unhealthy fandom for her music. Indeed, because Parton is both an icon of queer culture and associated with youth literacy, the curators have chosen to donate a portion of all art sales to Kaleidoscope Youth Center. 

“She’s a positive person and a great role model for anyone who wants to look how they want and be like they want, and to do it with dignity,” Wrubleski said. “She’s loud and showy, but she’s also earnest and honest. That can give people hope.” 

“The world can be pretty gray. Let’s make it shiny,” she added. 

In addition to the opening reception on Saturday, Jan. 5, a “Happy Birthday, Dolly” dance party will be held from 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19. The evening will include Parton-themed music and drag performances, a DJ and a costume contest. 

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Wild Goose Creative

Reception 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5

2491 Summit St., North Campus

wildgoosecreative.com