The Survivor by Eleanor Taylor

Art of the Week

Our current social climate may put stress on any one of us, but some populations are more acutely affected than others. The need for quarantine and social distance, for instance, impacts teenagers in particularly challenging ways — dramatically changing rites of passage like high school graduations, limiting in-person contact with peers and otherwise adding extra stressors at a point in life when determining your path and identity are already hard enough.

But in Frist Art Museum’s latest online exhibition, some local teens are turning these challenges into opportunities to create unique and captivating works of art. Frist is presenting the second edition of its “Teens Take The Frist!” showcase, with roughly 50 pieces of different media created by artists of ages 13 to 19 from Nashville’s surrounding counties. Coinciding with the spread of the novel coronavirus, the exhibition offers a critical opportunity for these young artists to express themselves and amplify their creative voices.

“With many schools shifting to online learning because of COVID-19 restrictions, art has become more important that ever as an avenue of communication and connection,” said Shaun Giles, the museum’s assistant director for community engagement and the exhibition’s curator, according to a press release. “The works in this exhibition provide a glimpse into the artists’ observations and what is important to them.”

The show is an all-too-rare chance to connect with the perspectives of emerging artists. And, with many of the exhibited pieces being created while these artists were in quarantine, it also offers a glimpse into how some members of this uniquely affected population are interpreting the world around them. The Survivor, an ink and acrylic drawing on newsprint by Eleanor Taylor, serves as a relatively direct commentary on the health crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into turmoil and uncertainty, affecting the lives of billions of people across the globe,” Taylor wrote in an artist’s statement shared by Frist. “And yet, hope remains. This piece shows the image of an old woman smiling over a COVID-19 newspaper article. It is a reminder to smile even during dark times.”

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Tribute To George Floyd by Ashley Doggett

Art of the Week

David Lusk Gallery is now hosting “HEED,” a new exhibition of four artists whose work is focused on the major challenges faced by our entire planet and everyone on it. The show will run through the month of August and exist primarily online, though there will be some work on display in its Nashville and Memphis locations. The gallery will also be making extra effort to provide context around the show and to fight some of the challenges that its participants highlight.

“Through social media, DLG will dedicate a week to each artist, using their platform to tell the story of their intention, background, trajectory and process,” the gallery wrote in a statement. “During August, DLG will donate 25 percent of sales from this exhibition to an organization of the artist’s choosing.”

Participating artists include Maysey Craddock, Leslie Holt, Rob Matthews and Ashley Doggett. Each creative brings their own style and subject matter to the fore, with each processing and presenting some of the most fundamental challenges we face in their own ways. For Doggett, that meant honoring a figure whose untimely death at the hands of police officers has ignited a wave of protests, reflections and demands for substantive change in systemic racism.

Her Tribute To George Floyd, rendered in purples and blues and illuminated by a saintly red halo, speaks to the martyrdom of his death, caused during an arrest where a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes. The tribute is a powerful example of the content and approach that Doggett is most known for.

“In direct conversation with contemporary art practices, Ashley Doggett explores themes of religion, race, gender and dissociation by citation of historical narratives,” David Lusk Gallery shared. “Her focus is America’s tragic legacy of white supremacy, slavery and the trauma that is often revised or erased by dominant historical narratives.”

By presenting a portrait of Floyd that casts him in a spiritual light, she is amplifying the empathetic interpretation of his death (and the larger struggle for equal treatment under the justice system) as well as recasting any lesser portrayals of him. Again, this presentation of the now iconic Floyd is emblematic of her larger mission as an artist.

“In her paintings, drawings and woodcuts that are primarily figurative works, she re-contextualizes racial stereotypes in an act of aesthetic protest,” per David Lusk Gallery. “Her reclaiming of these icons encourages reconsideration and engagement with these historic, yet systemic and recurring issues.”

Doggett holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Nashville’s Watkins College of Art. Her work has been exhibited throughout the country.

The David Lusk Gallery’s Nashville location is located at 516 Hagan Street in We-Ho.

Laminae by Kayla Rumpp

Art of the Week

Following a break from in-person exhibitions due to the novel coronavirus, during which it still hosted the online-only show “Pockets Of Real Passion,” Nashville’s Channel to Channel gallery has reopened with a solo show from Knoxville-based artist Kayla Rumpp.

To exhibition is titled “Betula” and features Rumpp’s signature three-dimensional pieces that defy the typical definitions of painting or sculpture. The brightly-colored work clings to the gallery walls, but through the use of form and material, breaks through the flat plain that typically constrains paintings.

“Rumpp creates work inspired by the relationship between paintings and sculpture with a childlike approach to ingenuity and invention,” according to a statement from the gallery. “Materials, color, texture, form and light all play key parts in the sensory experience created for the viewer. Conventional materials, such as wooden popsicle sticks, are reimagined in their use to create provoking, interactive works.”

Laminae, like other pieces in “Betula,” uses form and unique material to literally break free of the gallery wall and approach viewers.

This hybrid approach means that the exhibition’s individual pieces, like Laminae, engage with viewers in a unique and thought-provoking way, making for a dynamic experience that Rumpp hopes will grow with visitors.

“Color and soft texture embrace the sensory, providing the eye with a sense of touch, and an allure to move the hand closer. I am intrigued by the physical encounter a viewer might have when interacting with the work,” according to a statement from the artist. “My hope is to create an immersive work that confronts the viewer to experience the piece with an altered perception that is slowly formed and evolves in time with the piece.”

Though the show is scheduled to close on July 25, Rumpp’s work is sure to engage visitors who are able to see it in person or access the images online.

Rummp holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and Master of Science degree in art education from the University of Tennessee. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout Tennessee since 2015.

Channel to Channel is located at 507 Hagan Street in We-Ho.

Marbles by Lorenzo Swinton

Art of the Week

At a time when many artists are being called to depict some of the harshest realities our society is now living through, it can be difficult to find inspiration and hope among the resulting work. But, as always, some creatives have turned their eyes and skillsets toward the silver linings that shine through.

One example that very much addresses the unpleasant reality of the present, but with a hopeful bent to the future, is Marbles, an oil and charcoal piece by Lorenzo Swinton, currently on display at Clarksville’s DBO Gallery.

Marbles was the first piece in Swinton’s “Americana Series,” a study of race relations and police brutality in America. Like Marbles, the other works in the collection include bright coloring and featureless figures, but these also have identifiable scenes from historic civil rights moments, like the desegregation of public schools, or more literal depictions of police brutality and American militarism. Of the entire collection, Marbles may be the most allegorical piece, depicting not a historical moment or scene of action, but an uplifting interpretation of the innocence of children — two little girls of different races playing together, without prejudice or misconception.

“I was inspired to bring to the forefront particular perceptions and visuals of American history that were emotionally impactful, with the intent for viewers to contemplate on the many obstacles that were faced head on in the past, and to raise the question of how much progress has really been made throughout the decades,” Swinton explained to Art of Nashville. “I feel that Marbles opens up the conversation of racial biases as well as the suggestion that children are programmed to see race at an early age… Choosing marbles as the main focus was to bring an elevation of bold colors to the soft and harsh sfumato of the children, also to insinuate that in some irony ‘people have lost their marbles.'”

Swinton’s non-representative, softened technique lends itself inherently to the allegorical message behind the piece. It’s a powerful symbiosis that complements both his talent as an artist and the subject matter he hopes to tackle.

“He would say that the expressionism and influences from developing his paintings comes from personal, everyday life,” according to his artist statement. “As a result, Lorenzo continues to become more involved with the creation of abstract and contemporary paintings.”

For those who aren’t seeking an escape from the real world, but perhaps a new outlook on it, Marbles may offer the right perspective.

Swinton is originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and currently resides in Clarksville. He has been practicing art since he was six years old and his work has been displayed throughout Nashville and Clarksville.

DBOGallery’s Clarksville location is on 106 N. 2nd Street.

This Holding: Traces of Contact by Jana Harper

Art of the Week

Though the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought untold hardships to communities around the world, it has also proven the resilience of Nashville’s arts community. In response, artists throughout the area have created work that helps audiences process and confront this difficult time and curators and arts spaces have found creative ways to display it.

This is the story of The Holding: Traces of Contact, a dance and visual art piece by artist and Vanderbilt professor Jana Harper. Originally conceived as a live performance, the work has been rethought to convey its timely reflection on our responsibilities as global citizens in a prerecorded video, so that audiences can interact with it from their own homes.

Nashville’s OZ Arts performance and installation space is streaming The Holding: Traces of Contact on its website and social platforms until June 30, 2020.

When it became clear that OZ Arts could not premier the piece in person, Harper collaborated with videographer Sam Boyette to restructure the piece and ensure that it could still reach audiences, adding the subtitle “Traces of Contact.” In its adaptation and subject matter, the final piece reflects an interesting dynamic that is being woven into visual arts across the world: many artists are creating work that confronts their experiences with coronavirus in ways that are tailor made for the realities of consuming and contemplating art at this time.

“The piece reflects the restrictions and adaptations made necessary by the coronavirus, including dances without any physical contact,” OZ Arts explained in a statement. “All of the videos were shot outside and with sufficient space between the dancers, and if at any point the dancers do touch, they are performers who were already quarantined together. This piece encompasses many of the feelings people are experiencing throughout these days and is designed to foster empathy for the shared human experience.”

The piece features ten dancers and music by composer Moksha Sommer. It includes the use of multicolored ropes of fabric, which seem to represent the burdens we carry, our ties to each other and the boundaries imposed by social distancing guidelines.

“The project began with a simple question, ‘What are the burdens we carry?’,” said Harper in a statement for the piece’s program. “Without a doubt, the burden we are collectively experiencing right now is COVID-19. It has changed daily life for everyone and it caused us to transform our project… It also informed our creative process: it caused us to ask new questions about the rhythms of COVID life and what burden sharing looks like under these new circumstances.”

Though it unflinchingly addresses the weight of our burdens and difficulty this new normal presents, through the resilience of its production and uplifting nature of its composition, The Holding offers a reminder that we are not alone in our struggles.

Jana Harper is an associate professor of the practice at Vanderbilt University’s Department of Art. She has exhibited and curated work throughout the country.

OZ Arts Nashville is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.

Copper Lilliputian 25 by Rod Moorhead

Art of the Week

Among the small businesses that are adjusting to the new normal in Nashville and resuming business as part of the city’s second phase of reopening is Bennett Galleries, an art gallery and custom framing shop in Green Hills. Following a brief closure last month, it has returned to its regular hours and a full staff, giving patrons the chance to invest in unique pieces of art.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge for us as it has been for many small businesses,” the gallery said in a statement. “We were fortunate to be able to pay our entire staff while our doors were closed, and we took the down time to give the entire gallery and custom framing area a thorough cleaning… It was a tough couple of months, but art sales and custom framing projects have been steady since our re-open. We continue to remain compliant with the Phase 2 requirements for retail locations.”

That means Nashvillians can stop in and consider pieces like Rod Moorhead‘s Copper Lilliputian 25. The name of this 12-inch tall, pit-fired copper statue alludes to Lilliput, a fictional island in Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels inhabited by diminutive people. Though small in stature, the piece’s material and composition are significant and it is one in a series of similar figures set in various poses.

Moorhead is a sculptor based in Mississippi, where his work is displayed in prominent public installations.

“Among his public commissions are Concerto, a seventeen foot bronze of a violinist and cellist which stands in front of the Gertrude Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi, and a life-sized sculpture of James Meredith for the Civil Rights Memorial also at the University of Mississippi,” according to the gallery. “He has twice received Mississippi Arts Commission grants.”

Bennett Galleries is located at 2104 Crestmoor Road in Green Hills.

Basketball Bloom (Rawlings) by Brandon Donahue

Art of the Week

As many are hoping to prove in the face of a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest, beautiful things can emerge from whatever is encountered, given the right perspective and ingenuity.

Nashville’s David Lusk Gallery has assembled a group exhibition, “Tactile Response,” that is putting that hope into practice and setting an example for the rest of the world. It consists of work from six artists who have leveraged found material and a handcrafted approach. Materials transformed into pieces for the show range from reclaimed wood and steel to ceramic vases and crocheted yarn.

Featured artists include Maysey Craddock, Tim Crowder, Greely Myatt, Mary K. Van Gieson and Tad Lauritzen Wright. But the transformative beauty wrought by artistic ingenuity and applied skills is no more apparent in the show than through Brandon Donahue’s Basketball Bloom (Rawlings).

“Donahue collects repurposed everyday objects to create assemblages that break down the barriers between traditionally-defined high and low art forms,” explained the gallery in a release. “Comprised of found basketballs and shoelaces, Basketball Bloom (Rawlings) references the sacred geometry of a Mandala through materials loaded with communal history and shared experience.”

By arranging artfully dissected used basketballs into a spiritual bloom, Donahue has imbued the found objects with reverence in a way that should inspire us all to make the most of our surroundings. By elevating objects that are unique and worn with use, Basketball Bloom (Rawlings) may also provoke reflection about the power we impart on even the most everyday objects as we use them.

Donahue is originally from Memphis and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His work has been exhibited around the country, as well as in Cuba. He is inspired by street art, pop art and Arte Provera, an Italian contemporary art movement that emphasizes simple objects and the elevation of seemingly commonplace objects.

The David Lusk Gallery is located at 516 Hagan Street in WeHo.

My Existence Is Political by Beizar Aradini

Art of the Week

On August 18, 1920, the Tennessee House of Representatives narrowly passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting states and the federal government from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. As the 36th state to approve the amendment, this was the final vote necessary for the amendment to become law and for the long-fought women’s suffrage movement to finally affect national change.

One hundred years later, Nashville’s Frist Art Museum is hosting “We Count: First-Time Voters,” an online exhibition featuring the work of five local artists addressing the history and challenges of American voting, with a focus on the first voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashvillians. It is available on Frist’s website until the end of the year.

The selected artists — Beizar Aradini, M Kelley, Jerry Bedor Phillips, Thaxton Waters II and Donna Woodley — connected with people throughout the city to learn about their first voting experiences. Though it has been nearly a century since women won their battle for access to democracy in the U.S., many people in this country do not exercise this right today. Among all states, Tennessee ranks 49th in voter turnout and 45th in voter registration, according to a release from Frist.

“Some topics that emerged from the conversations were disenfranchisement, awareness of everyday inequities, the challenges of the immigration and citizenship process, and the restoration of voting rights,” Shaun Giles, the exhibition’s curator, said in the release. “The resulting works of art embody both individual and collective insights on civic engagement and responsibility, as well as the systemic hurdles that prevent people from participating in our democracy.”

What may be most striking and best conveyed through the creative results of these conversations is how, even 100 years after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, many citizens of the United States still struggle to participate in the country’s most critical practice. But this is often evoked through celebrations of the power that voting can imbue, as in My Existence Is Political by Beizar Aradini. This visual portrait, accompanied by an embroidered poem in both English and Albanian, celebrates the artist’s friend Drenusha Kolshi, whose family immigrated to America from Kosovo in 1999.

“My conversations with Drenusha inspired me to think about the ways in which individuals are identified with society,” Aradini explained in a statement for the exhibition. “In this work, I wanted to visually mimic an ID portrait… The poem, written by Drenusha herself, signifies the deeper personal lives that all people live — both immigrants and citizens.”

Pairing the portrait and poem together emphasizes the wealth of expression that American citizenship, at its best, can afford those who enjoy it. Through that lens, exercising the right to vote becomes a beautiful and unique proclamation.

Aradini is originally from Kurdistan and immigrated to Nashville with her family in 1992. Her work explores her family’s immigration story and the larger issues of cultural displacement and duality. Her pieces have been featured throughout the country.

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Hop Scotch by Omari Booker

Art of the Week

As gallery spaces and museums in Nashville have been forced to get creative about how they present visual art due to city-wide social distancing requirements, they’ve uncovered some approaches that are not merely substitutes for traditional in-person exhibitions, but are unique and valuable in their own right.

In that vein, Wedgewood-Houston’s Channel To Channel gallery is presenting an online-only show through the summer of 2020 called “Pockets of Real Passion.” The show features work from artists Eric Mack, Jessica Gatlin, Omari Booker, Ridge McLeod and Frances Berry hanging over Cutting Edge, a piece on the gallery wall by Dustin Hedrick.

“In place of Channel To Channel’s regular programming due to the pandemic, this show will be shown exclusively online and by appointment only,” the gallery indicated in an announcement. “‘Pockets of Real Passion’ includes artists who have a connection with the Southeast United States and integrate illustrative qualities to produce unique paintings. This show is an extension of Cutting Edge … which introduced red tape over light blue paint covering the walls and the floor of the gallery.”

Hop Scotch, by Nashville’s Omari Booker, is one such unique painting from the show. As part of Booker’s Red Line series, it incorporates red razor wire to recall the 1930s practice of red lining, in which the federal government created color-coded maps that delineated areas preferred for investment based on racial and ethnic populations, with areas considered less desirable due to the presence of non-white residents outlined in red.

“Booker explores this history both physically and metaphorically through the use of red razor wire, figures and color,” the gallery explained. “Of the series, the artist stated: ‘As [it] progressed, I investigated how division based on race has affected nearly ever aspect of society in the United States.'”

Booker is native to Nashville and serves as an art instructor at the University School of Nashville. His work has been featured in local shows for years, as well as exhibitions throughout the Southeast.

Channel to Channel is located at 507 Hagan Street in We-Ho.

Sweets for the Sweet by Martica Griffin

Art of the Week

An observation frequently made as a result of the isolation and stop to human activity imposed by the spread of the novel coronavirus is that “nature is healing.” Indeed, it’s hard to ignore that as spring blooms, natural splendor appears to be thriving despite — or because of — this global uncertainty.

Even more powerful is the fact that as the world’s natural elements flourish, they can bring some much needed positivity and optimism to us, even in hard times. Visual artists like Nashville’s Martica Griffin cannot help but be inspired by the world they see around them and, by interpreting it into their work, help us all see that the places we inhabit remain beautiful.

Despite the area’s recommended lockdown, Griffin has been regularly working on a series of paintings that capture the season’s blooms in her signature abstract style. They are each a standardized 18×24″, created with graphite, crayon, marker, oil and acrylic paints.

“Since early March I’ve created over 30 of these abstract botanicals inspired by trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers,” she told Art of Nashville. “I had a dozen or so out on my studio floor drying and they reminded me of a wide-open field filled with color.”

Griffin’s abstract approach lends itself well to the bright, energetic and untamed blooms of spring and Sweets for the Sweet is a particularly potent example from the series. Its balance of chaotic movement and controlled form, color palette and mix of media bring the explosion of life seen around us at this time of year onto the canvas. In addition to the technique, Griffin’s general approach to her work and goals for this series almost certainly added to these effects.

“I feel compelled to be working in the studio daily,” she said. “Finding ways to connect with others, now remotely, drives me. Bringing a smile, sense of peace or something new to the everyday is my motivation.”

Griffin is based in Nashville and focuses on non-representational and figurative work. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from East Carolina University and studied postgraduate painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Her work has been exhibited throughout Nashville for more than a decade.

More of Griffin’s work, including pieces from this series, can be found on her website and Instagram page.