City and the Artist: Seed Space on Saturday

I am perpetually fascinated by the shifting shapes of cities and the relationships artists have with their original and adopted homes. It also makes me consider my privilege. I’ve lived in three cities (New York, New Orleans, Nashville) that have vibrant art communities right alongside abject poverty. Typically, as the cities get richer artistically, the most “authentic” neighborhoods are gentrified, leaving local residents — those who provide the “local color” sometimes coveted by arts communities– in the lurch. For a local discussion along these lines, read the comments after this Nashville Scene cover story about photographer Elise Tyler. For me, it’s impossible to separate class and race from such a conversation, and I expect the gray areas to be messy and emotional.

It’s something that’s on my mind a lot: As we promote artists and build communities that are investing in the arts, who gets shut out? How can we maintain our own authenticity and the truth of our work without subjugating or ignoring citizens in our communities? How can we avoid more Gulch-like clusterfucks and maintain a city’s sense of integrity, while growing and welcoming artists and artisans? How can we remain mindful of history and sensitive to needs and wants of all citizens?

Even as cities, like Nashville, with entrenched and thriving artist communities enrich my spirit and provide me with a complex intellectual landscape, I would be indulging in quite a bit of arrogance to assume the elephant in the room will simply let itself out.

This Saturday, I’m hoping to deepen my understanding of these issues by engaging in dialogue at Seed Space. There are two events. From their website:

“By the Steeple Bell Rope,” Scott Zieher and Mike Womack

“By the Steeple Bell Rope,” Scott Zieher and Mike Womack

As part of their month-long social practice project “By the Steeple Bell Rope,” Scott Zieher and Mike Womack will present a projection piece related to their research and work in the Wedgewood Houston community. Their project highlights the plight of the creative class in the local neighborhood and other regional situations of gentrification and civic shift.

“U. S. Cities Contemporary Art Rankings: A New Hierarchical Approach (Nashville edition)” by Andy Sturdevant, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.


Sturdevant will perform an interactive seminar on placing U.S. cities in a tiered ranking system by their relation to the contemporary art world. Visitors will be asked to give their input, providing results that are heavily influenced by their own experiences and personal prejudices. Located in that gray area between satire and earnest inquiry, the project draws on its audience’s collective knowledge and investment in their own individual regional identities, as well as demonstrating the inherent limitations in reducing complex cultural and sociological factors into easily digestible charts, maps, and lists.

Seed Space director Adrienne Outlaw has asked me and Tony Youngblood to participate in a Q and A about the work that will be published in the exhibit brochure. I hope we can make it through without too many Star Trek references.

Arts: Hidden Worlds

Lesley Patterson-Marx and Emily Holt’s joint exhibition Hidden Worlds may technically be in the Vanderbilt student center, but for me, it was like ascending into a dimly lit attic complete with floorboards that creaked of the past. Patterson-Marx’s mixed media pieces take on a personal quality to the viewer. Peer inside a jar at a girl and boy on bicycles, the image bent by the glass. Who are they, and why are they smiling? It could be a photo taped into your grandmother’s jewelry box.  Her paper quilts are adorned with silhouettes of family figures who might be my own.  The piece of tulle housing a dead moth could have been killed by my brother in his phase of ripping off the legs of spiders. Along with the softness of her work is an eeriness so familiar that it could only come from the shared wick of memory–the stories known only among siblings or passed down through generations.  There are missing pieces or bent facts, and every perception is skewed–but still frighteningly true.


Lesley Patterson-Marx


Piecing Together the Past (1), Lesley Patterson-Marx.

Emily Holt’s pieces brought me a complementary but different feeling. While the former evokes the delicate nature of the past, Holt’s wood cut sculptures speak to its vivid obstinacy. Free-standing or wall-mounted, these dream-like tableaus are made up of carved wood that is layered, creating structure and dimension. When I looked down into this free standing piece Belly of the Beast (below), I felt like a child peering into a box of malevolent toys.  Found objects are mounted here and there, and the carved edges have the delightful dual qualities of being jagged and smooth. I could easily imagine one of her month-themed pieces in my living room, next to my boyfriend’s print of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. I felt drawn to her work, as if I were edging back into my childhood, but a childhood that is warped and layered with yours as well.


Belly of the Beast, Emily Holt.


Submarine, Emily Holt.

Together, Patterson-Marx and Holt present a fantastic show. Think nostalgia tea with a hint of Flowers in the Attic.  It’s only up until Friday, March 28, so get on over there, new Nashvillians! Parking is a mess so grab something to eat at a nearby sandwich shop with a lot and walk over. Vanderbilt Sarratt Gallery. Sarratt Student Center. 2301 Vanderbilt Place. Open 9am-9pm weekdays and 10-10 weekends.