Sisavanh Phouthavong: Legacies of War

posted by – 03/22/17 @ 9:24am

legaciesofwar_300_7x3new-400x263Sisavanh Phouthavong is one of the first professional Lao American visual artists of her generation and a professor at MTSU. Characterized by bold colors and dynamic lines, her work in our show Legacies of War pays tribute to her Laotian roots.

Her current pieces are inspired by Legacies of War, an organization that endeavors to raise awareness about the Vietnam War-era bombings and advocates for the clearance of unexploded bombs in Laos. For Phouthavong, art has always been about exploring and understanding identity. Over 5,400 Lao refugees resettled in Kansas in the aftermath of the Laotian Civil War that ended in 1975. Phouthavong was a child when her family resettled in the U.S., and her current work not only addresses the cultural and socioeconomic challenges of being a refugee but also the feelings of displacement, confusion, and struggle to understand identity.

agentorange_300_8x8_web-800x778Phouthavong’s feelings of chaos are paralleled in both her process and final image. Her works start with an image of the Vietnam War and destruction using india ink and alcohol to achieve visual texture and effects. The images are often manipulated and photoshopped together and are then used as a reference but changes as she works. Phouthavong starts with spray paint and then goes into it with acrylic and adapts as she goes. Her process parallels her experiences as a refugee because she connects with photographic images to break them apart and reconstruct them, just as memories are fragmented and experiences are fleeting. Furthermore, the unpredictable painting process demands adaptability from the artist, reflecting assimilation into another culture. Thus, Phouthavong’s pieces both convey her experiences throughout the process and reflect her feelings of those personal memories through strong contrasting colors, dynamic lines, and disorienting composition.

It is important for Phouthavong as an artist to advocate for a cause and to open up a dialogue. “It is important for me to contribute as an artist, but more importantly to have a conversation about what is going on in the word – to not be ignorant, but open to all ideas.” Moreover, what Phouthavong loves most is when she is lost for hours just creating and being in the moment just making. She says, “I don’t ever want to completely figure it out technically or conceptually. The beauty of making is the seeking. I enjoy the challenge.”

Artist Spotlight: Anna Jaap

posted by – 02/28/17 @ 3:16pm

deep_blue_sea_48x48_acrylic_and_graphite_on_canvas_2016_jaap_copy_web-800x800 Anna Jaap received her BFA from Lipscomb and began as a printmaker before turning to painting and drawing. Today she employs a combination of these disciplines as she lives and works in Nashville. Although her work is fluid and constantly changing, they are all united by their reflection of the natural world and element of beauty.

Jaap’s newest series, Graffito, reflects intimacy of hand-written text. Each work is layered with repetitive writing to create woven environments akin to nests and forest floors. Inspiration for the series was drawn from the intimacy and connection that is inherent within hand-written texts. She explains, “I cherish letters and know the handwriting of people close to me as well as I know their faces. I’d been exploring ways of creating pattern in my work, and one day it came to me – this idea of layering script into organic color fields. So intimate and universal, all at once. It took my breath away.”

Each painting typically begins with a word, phrase, or poem fragment relating to nature. Color plays off of the text and Jaap graffito_series__snowfall_and_moonlight_48x48_acrylic_and_graphite_on_canvas_2016_jaap_web-800x800achieves a visual balance of color, forms and gestures by way of conversation with the canvas. Because each layer is thin and transparent, every mark and gesture is pivotal to the final piece. Whereas her previous series have dealt with botanical and organic forms in a literal representative form, Graffito explores pure emotion and pure beauty.

When Jaap is creating art, time slows down and she is able to step outside herself. She describes the time in her studio when everything comes together as “pure magic”. Ultimately, Jaap loves sending something beautiful and nurturing out into the world and wants the viewer to be able to wrap themselves in something precious and simply be. Her work is a fearless tribute to all things beautiful, and viewers are reminded that beauty is not only an enjoyable element in our lives but also a fundamental necessity.

Claire Morgan: Stop Me Feeling

posted by – 02/24/17 @ 2:54pm

Stop Me Feeling is Claire Morgan’s inaugural solo show in the United States. Frist Center curator Trinita Kennedy discovered her work at Art Basel Miami and organized an exhibition of six recent works by Morgan, showcasing an intricate installation, cabinet sculptures, and works on paper and canvas.

This Is Breaking My Heart, 2015

This Is Breaking My Heart, 2015

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and currently living and working in Newcastle, England, Morgan has lived in many urban areas and developed a curiosity as to how animals adapt to our own manufactured world.  Her work ruminates on our complex relationship with the natural world.  She is able to create breathtaking encounters between humans and animals, and life and death.  Refusing to prescribe a precise message about her artwork, Morgan invites viewers to contemplate these ideas of beauty and destruction, environmentalism, artificiality, and transience.

Appropriate for Music City, Morgan often borrows titles and lyrics from songs and poems for her artwork. The Exhibition’s title Stop Me Feeling finds its roots in a song made famous by Johnny Cash.

Her signature works include organic and inorganic elements, such as taxidermied animals, insects, bits of plastic, and dandelion seeds.  She then creates a three-dimensional geometric shapes of varying scales utilizing nylon thread.  Within these complex and colorful geometries, Morgan creates a narrative with animals wandering in and out of these etherial forms.

Within You, Without You, 2015

Within You, Without You, 2015

A self-taught taxidermist, Morgan finds animals after they have been killed or died from natural causes. Curator Trinita Kennedy takes note of “The reverence with which she preserves the dead animals through taxidermy,” and how it “sharply contrasts with the carelessness of other humans toward them while they were alive.”

Within You, Without You is a cabinet sculpture displaying a small dunnock bird hidden among a jungle of brightly colored polythene. This foraging bird that often depends on camouflaging itself within trees is left feeling oddly vulnerable amidst this safely dense, yet threateningly colorful environment.  The sculpture’s title is borrowed from George Harrison’s song on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album

If You Go Down To The Woods Today occupies its own entire room at the Frist, featuring a muntjack (a tiny deer native to the UK) following three butterflies into an overwhelming geometric cloud of orange polythene suspended on nylon thread.  The massive installation’s title features borrowed lyrics from “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” an ominous children’s song that warns “If you go down to the woods today, you better not go alone…It’s safer to stay at home.” Morgan refuses to tell viewers how to think, but successfully introduces a new perspective on ourselves and the world around us.

Claire Morgan’s exhibit Stop Me Feeling will be on display at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts from February 10 through May 7.  See more of Morgan’s work at www.claire- morgan.co.uk.

If You Go Down To The Woods Today, 2015

If You Go Down To The Woods Today, 2015

Marilyn Murphy – Realism Subverted

posted by – 02/17/17 @ 3:49pm

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In honor of Marilyn Murphy‘s 37 years of service to the Vanderbilt Department of Art, The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery is currently exhibiting Realism Subverted – a collection of drawings and paintings featuring dreamlike scenes in which reality and fantasy are cleverly fused together.

Marilyn_Murphy_Oasis Oasis, 2009      Cumulus-Clouds-web In the Clouds, 2016

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Murphy draws great influence from the action of wind and clouds.  This, alongside the unforgettable image of sugar cane fires in Queensland, Australia present themselves again and again in Murphy’s artwork.   Both muses are beautifully depicted in Oasis and In the Clouds, pictured above.

The Observers, 2006

The Observers, 2006

Her interest in film noir is also made apparent in the content of her artwork.  Her figures are rendered with the utmost attention paid to light and shadow, creating a mysterious atmosphere. She presents her characters in curious, investigative situations, emphasizing the acts of seeing, discovery, and creative processes.  More often than not, Marilyn enjoys creating narrative images reminiscent of film stills, often playing up an air of mystique and an aura of fascination.

As a child, her mother often took her on factory tours, of which the machinery and images of power and industrialization infiltrate her work.  She also draws inspiration from art deco architecture, and dessert cookbooks! A prolific artist, Murphy has done series upon series of dangerous desserts, floating objects, fluffy clouds, inverted architecture, complex machines, 1940’s era figures, maps, floating paper, and the looming danger of natural disasters. Wielding quite the formidable intellect and a propensity for dreaming, Marilyn is able to collage these images into spectacular works of art, utilizing everything from graphite, to colored pencils, and oil paint.

The Dunker, 2011

The Dunker, 2011

 

Murphy displays a healthy sense of humor blended together with an intense work ethic and unmatchable creative talent.  Her artwork has been shown in over 300 exhibitions internationally. It has been featured in many public and private collections, such as the Kemper Collection in St Louis, the Boston Museum School, the Siena Art Institute in Siena, Italy, and the Oklahoma Museum of Art. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, featured a survey of her work in 2004, and she participated in a two-person exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art with Bob Trotman. She is represented by Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Adler and Co. in San Francisco, Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, and Blue Spiral Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Realism Subverted will be on display through March 3rd, 2017. The Fine Arts Gallery is located in Cohen Memorial Hall, 1220 21st Ave. S., on the western edge of the Peabody College campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

 

Artist Spotlight: Mary Long

posted by – 02/07/17 @ 12:23pm

Snow Is On Its Way 48"x36" encaustic on panel

Snow Is On Its Way, 48″x36″ encaustic on panel

Mary Long was born in Ohio and has lived in Tennessee since the mid-1990s. She grew up near Canton, where there is a crazy-quilt patchwork of rural farms and factories. “It is a juxtaposition of abandoned industrial grayness against expanses of happy saturated colors that inspires my work to this day” Long says. She is self-taught in wax encaustic techniques and has been painting with wax encaustic almost exclusively for 12 years.

Long’s work begins with a color scheme and a skeleton of a composition. The artist then describes the rest of her process as a dialogue between herself and the painting. “I begin to have a back and forth conversation with the painting until it seems that the work is final, and nothing more appears to be said.” The encaustic technique involves creating a wax medium from melted beeswax and damar resin. The paint can then be shaped before it cools or manipulated afterward. Long fuses layers together with a heat gun and selectively scrapes or incises some areas. This process is labor intensive and repetitious, but is also, in a way, meditative for her.

 

 

Having worked with the encaustic technique for 15 years, Long has learned that the painting may go into a different direction than she originally envisioned, but trying to grip the steering wheel may lead to a ruined painting.“The biggest lesson in working with encaustic paintings,” she says, “is that it is best to follow suit rather than to try to take control.”

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Snow Is On Its Way 2, 48″x36″ encaustic on panel

 

Long’s work is a representation of her instinctive response to events of the day. When she first began painting, Long’s lines were straight edge slashes which she connected to a deep hidden anger. Over time, she feels that she has become more placid just as her paintings have gradually softened.

Particularly for the works in our current show, Long presents abstract landscapes that strive to tap into the subconscious and go beyond the surface. The encaustic technique is well-suited for Long’s desire for viewers to not only feel the splendor of colors but also to form an understanding of what lies underneath. The wax medium gives the paintings slight transparency and gives the surface texture, in order that viewers may be prompted to examine the work past the bright colors. According to Long, “A painting may have happy colors, yet worried lines and distressed shapes are clues to what lies beneath.”

 

Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors at the Frist

posted by – 01/27/17 @ 5:00pm

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Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors is a nine channel video installation arranged in a black room on the second floor of the Frist.  Each camera is positioned in one of forty-three rooms in a historic mansion in New York, where Ragnar Kjartansson and seven friends begin a musical performance sitting alone in eight individual rooms.  The ninth camera is focused on the back porch of the house where a large group of people are sitting.

The musicians listen to the group via a pair of headphones, accompnaying Kjartansson on a cello, piano, drum set, banjo, accordion, and guitar. Without visual cues from their fellow performers, the begin to play a very complex and long musical composition. The song itself ebbs and flows in emotional crescendos and diminuendos.  Kjartansson pulls inspiration from Icelandic poet, Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, borrowing lines from her work, including the performance’s haunting mantra: “Once again, I fall into my feminine ways.”

The music evolves from meditative and melancholic to a thunderous intensity. Lasting for about an hour and a half, the song is full of quiet, mysterious, contemplative moments, alongside loud, emotional outbursts.  With each artist playing in isolation, the piece explores ideas of relationships and collaboration. The length of the performance alone lends itself to contemplating endurance in production and spectating.

Eventually, characters on each screen interact with each other and move between films.   While the characters walk from screen to screen, the audience moves to follow, blurring the line between audience and performance.  As the video ends, each performer gathers in a single room, where they migrate out of the home, continuing their melody into the distance of the Hudson River Valley.

Frist Center Chief Curator, Mark Scala, says that Kjartansson “…pushes the limits of endurance for himself and his collaborators, he congenially accepts that audiences will come and go as they please, experiencing the work in its entirety or in brief episodes. But…the reward of extended viewing is a heightened perception of differences in the repetition of a scene, musical phrase, or physical action. The whole world is contained in these variations.

The Visitors is certainly worth staying to view the entire performance.  The music is captivating, and the composition in its entirety is a romantic, mournful rhapsody.  It manages to become a portrait of the audience as well as the performers, showcasing their unique personalities and relationships, perhaps mirroring our own.  The immersive installation will certainly leave you feeling enchanted.

The Frist is currently offering free admission to view The Visitors until February 9th, 2017 while they are transitioning exhibitions.

Artist Spotlight: Martica Griffin

posted by – 01/24/17 @ 4:11pm

Dreamboat, 48"x48" acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Dreamboat, 48″x48″ acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Martica Griffin is a Nashville-based artist whose work is primarily abstract and figurative. She has been with Tinney Contemporary for over eight years and four of her works are currently being exhibited in the gallery’s new show, Women of Abstraction.

For the pieces in the exhibition, Griffin drew inspiration from children’s stories – “each with a positive message, strong rhythm, and great sense of humor. Some of the paintings are a bit more structured, others freer and flowing, but all with the same purpose – to stir up the imagination through color, line and texture.”

Her four exhibited paintings focus on having the same starting point and limited palette. Each work starts with intentional and organic black lines covered with a colored grid. This gives each piece a unique sense of energy and rhythm. The work is then built, layer upon layer, through painting, drawing, and scraping, until the completed piece is revealed. Characterized by energetic lines and bold colors, each piece should leave viewers with a smile.

Altered State, 47"x47" acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Altered State, 47″x47″ acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Although her current works utilize the same starting point, Griffin normally works with a continuously changing process. Sometimes her canvases are first filled with color, while other times the canvas is filled with marks or crazy textures using tape, spackle or thick gloss medium. Griffin’s desire to always try new ways of tackling the canvas drives her continuously evolving process and ever-changing way of viewing the world around her. For example, Griffin is currently working on a new body of work on paper that involves starting with offbeat materials and then depicting a figurative group using only large sharpies.

 

On the topic of producing art, Griffin believes creating work can sometimes be frustrating and unenjoyable but is ultimately rewarding. She says, “When I feel like something is finished, that’s the payoff. And when someone has one of my paintings in their home or office and it adds to their life, that’s the best.”

Art Basel Miami Highlights

posted by – 12/08/16 @ 12:56pm

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The 15th annual Art Basel at Miami Beach came to a close on Sunday. It featured nearly 300 galleries from 29 countries in just five days.  Commonly the art market’s largest week of activity, Art Basel faced uncertainty in sales due to slowed growth in art markets, the U.S. presidential election, Brexit, and the presence of Zika in Miami.  Although the halls of the Miami Beach Convention Center were reportedly less crowded, dealers reported steady business. In times of political uncertainty, writer Alexander Forbes for artsy.net explains that it will take some time for any Trump or Brexit inspired policies to be enacted, and even more time after that to take effect on the art market. Even then, their interaction with the art market will be unpredictable. Galleries with diverse programs and international involvement will fare well.  Of course, Art Basel witnessed a small shift toward directly political artworks, due to the current political and economic conditions weighing heavily on artists and dealers alike.

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The sculpture park featured Glenn Kaino’s “Invisible Man” (2016) as a centerpiece.  The aluminum figure stands on a large concrete plinth. From behind, the figure is rendered in full textural detail portraying a man surrendering with his arms up.  The front half of the sculpture is sheared off into a flat, mirrored plane.  Since the the killing of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture has become an iconic protest.

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Paintings, films, sculptures, photographs, installations, and performances from around the globe filled Miami.  Hyperallergic’s Rob Colvin details a plethora of paintings from international contemporary artists in the article, “Painting According to Art Basel Miami Beach.” Art Basel featured surrealist, Leonor Fini’s “Chthonian Deity Watching over the Sleep of a Young Man” (1946), which was created at a time when female artists weren’t really supposed to depict men in relaxed or vulnerable poses.

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On the other end of the painting spectrum, Katherine Bernhardt’s explosive “Untitled” (2016) is very street art inspired, rendered in spray paint and acrylic.  “Light Landscape 2” (2016), by seasoned Art Basel Painter Alex Katz is one of, if not, the largest paintings exhibited.

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Over the course of 15 years, Art Basel in Miami has doubled its size and witnessed the formation of hundreds of satellite fairs.  The number of galleries in Miami has increased from 6 in 2002 to over 130 today.

 

Sumida Hokusai Museum Opening

posted by – 11/29/16 @ 3:02pm

An article on Artnet details the opening of the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo on November 22nd. The museum features the work of Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist best recognized for his The Great Wave off Kanazawa. This iconic 19th Century woodblock print, from his “36 Views of Mount Fuji” series will be on display in the museum alongside changing exhibitions featuring a collection of 1,800 paintings by the artist.  The museum also features a recreation of Hokusai’s Susanoo-no-Mikoto Yakujin Taiji no Zu, which had been lost in the Great Kanot Earthquake in 1923, as well as Sumidagawa Ryogan Keshiki Zukan, a 23 foot long scroll recovered from going missing for over a century when it was taken abroad.

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko/Japan Times)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko/Japan Times)

Hokusai was a famous artist, best known for his illustrations, paintings, and prints done in the ukiyo-e genre, featuring a seemingly hedonistic urban Japanese lifestyle. It wasn’t until his 70’s when Hokusai created one of the art world’s most iconic images, nicknamed The Great Wave. The print can be seen in across the globe in museums from New York, Boston, Chicago and LA.  The print’s original conception was rooted in commercialism. The  “36 Views of Mount Fuji” series was intended to showcase Mount Fuji as a sacred icon of Japanese identity that had its own cult following.  The prints enjoyed attention on the souvenir market, as they were easily reproducible.  Japanese art historians are hesitant to call The Great Wave a definitive representation of their artistic culture because woodblock prints in that style were regarded as a form of expression and commercial printing, not fine art.

Today, The Great Wave enjoys status as a one of the most reproduced artworks in the world.  It has been referenced in films, modern graphic design, video games, album artwork, and even reproduced as a sculpture.  A smaller version of the work is even featured as an emoji!

Regina Jose Galindo at the Vanderbilt Football Stadium

posted by – 11/10/16 @ 1:31pm

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This Saturday, November 12th, at 10:00 AM, Regina Jose Galindo, an internationally recognized performance artist will be premiering a public performance piece in the Vanderbilt Football Stadium. Entitled Comunidad, this piece calls upon the Latinx community to exhibit its resilience in troubling times.  Galindo is setting out to “generate a real experience of the strength of the community,” rather than just a pictorial representation.

 

Regina was born in Guatemala and lives in Guatemala City.  As a poet and an artist, her work explores the ethical implications of social injustice. She uses her own body in performance art pieces to illustrate how institutional violence can impact the bodies of women and minorities around the world.  Her often graphic, courageous pieces serve as reenactments of violent history.  Regina calls on her audience to remember this history and use that memory as a tool against social injustice.

 

Galindo calls on the Latinx community of Nashville to create Communidad in the following video: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/clas/regina-jose-galindo

Other members of the Nashville community are invited to observe the performance piece as well.

For more information, or to RSVP, click here.