Month: October 2014

Katy Grannan Opens Sherrick and Paul

Sherrick and Paul opens one week from today in Houston Station, the same building abrasiveMedia and Impact Hub call home. Among the ten painters and photographers featured in Susan Sherrick’s first exhibition is Katy Grannan, whose intimate portraits of strangers reveal the scant possibilities they find in life. The artist’s first feature-length film The Nine debuts this spring. From her website:

The Nine, Grannan’s first feature length film (release date Spring 2015) is an intimate portrait of a peripheral and charismatic community in the Central Valley that struggles to find meaning and moments of grace in a hostile environment.  Katy Grannan and Hannah Hughes spent three years on South Ninth Street (locally known as “The Nine”). The filmmakers’ lives intertwine with those of the original subjects of the film, resulting in a tender but conflicted look at the nature of the street and of the artists’ evolving and complex relationship to their subject.

The subject matter is tricky. Often, when artists make poor people the subjects of their work, it’s clear that they’re interested in the people aesthetically only, perhaps trying to “capture” something about the Other. A cover story in the Scene this year invited more than a few critical comments about Elise Tyler’s iPhone photographs of her neighbors in the Nations. There is something revealing in Grannan’s work that is goes beyond Tyler’s. It seems that her subjects relate to each other, not to her. It will be interesting to see Grannan’s work in the same show as Vivian Maier’s, whose dare-I-say-iconic street photos seem to pivot on anonymity rather than intimacy.

<p><a href=”″>The Nine (Trailer)</a> from <a href=””>Fraenkel Gallery</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Art of Expats Totally At Home in Nashville

The Expatriate Archive, Mohesein Gallery, Nashville.

The Expatriate Archive, Mohesein Gallery, Nashville. Ancestral Fish by Jairo Prado.

From the complex, structural gymnastics of Julio Cortazar to the stark, poetic realism of Robert Bolano, the sheer range of Latin American literature has always left me feeling like I’ve only scraped the surface.  This is just how I felt leaving The Expatriate Archive, a show featuring seven artists at Mohsenin Gallery through November 21. Sara Lee Burd makes her curatorial debut with a show so comprehensive, it’s hard to believe it’s her first time. Burd focused on artists living in Nashville who hail from Central and South America, a cast with which she’s familiar. The Nashville Art‘s executive-editor wrote her master’s thesis on Latin American art, even though Vanderbilt didn’t even offer a survey course. Born in Columbia and raised in Georgia, Burd knows what it’s like to call more than one place home.

The title Expatriate Archive lends itself to many contexts, one for me being the Latin American writers I revere who went to  Paris and Barcelona to write, although they were still obsessed with home. You see that in the work of these artists, such as in Liliana Velez’s Palenqueras that seethe with warmth. Palenqueras are women who don fruit baskets on their heads, specific to a village called Palenque de San Basilio, southeast of Cartegena in northern Columbia. The people of this village are Afro-Columbian, descendants of slaves bought by the Spanish, and they have continued to cultivate their African heritage over the past four centuries. In her artist statement, Velez writes, “I grew up in a Catholic context in Colombia, surrounded by danger and violence; feelings, thoughts, fears and mistakes were expected to be secret.” In contrast, the three Palenqueras on view show a refreshing openness, inviting viewers to share in their bounty. I learned from Burd that Velez is a completely self-taught painter, which adds to the wonder of her work.

Liliana Velez. Palenquera 4. Gold leaf and oil on canvas.

Liliana Velez. Palenquera 4. Gold leaf and oil on canvas.

Liliana Velez. Palenqueras. Gold leaf and oil on canvas . On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Liliana Velez. Palenqueras. Gold leaf and oil on canvas . On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

As someone who benefits from a lot of context, I always appreciate seeing several works by an artist, and have trouble connecting with one or two alone. Burd’s decision to show many works by Nashville favorite Jorge Mendoza jived well for me, connecting his abstract paintings with his Quipus works on handmade paper. Mendoza’s work alights something old and dear in the imagination. It’s like going back to a very familiar but nearly forgotten story.

Work by Jorge Mendoza at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Work by Jorge Mendoza at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Prints by Jorge Mendoza, Ancestral Fish by Jairo Prado. At Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Prints by Jorge Mendoza, Ancestral Fish by Jairo Prado. At Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.


By Jorge Mendoza. At Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Much like a Garcia Marquez novel, Jorge Yances‘ work seemed the natural favorite. At the opening, the crowd lingered at his paintings of 16th and 17th century buildings, or rather, of their walls. Yances is the Expat artist who seems most steeped in literary tradition. He’s a self-described magical realist, and gallery-goers picked up on this, inspecting his wall paintings for emerging faces and shapes. They found many, and although the forms take on a life of their own, they’re almost magically contained in Yances’ canvases, breathing on the gallery walls.

Jorges Yances, on view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Jorge Yances. On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Jorge Yances. On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Jorge Yances. On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Being a bit more interested in the subversive, I admired Clorinda Chávez Galdós Bell‘s meticulous religious paintings because she is exceptionally skilled, but they didn’t excite me conceptually. Photographer Juan Pont Lezica is on to something with his works that recast famous masterworks with models and actors. While the effects are surreal, I kept returning to them, aching for one to subvert the masters a bit more subversively. Nonetheless, in his frame, the timeless meets the timely, which is always interesting. Jairo Prado‘s Ancestral Fish is constructed from wood, showing his artisan sensibilities. Yuri Figueroa‘s One Line Drawings and paintings are the tip of the iceberg for this artist. His work that includes revolvers, skulls, and daisies is worthy of further investigation.


Juan Pont Lezica. On view at Mohsesin Gallery, Nashville.

Yuri Figueroa's One Line Drawings. On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Yuri Figueroa’s One Line Drawings. On view at Mohsenin Gallery, Nashville.

Of the many things this show accomplishes, Expatriate Archive shows us that there is no single Latin American artistic aesthetic, just as there is no single Latin American novel. But these seven are living and working in Nashville, and I’d be fascinated to know what brought them here and how their work is dually informed by their cultural history and their Music City present. Before you pull out your worn copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, stop by Mohsenin Gallery and take a look. You’ll leave wanting to chart new territory.

Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone) at the Parthenon

FLEX_Cormaci1We don’t think about it much, but the goods we use have been transported great distances by machines operated by people — the screen that meets your focus, the coffee in your cup, the gasoline in your car. When performance artist Nicole Cormaci found herself traveling from British Columbia to Indiana regularly, she became empathetic to the physical effects of the long haul, spurring her social practice work Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone).

The work debuted in September at the Parthenon Museum as part of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, an evolving social practice work curated by Adrienne Outlaw that addresses all matters of personal upkeep: physical, emotional, and spiritual, and invites participants to consider the social ramifications when we take personal responsibility. Cormaci’s piece offers a new element to the mix, applying the ancient, specific knowledge of yoga practitioners to the sedentary practice of operating trains, planes, and automobiles. It’s not just for transportation folks though. In our screen-based world, many of us find ourselves sitting for long stretches, only to find our bodies cramped and knees aching long after we unwind. For truckers, the damage is lasting: hip, back, and knee issues can permanently damage posture, making mobility difficult and painful. Yoga for Truckers investigates whether yoga can correct some of the damage that’s been done.

When the work debuted in September, local yoga instructor Amanda Wentworth led trucker Lonnie Keller in a sequence of yoga poses that can be practiced while driving. They’ll continue that work this week — in the cab of a tractor trailer in Centennial Park. Wentworth will lead a free community yoga class that builds on these sequences on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1:30-2:30.

Much of Cormaci’s work is site specific, and Centennial Park is an interesting place for a work that revolves around transportation, considering that it was largely financed by railroad companies in celebration the 100 year anniversary of Tennessee’s ratification into the Union. The train is the predecessor of the trucking industry, and Cormaci’s work as whole asks us to consider the people who move things across the country, while we reflect on our own postures as we move through the world.

Subversively Spooky at Threesquared

Sara Estes of Threesquared is fast becoming my favorite Nashville curator, due in part to her eye for subversive work by women who have not exhausted topics like sexual representation, domesticity, and power dynamics. Last night, a solo show by Jessica Wohl opened in the Chestnut Square gallery, a lineup of collages that are equal parts seductive and sinister. Wohl calls them her “army,” and they’re presented as just that: a line of infantrymen–or women–or just limbs…you decide.

Jessica Wohl. The Rattler, 2014. Collage, 12 by 14 inches.

Jessica Wohl. The Rattler, 2014. Collage, 12 by 14 inches.

Jessica Wohl. Snip or Stab? Collage, 9 by 11 inches.

Jessica Wohl. Snip or Stab? Collage, 9 by 11 inches.

Wohl’s work is spooky-good. These collages join fingers and legs with products of domesticity, like afghans, teaspoons, chairs, and pearls, and most creations have a weapon: a butcher knife, a pair of pliers, a serving fork. The figures that result are both docile and threatening, an intense amalgamation of sexualized magazine ads (polished fingernails, stiletto heels, sculpted legs) and symbols of housewifery (measuring cups, throw pillows, dish towels).  The name of the series, Matriarchs, endows Wohl’s tribe with power, exploiting the illusory “norm” found in beauty and homemaking magazines. It’s clear that Wohl delights in our discomfort, and that’s just the beginning.

Jessica Wohl's Matriarchs at Threesquared Gallery.

Jessica Wohl’s Matriarchs at Threesquared Gallery.

Jessica Wohl's Matriarchs at Threesquared Gallery.

Jessica Wohl’s Matriarchs at Threesquared Gallery.

Although these weren’t in the Matriarchs lineup, her Sewn Drawings are remarkable. Wohl takes found photographs–portraits, especially Olan Mills-style family ones–and sews right into them, obscuring features, faces, or in some cases, everything but an open mouth or pair of eyes. Estes discovered Wohl’s work because her former roommate, writer Veronica Kavass, owned one of these. If I’m getting the story right, Estes was spooked by it at first, but slowly fell in love with the piece. Can you blame her?

Jessica Wohl. The White Family, 2011. Embroidery on found photograph, 8 by 10 inches.

Jessica Wohl. The White Family, 2011. Embroidery on found photograph, 8 by 10 inches.

Jessica Wohl. Masked, 2011. Embroidery on found photograph, 8 by 11 inches.

Jessica Wohl. Masked, 2011. Embroidery on found photograph, 8 by 11 inches.

The future of Chestnut Square always seems in flux, perhaps more than ever right now. Whatever becomes of the old hosiery mill, I hope Estes will continue to bring richly subversive work to Nashville. Catch the show at this Saturday’s art crawl.

Dear White People and Post-Screening Convo with Director

When I see white people flaunting their privilege and denying racism, it’s a like a bad car wreck–I can’t look away, and I can’t keep my mouth shut. That’s how I ended up cross stitching KLINGON furiously in an effort to blow off steam after engaging in a Facebook debate with a white Republican about an article: “How Not to Wear a Racist Halloween Costume This Year: A Simple Guide for White People.” The very first, ill fated comment was this: “good thing only white people are racist. and nobody else in the world of the many many many ethnicities is racist against any of the others” [sic]. One-hundred and eight comments later, things had gotten ugly enough for me to place a one-day moratorium on my use of the social network.

I see great danger when people deny the systemic, institutionalized forms of racism and insist, like this person did, that “anyone who believes a race has supremacy is beyond ignorant. power and prejudice exist all over the world” [sic.] He stuck to his guns for 24 hours, which I’d normally say is respectable. Not so in this case.

The insistence that if we all treat our neighbors equally, the world will be a better place is naive and grandiose, and it denies that the scales are tipped within institutions like schools, in the criminal justice system, even in the arts. This is week in Nashville and all over the country, Dear White People, a film by Justin Simien, premiers. It’s “a satire about being a black face in a white place,” but hopefully one with bite. It’s the winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent and screened at screened at MOMA’s prestigious New Directors/New Films series.

The Belcourt will host two post-screening discussions:

On Fri, Oct 24, after the 7:55pm screening of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, a discussion will be held with director Justin Simien (via Skype). Moderated by Jonathan Waters, senior lecturer, Vanderbilt University's cinema and media arts program.
On Sun, Oct 26, after the 10:30pm screening of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, a discussion will be held with Dr. Frank Dobson, director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University.

This is great news, and I’m delighted that the Belcourt is doing its part in promoting dialogue around race. A bonus: the film looks to be very funny. Check out this preview and more like it.

Call for Artists and Crafty People

A couple Tuesday morning (err…afternoon) announcements:

Ground Floor Gallery has issued a call for artists for a juried show! If you haven’t been by, Ground Floor moved out of Chestnut Square and opened a new, huge space on 4th Ave. that houses eight artists. The deadline is November 5 so get crackin’. gfg call

Local artist Courtney Adair Johnson has been busy! She’s showing in Laura Huston and Jodi Hays’ exhibition of textile art, Selvage, she’s curating a book art show called Paper, Thread, Trash at the Downtown Public Library in December, and she’s teaching a class on making paper flowers from recycled materials on October 25. All of Johnson’s artwork is made from reuse objects. Contact her to sign up for the class at flower techniques

Textile Art Hits Nashville


Graphic by Elizabeth Orr Jones.

Coming up: a textile art show to blow the roof off your cross stitch circle. Selvage premiers at TSU’s Hiram van Gordon Memorial Gallery Thursday from 6-8 for a hearty opening. The curators are top notch: Laura Hutson, former New Yorker and the Scene’s arts editor joins forces with painter Jodi Hays. This show will offer an in-depth look at the versatility of textiles and elevate the homespun to top tier works worthy of investigation.

The show will feature roughly 30 works by 10 artists including Courtney Adair Johnson, Jovencio de la Pax, Brandon Donahue, Jodi Hays, Aimee Miller, Louis Schmidt, Shannon Lucy, Maggie Haas, Alex Blau, and Gabriel Pionkowski. Courtney Adair Johnson seems to be everywhere lately, and I’m psyched to see her installation.

The show will run through November 21, but some of the artists are sure to be at the opening Thursday, so I’d bet on heading over then and returning for repeated viewings.

The gallery is located at Elliot Hall Women’s Building on TSU’s campus. Here’s a campus map so that you find your way.

Gallery view of Selvage, on view at TSU Hiram van Gordon Memorial Gallery, Oct. 23- Nov. 21.

Gallery view of Selvage, on view at TSU Hiram van Gordon Memorial Gallery, Oct. 23- Nov. 21.



Skeleton Twins Shines at Belcourt

The Skeleton Twins, now playing at the Belcourt, does what so many productions aspire to: it captures the tender, difficult love of siblings without veering into hackneyed territory. Here’s the skeleton plot: Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) haven’t communicated in ten years and are both just barely holding on to any semblance of a will to live. One of them loses it before the other, and they’re reunited in their hometown, where Maggie lives with her bro husband Lance (played hilariously by Luke Wilson). They revisit old issues, as siblings are wont to do, but withhold the crazy explosive episodes until they’re earned, and the details of their pasts are revealed incrementally but naturally. Maggie is living what looks to be the perfect life: a hardworking, doting husband, a beautiful house, a steady job, time to pursue scuba diving and french cooking classes, and they’re trying to have a baby. But off the bat, we know she’s unhappy, and the sudden presence of her falling-apart brother seems to push her into confrontation with the person she loathes the most: herself.

The action of the film is punctuated by silent flashbacks of the twins as children (Maggie putting lipstick on Milo, Maggie holding her breath under water). These feel a tiny bit ham fisted in the end, but overall, they’re done elegantly and serve to remind us of how simple relationships are when we’re kids, before we begin to, as Maggie says, walk through life trying not to be disappointed. Sound familiar? Written by Craig Johnson in what looks like his breakout script, the dialogue is by turns wry and moving, but always surprising.

For me, the film is a candid study of siblings. Maggie and Milo have decades of blame and resentment damming them up, but there’s also a desperate desire to be understood and recognized by the other. They’re so equally flawed and equally unwilling to own up to their shit that I didn’t want to take sides. I was pulling for both of them, and maybe it’s because Hader and Wiig complement each other so well. The former SNL costars are neck-to-neck in ability, pulling off a solidly wonderful joint performance. Perhaps only these two can enact a dramatic lip synching of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” that manages to be corny only in that it’s hilarious and touching and perfect.

Check out this quick interview with them from Rotten Tomatoes. Then get to the next showing.

My Agita: Maiden Voyage

A woman wonders what changing her name will do to her identity.

At my friend’s wedding, my boyfriend asked me if the bride was taking her new husband’s name. She was, and I had mixed feelings about it. I scoffed and made a comment about ownership and Puritanical customs. Tony, my boyfriend, said, “Maybe when we get married, I can take your name.”

My heart soared, and for the first time in my life, I thought a happy ending romance was possible for me. This was a game changer. Read on in Nashville Scene’s Vodka Yonic.

Outlaw’s MeetUp Makes Players Consider What Moves Us

“It’s behind the tree!” the the boy yelled. “It’s right there!” He and his brother were in jail again, and their mom was busy guarding their flag on the other side. But they wouldn’t be there for long. A woman sprinted across enemy lines, tagging them free, and the trio jogged back to their territory, their arms stretched high in triumph.

FLEX-AO-JuneOn a Sunday in October, artist Adrienne Outlaw organized a game of Capture the Flag that allowed children to be models of wellness. Capture the Flag requires team members to communicate and strategize and rewards different levels of athleticism and skill. Players found themselves conversing more with the people they didn’t know than those they did, and adults relied on the speed and gall of children to race to the opponent’s side and capture the flag, their pursuit of fun guiding them every step of the way. The game quickly became an exercise in community bonding as much as physical resilience, and players enjoyed an emotional and spiritual workout to boot.

The game was the latest in Outlaw’s social practice work MeetUp, which invites us to consider the ways we exercise health and harmony with each other. At the core of the piece is the concept that individual responsibility can cause a sea change. A subtle shift in our lifestyle choices–honoring ourselves and bodies, valuing the food that we eat, and celebrating movement–can effect change around us, rippling out to transform our society at large.

MeetUp events have participants considering what we hunger for and why we move. We eat for sustenance and to commune with those we love. Sometimes, we eat to feed something that food alone will not satisfy. We engage in fitness practices to live longer, to look better, to socialize. We exercise to feel good, to beat back stress and keep emotional exhaustion at bay. Sometimes, we exercise to gain entry into an exclusive club of fit people. The deluge of media attention on fitness and the emotional gymnastics of well being are enough to cloud our intentions. By getting out of the gym and onto the field, MeetUp players became willing participants in a workout that left them sore but emotionally nourished.

Like all of Outlaw’s MeetUp events, Capture the Flag has an aesthetic component. The game itself was captured by photo and video and will be displayed as part of Outlaw’s video installation project, on view in the Parthenon through January. MeetUp acts as the capstone of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, an evolving exhibition in the Parthenon Museum and on Centennial Park grounds that engages multiple artists with Nashvillians and addresses health, harmony, and wellness on a community level.

True to her oeuvre, Outlaw’s MeetUp underlines what really feeds us–communion with each other, the unity of purposeful action, and the benefits of being present for what moves us.