Month: February 2015

Review: Alex Lockwood at Oz

Last night, I was cured of my cabin fever and its accompanying spaghetti-brain at Oz, where Alex Lockwood‘s enormous installation “Shake” opened as part of the Thursday Night Things series. They packed the house with patrons eager to play with Lockwood’s interactive sculptures. The Nashville artist and COOP member repurposes small, single-use items — bottle caps, bread tags, lottery scratch-offs — to create large and small-scale sculptures and figures. I am always a fan of good reuse art: when swinging around a human-sized sculpture made from thousands of bottle caps, it’s impossible not to think of my own consumption of Diet Root Beer or the fact that I still haven’t figured out how to recycle plastics in the city of Nashville. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one that endures.

Alex Lockwood's tapestry is culled from shotgun shells. On view at Oz Nashville through March 5.

Alex Lockwood’s tapestry is culled from shotgun shells. On view at Oz Nashville through March 5.


Two Shakers meet above a child at Alex Lockwood’s “Shake,” now showing at OZ.

Oz dimmed the lights in the 10,000 square foot theater and spotlighted each mega-sculpture. Several bottle cap wigs, I call them, or Shakers, Lockwood calls them, hung from the ceiling, and visitors were welcome to swing them around and crash them into one another. Lockwood laced wire through the bottle caps and looped them into bouquets of varying size and color, producing forms that could have been Muppet monsters. People pushed around Pilates balls (I’m guessing) covered in plastic lids, and clothed themselves in armor made from bread tags. The largest piece is a 25 foot tall tapestry made from thousands of multi-colored shotgun shells, and though it looked delicate, plenty of people pushed and pulled at it. It reminded me of El Anatsui’s tapestries (and ultimately that his are more impactful and conceptually solid.) The thing I liked most about the exhibition was the sounds. Although it was difficult to hear them over the screams of too many children, the plastics made a variety of delightful sounds as people interacted with them–whirrings and ribbings, clackings and clickings. Also, in a truly juvenile moment, I tried to stare down a red-haired kid who had been dominating the coolest Muppet wig monster for a full hour, but he continued to twirl it around and around as I boiled with a dull, self-deriding rage.

Lockwood Garden

Sculptures by Alex Lockwood, showing at Oz Nashville until March 5.

I actually preferred Lockwood’s smaller sculptures, a garden of oceanic plants and resplendent flowers. The sculptures, culled from discarded lottery scratch offs and other repurposed material and folded at sharp angles, mimic living organisms. Because Lockwood uses spirals and radial symmetry, some of them look for an instant like they’re moving — a sea anemone embracing its prey, a many petaled tulip yawning as the sun goes down.

While I admire Lockwood’s work for the reuse element and fortitude of its repetition (I’d love to hear about his art making process), I’m not sure he made the mark conceptually. I know writers who never read artist statements or examine the exhibition text because they don’t want to be informed by the artist’s intentions or other people’s interpretations. That’s just not me. I love context although sometimes after I collect my initial perceptions. That said, “Shake” proposes to “represent the artist’s conception of the continuum of the personal and the public, as told through three distinct viewpoints: the interior of the individual self, the surface of the individual body, and the relationship between distinct bodies.” The truth is that as much as I wanted to, I just didn’t see it.

Do you know what’s the best? The best is when you experience an art exhibition or collection of work, and after you’ve had time to mull it over, you talk to the artist or read the statement, and the words confirm what you know and extend it, formalizing what you already feel. The work speaks for itself, and the words add to it but don’t try to pilot your experience. I think Dave Hickey wrote that he prefers art that elicits “What? Wow!” rather than “Wow! What?” I do, too. I want to enter an installation and get my bearings, held up only by the strength of the work itself. Lockwood

To be fair, I might grasp Lockwood’s conceptual framework if I saw the exhibition after opening night, when there weren’t hoards of children. I’m not missing the point: Lockwood is clearly making fine art accessible by inviting interaction with it, and that’s why it’s so palatable to people who don’t normally spend their time in art galleries. There is definitely room for this in Nashville and in the art worlds. It just didn’t leave room for me to reflect on what the work made me think and feel. And that’s important.

The show is on view through March 5. Admission is $5. Buy tickets here. 

The Visualist Brings You More Ways to Find Art


It’s easy to lose one’s way in the sea of information, ads, emails, and invites on the Wild Wild Web. Since I’ve missed events for this reason, I tend to pare down to a precious few email notifications. One worth keeping is The Visualist, a website and subscription service that brings me a weekly list of arts events in and around Nashville. Hosted by sometime-NYCnash contributor Andri Alexandrou and Amelie Brown, the Visualist aims to “speak for the hidden happenings– the events without a magazine hookup, the unexposed arts with no blog shoutout, the art folks in need of a megaphone.”

The Visualist won’t advertise for music (thank god), comedy, traditional theater, dance, or well-known and publicized arts events. In short, it won’t list the events you are reading about in the Tennessean and maybe even the Scene. Although they both contribute tons, there’s a whole lot happening in Nashville that two publications can’t possibly cover. I think that given enough support, the Visualist can really amp up public participation in the arts here (beyond, I don’t know, looking at murals and posting in a Facebook group.) To continue some thoughts I posted last week about the art scenes in Nashville, I am thinking more and more that if we can improve local support of the art scenes, we can harness that energy to sustain a space for artists who have made Nashville great, even as their studios are being bought up.

So sign up and keep the good vibes going.

Also, if you are putting on an arts event and would like to be included in the newsletter, you can email the Visualist at with a short blurb about your project. For some of us, it can be tough to self-advertise. Let the Visualist help you out, and tell your friends.

Art by Nashville’s Janet Decker Yanez in Dumbo Tonight + Thoughts on the Scene

Tonight during Dumbo’s first Thursday gallery walk, A.I.R. Gallery opens Transformed Viewpoints. Curated by Brooklyn Museum’s Emerita Charlotta Kotik, the exhibition features eighteen A.I.R. artists from around the country, including Nashville’s Janet Decker Yanez, owner of Ground Floor Gallery + Studios.

Janet Decker Yanez. "Your Heiness." On view in A.I.R. Gallery's Transformed Viewpoints, opening tonight in Dumbo.

Janet Decker Yanez. “Your Heiness.” On view in A.I.R. Gallery’s Transformed Viewpoints, opening tonight in Dumbo.

A.I.R. opened in1972 in SoHo as the U.S.’s first all female artist cooperative. I interviewed Yanez for Country Life last summer and reviewed Ground Floor’s juried A.I.R. exhibition in BURNAWAY in October. It’s exciting whenever the work of local artists ventures out of state, but Yanez’s inclusion in the exhibition seems especially poignant. Yanez opened the studio and gallery space in the Chestnut Square building in 2012 at the urging of other local artists. While Chestnut has its charms, it doesn’t have heat or air conditioning, and some parts of the building are exposed to the elements. In addition, no one’s ever sure if it’s been bought out by developers; its fate seems always to hang in the balance. Last summer, Yanez moved everything to a 3,250 square foot space at 942 Fourth Avenue, and nine artists now work out of the space.

There are few places in Nashville where so many artists are drawn together in a common workspace. It satisfies a need for connection in the often solitary practice of art making. The GRG artists frequently hold open studios, and I love poking my nose into their spaces and talking with them about their work. It’s a space with vitality and camaraderie that seems emblematic of Nashville’s arts boom.

However, lately, I wonder if we’re in the midst of a fairy tale. While artists and patrons soar on the collective energy of a dozen new galleries, as well as art crawls, stellar programming at the Frist, and an unprecedented number of arts events, artists aren’t selling their work to outside buyers nearly as much as they should be. Part of this stems from Nashville’s outward-facing model, muchly controlled by the Convention Center Visitors Bureau that’s hell bent on keeping the city trapped in its Music City chokehold. Part of it stems from our lack of an M.F.A. program that would surely bring in outside artists, investors, and patrons. National art fairs also get thrown into the mix; collectors are increasingly flocking to Miami and elsewhere to purchase art, instead of supporting local galleries. Many other factors complete the corner we’re painting ourselves into, and I am no expert. I do think that we need to start having frank conversations about the sustainability of our arts community if we want to continue riding this wave.

Ann Hamilton Talks at APSU THURSDAY

(A previous posting claimed Hamilton’s talk was tonight. It is in fact Thursday, February 5 at 7 p.m.)

Austin Peay is bringing it this semester. Last week, we heard from Brooklyn artist Laura Splan, and tomorrow, we’ll get an hour with Ann Hamilton. For over two decades, Hamilton has established herself as peerless. Her site-specific, large-scale installations are both sensual and cerebral, and she allows viewers to access her work with many senses. Hamilton’s work frequently depends on the audience for completion, but never quite so much as in “the event of a thread.” Her most recent installation, “the event of a thread” took up in the drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory. Hamilton, who is a MacArthur genius, created an enormous white curtain, attached through an intricate system of pulleys to swings. As visitors would swing on the swings, the curtain would sway and ripple. At each end of the hall, attendants read Darwin, Aristotle, and the poet Ann Lauterbach to pigeons, and each night, someone would close the show with song. See Hamilton discuss the work in this video from ART21.

I didn’t see “the event of a thread,” although I was living in New York at the time. Like many events in my time there, it happened without my knowledge, while I was distracted by work and other obsessions. What I admire in Hamilton’s work is her ability to comfort people by reminding them that they’re part of something larger, while still respecting their solitude. She puts a lot of trust in her viewers, which I always find curious, and her materials often include text and textiles– my favorite things.

The talk filled up quickly, and I’m grateful I get to attend. I hope to ask her a few questions, and I’ll be sure to report back.

An Advice Column You Need to Follow

fire-burning-question-ts-psHave you been reading Sara Estes’ advice column “Burning Questions” on BURNAWAY? What? You haven’t?

You’re in luck because you can start today. BURNAWAY takes questions from readers and turns to Nashville’s own witty, wise Sara Estes. Her column is not only informational and fun to read, but today it was downright inspiring with advice for any artist or writer who has experienced a rut and blamed everyone else. She writes:

“Nobody has ever done anything good with that kind of thinking. I once knew an old Russian artist who told me that during World War II, when paper became extremely difficult to come by, he’d cut off the margins of newspapers and glue them together to make his drawing paper. Now that, my sweetness, is hard up. You can make art, but you’ve got to get some perspective.”

She’s not without compassion, but she isn’t afraid to dish the hard truths. Past columns have addressed getting gallery representation and hanging art with binder clips (a serious no-no). It’s a great opportunity to ask your own questions about navigating the art worlds or your own practice.

You’ll find Sara Estes at David Lusk Gallery where she’s always willing to provide friendly, thoughtful conversation on current exhibitions. (She’s helped me find my way through quite a few!) She’s also the co-founder and curator of Threesquared, where she’s brought some of my favorite Nashville exhibitions last year. Estes was formerly the gallery director at Fisk University and is apprentice to renowned paintings conservator Cynthia Stow.

A Sneak Peak at Inaugural Modular Art Pods Event

It’s countdown time for the inaugural Modular Art Pods event, and 32 artists and artist-teams scramble to finish their pods. As I write, a lighted pod sits behind me in the kitchen. If I want to go to the fridge, I have to carefully inch it over. The cats don’t know what to do.

But it will all be worth it Saturday night when the first ever MAPs event will kick off at abrasiveMedia during the art crawl. That’s in Houston Station at 438 Houston Street, in the same building as Sherrick & Paul (which is running a beautiful solo exhibition of paintings by Damian Stamer).

MAPs will present 32 unique 4′ by 4′ pods that will act as mini galleries showing work by artists of all stripes: visual, sound, music, performance, wood, light, textile..they’ll run the gamut. To experience all pods, you can crawl through the tunnel or walk around in the “back lot tour.” Creator Tony Youngblood says that you can’t do both though, drawing attention to accessibility options: some of us can’t or don’t want to crawl through, so those of us who can crawl also get only one option. See the beautiful graphic made by podsters Stacey Irvin and Andee Rudloff for the full roster of artists. Keep scrolling for some snapshots and a video of pods-in-the-making.


First in the crawl: cleanse your palate from the world with Tony Youngblood’s own pod. 

Sarah McDonald and Tyler Blankenship’s tiny landscape pod will be viewed head-level, like the viewing pod in the meerkat exhibition at the zoo.


Sarah McDonald and Tyler Blankenship

Sarah McDonald and Tyler Blankenship.

Sarah McDonald and Tyler Blankenship.

From Becky Fox Matthews and Alison Rinner: “Our pod is an educational jellyfish protecting endangered sea creatures, and is programmed using Scratch software and Makey Makey’s.”


Becky Fox Matthews and Alison Rinner


Becky Fox Matthews and Alison Rinner

Courtney Adair Johnson’s zero waste pod is made from 100% found materials, as is all of the artist’s work. The interactive pod will open for discussion and reflection on other inanimate objects for non-artists to connect and create awareness of a need for redesign.

Courtney Adair Johnson

Courtney Adair Johnson


Courtney Adair Johnson


Courtney Adair Johnson

This tactile fabric pod by Lauren Kussro is so gorgeous and cozy, I won’t want to keep crawling.


Lauren Kussro

Lauren Kussro

Lauren Kussro

We hope to see you Saturday night! You can crawl from 6 pm to 10 pm. We’re hoping all the galleriests who usually can’t make the rounds during the crawl will be able to head over in the last hour. I’ll keep you posted with more sneak peaks as the week goes on!