Laura Hutson

Black Artists Respond to Confederate Flag Imagery in Artwork in Nashville Scene

Laura Hutson, arts editor for Nashville Scene is publishing interviews with Black artists from the region. She asks them to respond to the controversy around Sheila B.’s “Southern Motel” painting, which was taken down at Acme Feed & Seed two weeks ago.

First, she talks to Donna Woodley, a Memphis-born, Nashville-based artist who is currently pursuing an MFA in Boston. Hutson asks Woodley what she would say to Sheila B. if she could attend Friday’s forum. “If she were there,” Woodley says, “I would like to think that she’d give a little about her background. I would like to know what the Confederate flag as a symbol meant for her growing up. Just to kind of get an idea of where her head is as far as including the image in her work. I would really listen closely to that.”

(Hutson also reports that Sheila B. will not be attending the forum, as she will be out of town.)

John Sims',

John Sims’, “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag” at Schmucker Gallery, Gettysburg.

Hutson will be publishing interviews with John Sims and Brandon Donahue soon, so keep checking in with her on Country Life. Sims is a fascinating artist; check out his Recoloration Proclamation, in which he re-colors the Confederate flag and others. Sims is bold and meticulous. According to Stephen Tragreser of the Scene, he used Dred Scott’s What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? piece from the 80s as a springboard for a new work called The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag. Sims hung it from a gallows with a noose. Once you start looking, examples of Black artists using the flag to make statements about racial strife in America abound. I hope this will be part of the discussion at Friday’s forum.

This evening, a few of my friends posted an essay on social media called “I, Racist” by John Metta. Metta delivered the essay to a white congregation at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, June 28th. If I could name a required reading for the forum on Confederate flag imagery in artwork, this would be it! Metta breaks down white privilege and white fragility so simply, even for us thick-headed white folks who don’t spend much time considering ways that we’ve benefited from the oppression of people of color in America. Metta’s sermon hits its crest with this point:

“Here’s what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.”

This calling of white America has been happening for years. Black people have been telling us this our whole lives, but we haven’t listened. Let’s stop being offended and start listening. Props to Laura Hutson for her contributions to the conversation.

Selvage at TSU with Photo Gallery

DSC01575Cold days are upon us, but there’s still time to head over to TSU to warm up with a textile art show that will put your needle-felted kittens to shame. Curated by artist and TSU curator Jodi Hays and Scene arts editor Laura Hutson, Selvage explores the possibilities of textiles. The works range from paintings riffing on the geometry of quilting patterns to reuse collage to art made within the canvas itself.

My favorites: Alex Blau’s super shiny wrapped canvases delighted me as a quilter (shout out to the sawtooth star!). While the designs are more traditional, she uses the color palette of a candy aisle. Jovencio de la Paz’s monster indigo tapestry came just shy of stealing the show. The wall-sized piece is printed with intriguing images: transparent cubes, hands, bones, and drawings suggesting the occult name just a few, giving it a spooky yet playful feel.

Gabriel Pionkowski’s work captured my heart the most. He un-weaves canvases and dyes or paints the fabric, sometimes one string at a time. Then, he reweaves it entirely or partially, sometimes flipping it around or leaving some threads unraveled. I loved this play with materials, and I felt it best represented the kind of play inherent in textile art: it’s not craft hour, after all. There’s something that’s got to be meditative about the process that lends itself to an enlightened state.

Brandon Donahue’s “Basketball Blooms” wall sculptures are wonderful: part hip hop, part folk art, they’re floral arrangements made from cut up basketballs. Aimee Miller’s two pieces are beauties: she dyes material, tears it up, and clusters it in forms. It kind of looks like the monsters from Labyrinth exploded on the wall, in a really good way.

Finally, Nashville’s Courtney Adair Johnson assembled ten years of work in an installation. She works completely in reuse materials. She pointed out parts of the assemblage that are attached to memories, while others are much more random. I loved so many bits of the installation, especially the pink Eraserhead-fetus picture that she lovingly described as a portrait of her dog. Her setup spoke to me as well. She marked off her installation with tape, but it pushed out of the edges and on to the floor, much like our collective deposits of trash that are steadily growing. Johnson has a lot coming up, so stay tuned.

The gallery itself is not the best space, but the duo played with it, choosing to hang Louis Schmidt’s black and white geometrical drawings on the same wall as an unsightly grid. They opted to skip tags identifying the work, which sort of bugs me because I always want to know what I’m looking at, and a bit of context helps me to connect with a work. With that said, Hutson and Hays made a great team, and I hope they’ll work together again. More so, I’m excited to to see Huston evolve as a curator. Her interest in Outsider Art and tolerance for the perverse always delights me.

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Note: TSU’s campus is enormous. Follow theses directions.

From I – 40 West Exit.
1. Exit I-40 West to 28th Avenue, North.
2. Proceed to and continue through Traffic Light at corner of 28th Avenue North and Jefferson St./John A. Merritt Blvd.
3. Continue on 28th Avenue which becomes Ed Temple Blvd*. Go to Second Traffic Light after crossing Jefferson St./John A. Merritt Blvd. (third traffic light from Interstate exit).
4. Turn Left onto Walter S. Davis Blvd; continue for approximately 1 mile to Traffic Light.
5. Turn Left at Traffic Light onto 39th Avenue, North; and, proceed to Stop sign (John L. Driver Blvd.).
6. Turn Left onto John L. Driver Blvd. and proceed to Visitor Parking Lot (on Left, next to Heating Facility – tall Smoke Stack).
7. Proceed to Elliot Hall (just beyond Heating Facility), either taking walkway perpendicular to 37th Avenue, continuing the path of John L. Driver Blvd., you’ll find it to your Left. If you walk to the amphitheatre you have gone a bit too far.

From I – 40, East.
1. Exit I-40, East at Exit 207.
2. Turn Left onto Jefferson Street at the bottom of the Exit ramp.
3. Proceed to first Traffic Light (intersection of Jefferson St./John Merritt and 28th Avenue, North/Ed Temple Blvd*.
4. Turn Right onto Ed Temple Blvd.
5.Proceed to second Traffic Light and Turn Left onto Walter S. Davis Blvd.
6.Take L at light onto John L. Driver Blvd. and proceed as described in nos. 6 and 7 above.

From Clarksville Highway (US 41-A, N/8th Avenue/RoseParks, North/Metro Center Blvd.)
1. Turn onto Ed Temple Blvd. (or proceed straight across to Ed Temple Blvd* from 8th Avenue, North/Metro Center Blvd.). Go past Golf course to Second Traffic Light.
2.Turn Right onto Walter S. Davis, then a Left onto TigerBelle, Art Department at the top of the hill in Elliott Hall on 37th Street.

*Note that Ed Temple Blvd. is renamed Metro Center Blvd, just down from Watkins College of Art and Design

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.



And Something Else on 4th Ave Tonight!

The Seed Space Catalogue is one sale tonight!

The Seed Space Catalogue is one sale tonight!

I didn’t realize just how busy I’d be when I posted about 4th Ave events yesterday! In addition to Ground Floor’s “ReFreshed” and Platetone’s Open Studio and indigo workshop. Seed Space hosts a panel discussion and catalog release party at 6 p.m. in its Track One location at 1209 Fourth Ave.

The catalog chronicles everything that’s happened at and through Seed Space since 2010 in critical essays. Knowing director Adrienne Outlaw, I’d bet it will be smart, relevant, and beautiful. The panel discussion, called “The Role of Arts Organizations in Nashville,” features Scene editor Laura Hutson, Arts Commission’s Community Arts Manager, Leigh Patton, the Frist’s Chief Curator Mark Scala, and Vanderbilt American Studies lecturer Samuel Shaw. Here’s why I’m interested in this event, and may even forego indigo dying for it. (I’m determined to do it all though!)

In short, Seed Space gets me thinking about art and city and community. It causes me to make connections that I can’t get to on my own. During Andy Sturdevant’s “U.S. Cities Contemporary Art Rankings,” I poked fun at art critics and list makers with everyone else and ranked all major U.S. cities based on their contemporary art scenes, raising some pretty neat questions about accessibility, commodification, and mythology. The photo essay “By the Steeple Bell Rope” by Mike Womack and Scott Zieher, which may still be up now, actually had me kind of mad, which has led to all kinds of late night brainstorms about the role of art in gentrifying a city.

I need Seed Space because the folks there are willing to take risks that contribute to me being a stronger thinker, writer, and community member. It’s a vital organization in the Nashville art scene, which let’s face it, can use some stirring up from time to time.

So the timeline for tonight is Ground Floor Gallery’s A.I.R. exhibit “ReFreshed” features 33 women artists from New York and around the U.S.; then head to Seed Space for the panel discussion; then high tail it over to Platetone to dye indigo and absorb the groovy vibes.

Finding Vivian Maier: Through Thursday Only

If you haven’t made it over to the Belcourt to see Finding Vivian Maier yet–and it’s been tough with NaFF, the craft fair, Quilt Week, and so many other amazing spring art things to do around here–please GO. It’s playing through Thursday only, and then it’s gone!  It’s delightful, moving, and complex, and it might make you think about your own perceptions about art, artists, and the people who carry on in the background of your life each day.

My friend Laura Hutson wrote this great article about the film for the Scene.

And here’s the preview.

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but this one ranks pretty high with me. Find you own here.

Photo by Vivian Maier. Get the full story in "Finding Vivian Maier."

Photo by Vivian Maier. Get the full story in “Finding Vivian Maier.”

Arts: Cheekwood is a Wonderland

With spring arriving, I’ve been itching for the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Nashvillians are in luck with Cheekwood Art and Gardens. Part botanical garden, part art museum-mansion, Cheekwood is totally delightful. My last visit was at night to see Bruce Munro’s Light on the most romantic date ever. I’ll be going back to check out Patrick Doughtery’s “Stickwood,” which opens Sunday. Laura Hutson reviews it here for Country Life. If Hutson is to be believed (and she always is), this visit will make me feel a bit less amorous.

Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art is located at 1200 Forrest Park Drive in Nashville.

Hours: 9:30 am-4:30 pm Tues.-Sat.; 11 am-4:30 pm Sun.; closed Mon. except for federal holidays. Gate fee: $12 adults, $10 sr. citizens, $5 students with college ID and those aged 6-17, 5 and under free.