Love & Friendship, Tickled at NaFF both made me cry laughing

You haven’t heard from me since winter when I curled up into my snail shell and went to sleep. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about making my arts coverage more intentional and re-focusing on arts activism in Nashville. Lots of great stuff coming soon.

It’s spring time now and I have awakened and stretched my little snail body to the sky just in time for Nashville Film Festival. Check out the Scene’s coverage here; I contributed to the New Directors award category. My favorites were To Keep the Light, The Fits, Banana, and The Elk. It’s a great category with some top notch women in director and lead actress roles.

I’ll have some suggestions for you in a bit, but here’s very quick a run-down of Day 1.

Whether you’re a fangirl of Jane Austen or not, Love & Friendship is a must-see this year. The place: England. The time: 1790s. The woman: Lady Susan, played pitch-perfect by Kate Beckinsale, who, following the death of her husband, arrives “destitute” at her brother-in-law’s countryside home. Susan is beautiful, sharp, and cunning, employing exhausting (and dazzling) linguistic acrobatics to get her way. She defends her sense of superiority to her confidant Alicia (Chloe Sevigny) so earnestly that it’s easy to see why nearly everyone falls for her. An incorrigible flirt and irredeemable gossip, Lady Susan never falters. She is mired in a society where without a husband of some standing, she and her daughter must be dependent on relatives and friends. Hating her is easy. Admiring her much more fulfilling. love and friendship

Directed by Whit Stillman (Metropolitan), Love & Friendship boasts a vibrant supporting cast. Xavier Samuel plays Reginald DeCourcy, the attractive young man Susan seeks to engage. Samuel is perfect in the role of a gullible, love-struck heir, and Emma Greenwell plays his sister, who leads the family in opposing the courtship. Among the best, however, are Justin Edwards, playing a clueless Charles Vernon, who has some hilarious one-liners; Morfydd Clark, playing Susan’s daughter, the meek Frederica who is most tortured by her mother’s manipulations; and Tom Bennett, playing Sir James Marin, whose antics brought down the house.

Innuendo and euphemism also come to feel like characters because they show up so frequently and with such success. The script, written by Stillman and based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel Lady Susan, is jam packed with unpredictable turns of phrase, usually delivered by Beckinsale, who is – as I mentioned – sheer perfection. I skipped out of the theater to Table 3 – where I sucked down a bowl of creamy risotto – and then headed back to the cinema.

New Zealand journalist David Farrier goes down a bizarre rabbit hole in Tickled, a new documentary that was praised at Sundance. It starts when Farrier discovers a Facebook page for Endurance Tickling Reality Competitions. Initial research heeds several videos of high school age, white, athletic boys straddling each other – sometimes 4 on 1 – and tickling.

His curiosity piqued, he writes the page owner, Jane O’Brien Media, requesting an interview. What follows alters his life and sends him and  co-director Dylan Reeve on a mission into this strange subculture that they can hardly believe exists. tickled

The premise itself is so funny –  whenever Farrier said the word “tickling” I died laughing – that I couldn’t put the extent of what they uncovered into perspective until the ride home. What first appears to be a harmless kink folds out like a pop-up book about exploitation, manipulation, and forgery that’s up there with cult documentaries. Farrier is so pleasant that when Jane O’Brien Media sends three lawyers to threaten him in New Zealand, he greets them with a cheerful, rainbow welcome sign at the airport. Jane O’Brien’s people are a strange mix of pleasant and accusatory, as if they aren’t on the same page, and as soon as they leave for L.A., Farrier and Reeve follow them.

As the story unfolds, the directors interview young men who agreed to be in tickling videos but whose privacy was violated when Jane O’Brien Media broke contract and made their videos public. When one man successfully petitioned YouTube to take his down, Jane O’Brien unleashed a Scientology-level-crazy doxing that has followed him for years. Unable to find “Jane,” the filmmakers look into other ticklers and find themselves tracing a history of videos dating back to dial-up. Farrier and Reeve masterfully balance teeth-gritting suspense with the utter silliness of the topic in a way that allows the film to have multiple impacts. First, there are dozens of hilarious moments found in looks and gestures throughout the documentary. Farrier’s unobtrusive narration provides structure and amplifies the sleuth-like feel. It’s also a nail-bitter; as the directors zero in on “Jane,” we live the suspense with them. Finally, it’s guerrilla-style investigative journalism at its best, as Farrier and Reeve take their small crew back and forth between New Zealand and New York, chipping away at the truth.

Tickled plays again on Friday at 12:30 p.m., is playing at many festivals in the next couple of months and will be released in the U.S. on June 24.

Love & Friendship opens May 13.

Today, I’m seeing Little Men and Sing Street. Much to my dismay, the regular world does not stop during NaFF, but I plan on seeing as many films as humanly possible. I’ll report back!






LOCATE Arts Raises the Bar in Tennessee

images (1)Last night at Zeitgeist, two Tennessee natives introduced an arts organization that could have great value to the state of Tennessee. Carri and Brian Jobe are launching LOCATE Arts, a state-wide initiative that will connect the arts communities in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis. It will be headed by a board of arts administrators from around the state, including our own indomitable Lain York.

LOCATE Arts will take two main actions:

First, it will launch an exhibition listing site that will centralize a selection of arts events in the four cities. The website will provide a unified face of Tennessee that will integrate artists, galleries, and museums state-wide. The website will be curated: art must be contemporary and high caliber, but this doesn’t rule out experimental arts events and exhibitions. It does probably rule out portraits of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash (one would hope.) The site is modeled after Glass Tire, a website that does this in Texas. While Glass Tire also publishes art reviews, LOCATE Arts probably will not, but for good reason: Jobe and Jobe want to keep the site neutral and be primarily informative. If it’s done well, it will probably have a ripple effect, resulting in a robust arts dialogue that is heard in every corner of Tennessee! But seriously, in the longterm, this may encourage the foundation of new arts venues, attract artists and art students, and help art commerce to thrive. Jobe and Jobe hope to roll this out this summer.

Second, LOCATE Arts will put on a Tennessee Biennial that will work toward strengthening the state’s arts identity. This exhibition will feature Tennessee and national artists and work will be selected by an outside curator. Brian Jobe says it will spotlight positive, strong efforts across the state, providing a foundation for artists and the public to mutually support one another. The Biennial will happen in Nashville and travel to the other three cities; it is tentatively planned for Fall 2016.

Someone might have dubbed Nashville the second most vibrant arts city (still cloudy on who did and why), but these opportunities will show this vibrancy. I feel like people often conflate The Arts to include all types of art. So, when Nashville boasts of its “arts vibrancy,” it’s really saying, “We have a lot of music so you should come here.” I think it’s important to maintain that visual art is a separate category that has very different needs in order for it to be sustainable. Meanwhile, there’s also a lot of mediocre visual art in Nashville, and I think this could really raise the bar and challenge artists, curators, and writers to grow.

We’re always talking about “supporting the arts,” but sometimes that just means liking a photo on Facebook. I know that there’s a big push back about people moving to Nashville right now, but our artists cannot work if they cannot make a living, and incorporating the rest of the world into our space could go a long way in helping them do that. Also, I love the idea of being aware of what’s happening in the rest of the state. I hear murmurings, but they’re few. Imagine loading up a car with other art lovers and barreling to Memphis for a weekend of gallery hopping and studio visits? Rad.

LOCATE Arts is in its fundraising phase. They have applied for 501c3 status. Until then, they are fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. They estimate that their first year will cost $340,000. Go to their website and check them out, and shoot them an email if you want to hear more at Both Carri and Brian Jobe are experienced arts administrators, and they’ve been researching initiatives such as these all over the country for years. If you can spare it, consider donating to this cause, and spread the word among your people. (i.e. This is a really good thing to share on Facebook.)

Art in the Park Continues

Last week we told you about Yoga for Truckers (+Everyone). At 2:30-3:30 pm, Tuesday, Nov. 4th, you can join Nicole Cormaci and Amanda Wentworth to practice yoga in the treasury room of the Parthenon.  All yoga will be conducted in chairs as part of Cormaci’s FLEX IT! goal to design a series of yoga moves for truckers and other sedentary workers. Cormaci’s Yoga for Truckers and other Sedentary Workers participatory work will result in a podcast.

We also told you about a game of Capture the Flag that went down at the Parthenon in October. Don’t miss the next events: 2-3 pm, Saturday, Nov. 8th and 22nd, MeetUp with Adrienne Outlaw for introductory zumba and capoeira classes in Centennial Park. The classes will be taught by instructors with the  Global Education Center. Weather permitting, they will be held in the park on the south lawn. Should they be held in the Parthenon museum admission applies.

Here I am guarding the jail during MeetUp's Capture the Flag. Photo  courtesy of Adrienne Outlaw.

Here I am guarding the jail during MeetUp’s Capture the Flag. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Outlaw.

The classes are part of Outlaw’s MeetUp project for FLEX IT! MeetUp events, designed to encourage acts of health and harmony, have included a potluck picnic, mud making and Capture the Flag. Future events include bread making and massage, portions of which are being shown as part of Outlaw’s evolving video installation in the museum.

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.

The Expatriate Archive: Latin Americans in Nashville

Although you may not hear five languages being spoken within a single block radius in Nashville, you can find multiculturalism if you pay attention. Nashville Arts’ executive-editor Sara Lee Burd curates The Expatriate Archive at Mohsenin Gallery. The show features artists living in Nashville who hail from Central and South America, and judging by the lineup, it looks to be quite an eclectic mix. Mark your calendars for Saturday, October 18 for the opening at 6 p.m.

Jairo Prado. Ancestral Fish; mixed media, 36 by 76 by 14 inches. From the artist's website.

Jairo Prado. Ancestral Fish; mixed media, 36 by 76 by 14 inches. From the artist’s website.

Liliana Velez Jarmillo, Skin Containers Ceries; finger prints on wax.  "In this project I present the idea that the body is a space that constructs and at the same time liberates, showing the uniqueness, the fragility, and the ephemeral of it." From the artist's website.

Liliana Velez Jarmillo, Skin Containers Ceries; finger prints on wax. “In this project I present the idea that the body is a space that constructs and at the same time liberates, showing the uniqueness, the fragility, and the ephemeral of it.” From the artist’s website.

Jorge Mendoza, Lords of the Reign; mixed media: drawing, transfer, collage on homemade paper, 10 by 12 inches.

Jorge Mendoza, Lords of the Reign; mixed media: drawing, transfer, collage on homemade paper, 10 by 12 inches.

Burd has roots in Latin America; she was born in Columbia and moved to Georgia with her family soon after. From the press release, Burd says, “I hope this show leads to a broader conversation about cultural identity and what it is like to have homes in more than one country.”

The show will include works by Juan Pont Lezica (Argentina), Jorge Yances (Colombia), Jorge Mendoza (Bolivia), Liliana Velez (Colombia), Jairo Prado(Colombia), Yuri Figueroa (Mexico), and Clorinda Bell (Peru).

Mohsenin Gallery is located at 1917 Church St. in midtown. (Whoa! There’s a gallery in midtown?) The show runs through November 21.

The Resounding Gong

Photo credit: Regina Wilkins in New Orleans, 2013.

Photo credit: Regina Wilkins in New Orleans, 2013.

Add this to your list of stuff to do this weekend: Tatsuya Nakatani will perform at Track One at 9:00, just as the galleries close up. The Japanese-born percussionist will perform solo and then with the Nakatani Gong Orchestra. The concept of the show is really cool. Nakatani trains local musicians and artists on the gong and in his conducting methods for each show, so you may see some Nashvillians performing alongside him.

If you’re imagining nine people banging on flat sheets of metal, let’s back up. They play the gongs with bows, so it’s a sort of mix between the sound a string instrument makes and the sound a percussion instrument makes. (You can see why I never write about music.) I’ve attended some experimental music performances at the request of one Tony Youngblood, and if I’ve made it through half of them, it’s been with equal parts martyrdom and resentment. I’ve learned not to torture us both if it’s going to be something that screeches until my anxiety reaches record highs. This, however, looks to be trance-inducing and ethereal. Wander into a dark corner of the big Track One warehouse and feel spooky. If you’re unsure, take a listen! You have to skip the first several minutes of tuning, but then it gets really nice.

Track One is located at 1209 4th Ave. S, on the corner of 4th Ave. S and Chestnut Street.

Art Review: Melissa Wilkinson at Threesquared

Check out a review I wrote about Melissa Wilkinson’s La Petite Mort, which is showing at Threesquared through October 4. Then, go get dazzled by her smart, gorgeous glitch watercolors. Here’s a teaser about her process:

“Wilkinson’s process is something to geek out over. A true appropriation artist, she pulls images from search engines and builds a narrative from them. La Petite Mort used everything from St. Teresa to Michelangelo to pornography. She reverses the image and data-bends its file by altering the raw code. Combining it with the code from other files, she produces images that overlap and grow into each other. Then, she uses bright watercolors to add strokes of realism. She includes sensual, tactile objects like feathers, satin and tentacles and renders pieces of them precisely, thus combining her classical training with her predilection for new media.”Melissa Wilkinson_Saint Sebastian