It’s been pretty clear over the last few weeks that Nashville’s artists and curators are aiming their creative efforts toward the avalanche of social issues proliferating our times. There have been the fundamental inequalities laid bare by the death of George Floyd and emphasized in protests and activism across the country, the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus, the damage wrought by local tornadoes less than six months ago, a tense political climate punctuated by the upcoming presidential election and more.
Putting these issues on display, local galleries have exhibited Marbles by Lorenzo Swinton at DBOGallery, Tribute To George Floyd by Ashley Doggett at David Lusk Gallery and The Survivor by Eleanor Taylor at Frist Art Museum, just to name a few.
And now, Red Arrow Gallery is hosting “Breathless,” an exhibition of work from 15 artists that emphasizes the broad range of creative interpretations being applies to current events all in one show. The name is derived from a common feeling generated by this unique place and time.
“Since early March 2020, the state of the world has changed, and our lives have been altered forever,” the gallery explained in a release. “‘Breathless’ is a group exhibition featuring new work created at the beginning of March through present. Influenced by the March 3 tornado. Influenced by the pandemic induced quarantines we’ve experienced over the last five months. Influenced by the racial divide, injustice and protest movement that is at the center of our current political and social environment.”
Exhibited artists include Nuveen Barwari, Bethany Carlson Coffin, Paul Collins, Lindsy Davis, Amy Dean, Marlos E’van, Jodi Hays, John Paul Kesling, Marcus Maddox, Joe Nolan, Dax Van Aalten, Tara Walters, Ripley Whiteside, Christopher Wormald and Desmond Lewis. Exhibited works include photographs of local protests, portraits of political figures and mixed media representations.
Lewis’s piece, Lil Ratchet: Tryin’ To Ride Up, hangs from the ceiling of Red Arrow as an installation — a single-wheeled BMX bike suspended with a ratchet strap. Among the recent local artistic commentaries on current events, it stands out for its use of found objects and three-dimensional attention. Visitors may also be struck by the hopelessness it evokes, which draws a parallel between the challenges faced by those attempting to lift themselves through a rigged system, and the inherent futility of a bike with one wheel and a flat tire.
As for people of color who live under an unequal social system, or victims of a tornado who are then quickly buffeted by an international pandemic, it’s more than just difficult to lift yourself up when you don’t have the necessary tools or circumstances — it’s nearly impossible.
Lewis received his master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Memphis. He has participating in residencies at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Skowhegan School of Painting, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and others. His work has been collected at the Carolina Bronze Sculpture Park, Vermont Carving and Sculpture Center, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and elsewhere.
The Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville.