The Art of Tailgating
By Pamela A. Keene | Photography courteys of Kathy Miller and Susan Scarborough
Tennessee graduate pays homage to all the SEC teams with her game day art series, ‘Tailgating Through the South.’
If you visit Florida artist Kathy Miller’s home, you might think she couldn’t make up her mind which SEC football team was her favorite. After all, her den walls are hung with colorful original montage paintings that represent football Saturdays at all 14 of the Southeastern Conference Football universities.
“It’s true that my football loyalties could appear to be uncertain if you try to make a quick assessment of my favorite team based on my ‘Tailgating Through the South’ series of paintings,” says the graduate of the University of Tennessee who studied textiles and clothing/merchandising. “Yes, Tennessee is my alma mater, my daughter and son are Florida Gators, and we’ve always traveled to away games, so I got to know all the SEC teams and schools.”
Miller introduced the series in 2013, her first highlighting The University of Tennessee. Each original painting is 24 inches by 30 inches. Although all the originals are not for sale — they hang in her den — she has released a limited-edition series of 11- by 14-inch premium-quality poster prints. She also offers full-sized giclee prints on canvas.
“I’d go to games and take thousands of photos of iconic campus scenes and compose the paintings,” she says. “Soon, I started a blog that included recipes from tailgate parties and celebrated each university’s favorites for game day, such as Vallagret cheese sliders and One-third, One-third, One-third slaw at Mississippi State; Shout Hallelujah potato salad and Doe’s Eat Place marinated shrimp enjoyed at Ole Miss; or muffuletta sliders and bacon-jalapeno duck poppers at LSU.”
Landmark Lee Hall dominates the “Tailgating at the Junction” scene at Mississippi State that features the Famous Maroon Marching Band’s drum line at a pre-game pep rally in Starkville. Beneath maroon-and-white tents, the school’s traditional cowbells are for sale along with the famous Edam cheese made and sold by the on-campus dairy.
“Tailgating in The Grove” at the University of Mississippi in Oxford is captured on canvas through distinctive red and blue tents in front of the Lyceum. The Southern elegance of game day at Ole Miss includes a crystal chandelier and fabric-draped food-laden tables. The campus’ red double-decker bus even makes an appearance.
University of Alabama’s “Tailgating on the Quad” pays homage to The President’s Mansion, one of the oldest buildings on the Tuscaloosa campus, and Denny Chimes bell tower. Set at The Quad with the stadium in the background, the scene’s red tomatoes and game-day Bloody Marys salute Crimson Red, Alabama’s signature color.
“Tailgating Under the Arch” features the famous University of Georgia Arch at North Campus and The Trestle, an old railroad trestle used for “Track People” tailgating before the stadium in Athens, Ga., was enclosed. Peaches, the Georgia state fruit, and a grand old red ’57 Chevy station wagon stand by for perfect tailgating.
Following a successful career with Proffitt’s Department Store in Knoxville, Miller, her husband Dave, their daughter, Elizabeth, and son, James, moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in 1994. Miller began painting and taking classes with abstract impressionist artist Ellen Diamond. After moving to Fernandina Beach, she continued to take classes.
“I found painting to be an excellent way to satisfy my need to be creative,” she says. “I found things to paint that are interesting to me and that I have a passion for. Plus, I’ve always loved football and parties, so it made sense to create the ‘Tailgating Through the South’ series.”
Working on the collection for three years she also expanded her subject matter, stretching her artistic development and style. She paints coastal landscapes from the Florida marshes to Maine, mountain scenes, still lifes, flowers, and table scenes.
While Kathy limited her paintings in the tailgate series to the 14 SEC teams, her online library of recipes extends farther, with recipes from 28 colleges and multiple conferences.
“After all, my husband Dave graduated from Duke, an ACC school, so I have to include the Blue Devils,” she says with a smile. “And you know, once I got started gathering tailgate recipes, it was difficult to know where to stop.”
In fact, during the COVID-19 quarantine, she expanded her recipes, sharing such dishes as orzo salad with cranberries and feta, and Cajun shrimp with cucumber and guacamole. She continues her blog, “The Art of Living,” writing about food, art, entertaining, and home and garden, as well as lifestyle issues.
“While my travel to the mountains, one of our favorite places, has been curtailed for a while, it certainly hasn’t stopped me from being creative,” Miller says. “I’m really enjoying capturing flowers and table settings on canvas and seeing where my art and creativity take me.”