Nashville Scene

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.

My Agita: BFF Until Baby

I’ve been having a ton of fun writing for Vodka Yonic, Nashville Scene’s acclaimed column edited by Abby White, author of 100 Things to Do in Nashville Before You Die. Check out my latest, in which I come to terms with the most deceptive tactic of the patriarchy: motherhood. Here’s a clip:

In college, when my best friend and I marched in a Washington rally for women’s right to choose, I didn’t expect we’d each choose so differently a decade later. Our life trajectories had always matched up: We went to the same high school, college and grad school; we even worked in the same field. She introduced me to feminism and schooled me on the politics of identity. Now that she’s a new mother, I don’t know who I am without her holding my hand, but she certainly doesn’t need that on her plate. She has another human to look after now.

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.

Art Crawl Weekend

Hooray! It’s art crawl weekend in Nashville!

If you’re checking out Nashville as a potential home, this is a feather in its cap. The first Saturday of every month, Nashville has two art crawls–one is downtown (6:00 – 9:00), one is in Wedgewood-Houston (5:30-9:00), a neighborhood south of downtown (and my home hood!) My pretty limited experience has been that the downtown art crawl is more commercial and WeHo (lack of better name? missing NYC a lot this week? simply crazy?) tends to be more underground, more experimental, and for me, more interesting and fun. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out both and then head to Track One for live music at 9:00 @ 1209 4th Ave South.

Downtown has a shuttle that will take you around hopping galleries, and the central location is the Arcade (pronounced AR-cade. I first thought people were saying ART CAVE). Once you’re in WeHo, start at Zeitgeist and pick up a map there of the galleries in the neighborhood. They’re all in walking distance.

Here are my highlights.

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: threesquared
427 Chestnut St. (inside Chestnut Square)
Reception at threesquared 6-9pm
On display: Hair Pieces by Rebecca Drolen

I’ve always marveled at how much we love hair—when its attached to a head. We pet it, stroke it, some of us spend thousands of dollars a year maintaining it, others take medication to keep it. Hair is not just an industry; it’s how we identify people and ourselves. But, the moment it is off the head, it is unsightly, disgusting even. And if its found in our food? Forget it. It might have fallen off the heads of Eva Mendez AND Ryan Gosling–two famous, beautiful hairs, in love!–but we want nothing to do with it. I’m excited to see Hair Pieces, the latest series of photographs by Drolen, because I think there’s a lot to say about hair aesthetically, socially, and culturally.

Learn more at:

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: Seedspace
209 4th Ave South (Inside Track One)
On display: “Conversion/Convergence” by Travis Janssen

Janssen will delight you with his work. I saw it last month and could have stood there all night trying to figure out how he did it. I kept thinking, “It must be simple…but it’s too beautiful to be simple!” I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that there is a projector and a fan, and a lot of colors.

Learn more at:

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: David Lusk Gallery
516 Hagan Street
On display: Greely Myatt, “Having Said That”

David Lusk’s new gallery will host its first solo show.  Sculptor Greely Myatt’s “Quilts Built”, fashioned from recycled street signs and painted wood, showed as a public art exhibit in downtown Memphis and is now right here in Nashville.  Myatt says in this interview that his collaborator was his deceased grandmother, and his work merges tradition and reinvigorating old material to create something else.  This Saturday’s show, “Having Said That”, is based on comic books and messages we get from them. (Not psychologically. Think BANG! POW! WOMPH! Thought bubble.)

Learn more at

If you have trouble finding out information about what’s showing at the galleries downtown, that’s because there isn’t a place where its centrally located on the web.  (Never in New York.)  WeHo uses this Facebook page, but the galleries don’t all update it. If you know about more going on out there this weekend, please post it in the comments for all to see!