A little Southern love

Wednesday August 10, 2016 06:30 pm EDT

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Moving is a sure way to shoot down nostalgia road, but for artist Kyle Brooks, it led to a much larger discovery than embarrassing photos. While packing up his Southeast Atlanta home, the folk artist better known as BlackCatTips rediscovered his grandfather’s old journals. Brooks kept them in a box since his pop’s passing in 2008 but never actually sat down and read through them until a recent move. Brooks unearthed moleskine-type journals with yellowing pages and Almanac-esque notes about the weather. “He had funny little handwriting but it was all very organized,” Brooks says.

Literal pages from these found books propel a new BlackCatTips show, Just South of Love, an ode to his grandfather.

“My pop would always send me letters in the mail,” Brook says. “He had sent me a Valentine’s card. He would always draw this little bird. That's about all I ever saw him draw. And then the phrase ‘Just South of Love’ was written on the Valentine's card. It was a take on a local car dealer TV commercial from Stone Mountain Toyota. They would say, ‘Just south of high prices.’ We always made fun of local commercials.”

For Just South of Love, Brooks pulls specifically from his grandfather’s weather-themed journals.

“He sat by himself at the square kitchen table after my grandmother had passed away and would watch the TV and write down the temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc.,” Brooks says. “He would also note things like storms, as well as plant and nature notes — for example, when the hummingbirds arrived every spring. I found that interesting.”

But those weathered journals have more than just temperature stats, as Brooks came to find. His pop had also left short, funny love notes in the margins of the journals, all for his then-deceased wife. “The funny notes were little sayings that were remarkably similar to my street poems,” Brooks says of his surprise as he had never seen them before. “I was dumbstruck.”

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The show includes old and new pieces to be installed together in the newly renovated Art Institute of Atlanta gallery space, with many highlighting their almost identical funny sayings, according to Brooks.

Brooks says he finds the show cathartic. He’s moved to the magical area of Arabia Mountain and is still recovering from the draining process. But with moving comes a new art studio and Brooks says he has already broken it in by working on art for the show.

“Moving takes a certain toll on mind and body,” Brooks says. “Growth, I find, is sometimes painful, but needed. My new space to work and live and the freedom I have here will in time help me blossom further into my creative spirit.”

In the end, Brooks hopes attendees laugh and find joy when they come to the show, just as much as he did when working on it.

“He was quite the character and made a lot of people laugh,” Brooks says. “I think his spirit for funny strangeness and quirkiness flowed through to me.”

Just South of Love. Opening reception: Sat., Aug. 13, 6-10 p.m. Runs through Sept. 17. The Art Institute of Atlanta, 6600 Peachtree Dunwoody Road. 770-394-8300. www.artinstitutes.edu/atlanta.''

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