photography

Notes on May’s Art Crawl

Let me get out of the way that I am the writer-in-residence at Seed Space and close to its staff. Two out of three of this month’s exhibitions are my favorite SS programming ever, nonetheless.

1. First, my favorite things. Seed Space was lit up by Rocky Horton‘s “All the Lights in My House.” Horton de-installed literally all the lights in his family’s home and brought them to Seed Space. He installed a false ceiling and hung most of them from it, including a wonderful, chinzy chandelier that is the exhibition’s centerpiece. Other lights appeared on the ground and wall. My favorite part is that Horton left the lights in the condition they were in; some are dusty or filled with the dead bugs we all collect in our respective homes. I like this honesty. It tells me something about his life and family, and much more about him as an artist. It’s a sacrifice, for sure, and the piece is only a piece in this context with all of the related parts. I got to talk to Horton, who verified that indeed, he and his family will be without lights for the six weeks of the installation. I love knowing that part of it, imagining this family of five living by the light of the sun alone. I’ll have more to say on this soon.

horton

2. Also at Seed Space, Nathan Sharratt performed “Blood Brothers.” He was set up in Track One down the hall (adjacent to the entrance, which made for a beautiful framing.) Dressed in blood-stained white, Sharratt sat at a small table across from an empty chair. When I approached, he said, “Would you like to be my blood brother?” Of course, I obliged, and Sharratt began the ritual. He drew blood (OK, it’s not really blood) from a little glass vial marked “MOTHER” and mixed it methodically on the table with a palette knife. Then, he drew the knife across his palm; I did the same, and our hands met in the center. And that moment lasted for at least a solid 30 seconds. First I felt embarrassed — when was the last time anyone looked at me so intently? But gradually, I relaxed into it and Sharratt continued to stare purposefully into my eyes. I thanked him (like an idiot). Now blood brothers, Sharratt and I made bloody thumb prints on a “receipt.” He said, “Thanks for being my blood brother.” He pinned my receipt to the wall behind him with the rest of his blood family, which was quickly filling with thumb prints.

In all honesty, it was more intimate than any moment I’ve shared with a member of my biological family in many years. I hung around watching the performance for a while. People who originally declined participation also hung around, their curiosity increasing as they witnessed strangers interacting with Sharratt. Some of them eventually sat down across from him. It was as if their desire for communion outlasted their skepticism. It was beautiful.

3. Wendy White’s show up at Sherrick & Paul right now is gorgeous. I got to write about it in this month’s Nashville Arts. It was a huge honor. Go see it.

4. I didn’t make it downtown and am sad I missed James Connolly at COOP Gallery. Connolly is a new media artist who bends old audio/visual equipment into instruments. From what I hear, his two performances were awesome. Does anyone have a clip?

5. Fort Houston showed “New Nashville Photography,” a group exhibition of photos by Beth Gorham, Bradley Marshall, Casey Carter, Chris Donahue, Evan Hickman, Holden Head, Jamie Donahue, and Shawne Brown. Very little struck me here. I liked Casey Carter’s photos of people in Murfreesboro well enough; her racially mixed subjects seem to be having genuine interactions. But overall, the show was not compelling. I’ll admit that I have a very difficult time describing why I do or don’t like certain photography. I’m working on that. I know that I like it when I want to see through the photographer’s eyes all the time. It’s a rare and exceptional experience.

6. Cody Tumblin showed “Bits and Pieces” at the Packing Plant. He arranged his dyed and sewn textile paintings on cords that stretched across the narrow space like clotheslines. I loved how his pieces were all two-sided, and it was fun to see people duck under the lines to get a peek from the back of the room. Tumblin’s dyed fabrics tell a richly pigmented color story, many of them relying on vertical lines and grids (a theme in the venue’s recent programming, it seems.) The clothesline install gave it a weirdly residential feel in the raw space of the Packing Plant, a nice contrast.

Cody Tumblin. The Packing Plant. Nashville, TN.

Cody Tumblin. “Bits and Pieces.” The Packing Plant. Nashville, TN.

7. “Projected Nostalgia” also showed in Track One. Organized by Seed Space as part of their NFA program, it featured work by student artists from Vanderbilt, APSU, and Lipscomb. It’s a tough space to show art: it’s dark and stony in there, but knowing this didn’t make it any less underwhelming. So much of the work was the same: the fact that there were two piles of dirt by two different artists and another pile of bricks and stones baffled me (didn’t they talk before installation?). There were softer materials, too: wall sculptures of yarn and stuffed animals did not transcend the materials, and try as I might, I couldn’t coax meaning out of the armchair erupting with latex tumors. Add a belly button projected on a bedsheet to the mix, and you get pretty much what you expect from an undergraduate show of a dozen artists. The exhibition might have benefited from some context: artist statements or at least some short blurbs may have provided access to meaning; the physical list of works was a map that I couldn’t figure out. Maybe they needed more supervision. Maybe the space was just wrong for what they were doing. In any case, I’m sure better exhibitions are in each of their futures.

8. Jessica Wohl’s work at Zeitgeist though. It needs its own post, coming soon.

The Future is Here! Watkins Senior Thesis Shows

For the past hours, I’ve been working on a review of WAG’s senior photography show “and Living” that I caught at the art crawl a few weeks back. I have a lot to say about these students’ important work, and now I’m all the more excited to check out more with senior thesis exhibitions that start Thursday!

The departments of Fine Art and Photography present a four part series of 12 graduating seniors. First up is work from Elizabeth Courtney, Cassey Honeycutt, Kayla Saito and Luke Weir, who have titled their group effort Absence. The exhibition opens tonight with a reception from 5:30 to 8:00 and will be on display at the Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Gallery through April 6. Saito created one of my favorite Modular Art Pods and I’m dying to see more of her work. As our art scene gains momentum, I recognize more and more how important it is to pay attention to the work of student artists and to support them in their practice.

I’ve found Watkins students to be extremely professional and able to write and talk about their work with clarity. Props to Watkins faculty for making this a priority. I look forward to hearing from these artists and taking in their work.

Elizabeth Courtney will show photography at

Photo by Elizabeth Courtney. “Cannon Fire Runs In Our Veins.” l

Side note: Elizabeth Courtney is showing a full exhibition of photography concurrent with her thesis show. Families Keeping the Past Alive opens Friday at the Masonic Lodge (corner of 7th and Broadway) at 6:00 pm. Here, Courtney presents her life and times as a Civil War Reenactor. If you’ve ever been curious about this fascinating hobby, here is your chance to investigate without getting your musket dirty.

Tina Barney Double Film Screening at the Frist

Barney_The_Brocade_Walls_resized-572x450

Tina Barney. The Brocade Walls, 2003. Chromogenic color print. Courtesy of the artist. © Tina Barney

Friday, the Frist presents films by NYC photographer Tina Barney, whose exhibition The Europeans opened Jan. 19.

Barney made trips to western Europe from 1996 to 2004, photographing aristocratic men, women, and children in Austria, England, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Why be interested in these people? Well, Barney’s shots are beautifully composed and taken with a large-format camera. She told BOMB, “I want to make approaching the image possible. I want every object as clear and precise as possible so that the viewer can really examine them and feel as if they are entering the room. I want my pictures to say, ‘You can come inside here. This is not a forbidden place.'” If Barney can succeed at making the upper crust of the European elite approachable, she’ll have performed a miracle.

Here’s info about the films from the Frist.

Tina Barney: Social Studies follows the renowned photographer as she travels to Europe seeking fresh subjects and inspiration. Social Studies presents an intimate portrait of Barney, a woman born into privilege who has turned her world into art. Directed by Jaci Judelson. 2005. 57 minutes. DVD. NR.

Produced and directed by the photographer Tina Barney, Horst examines the career of one of the fashion world’s most elegant and influential photographers, Horst P. Horst. This rarely seen documentary film is a study of the artist’s work, ranging from his society portraits of the 1930s to the fashion shots and interiors made for Vogue, House and Garden, Architectural Digest, and Vanity Fair. 1988. 20 minutes. DVD. NR.

Friday, January 23 at 7:00 pm. Frist Center Auditorium; Gallery admission required; members free

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.”