Wesley Clark’s show “The Prophet’s Library” is deeply engrained with symbolism, metaphor, and his experience as an African American male in this country. He began this body of work by making a stream of consciousness list of words that came to him when he thought about his experience which culminated in “Table of Contents”. He created this list of words that now make up the top of the crossword before writing out the clues which allowed him to expand what could be a clue for each word. The words are also grouped together in order to create links and imagery that can be tracked throughout the rest of the show. He invites our imaginations to move piece to piece stitching together the narrative of this prophet. With the series of books that inspired the show title he presents the audience with four cases designed to hold books yet to be written. The exterior of each of these books has been carved, painted, and stained to be representative of the made up titles on the front. What is exciting about these titles, and subsequently these carvings, is that these can be seen as revisions of the current history or simply retellings of those narratives from perhaps a more accurate perspective. This is especially true with “Master Sowers” as it is analyzing the creation of civilization. One side contains an image of Lake Tana which is the source of the Nile river in Egypt which many can argue was the seedbed for civilization and technology as we know it. While the other side depicts two hands holding a mound of dirt with fists erupting from that dirt surrounded by a few symbols including an arrow and some stars. The idea behind this is that once you can defend yourself you can start to think about stars, science, etc. Another piece that spurs our imaginations is the “My Beautiful Black Unicorn(s)”. Which once agains plays with our imagination as well as historical references. Each horn is engraved with the name of slave revolt leaders including: Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, and Toussaint L’Overture. In theory, these people are unicorns in that they should never have existed in the world in the role of revolutionist. Many people believe that the unicorn was the East Indian Rhino but through word of mouth that narrative was skewed leaving us with the mysterious unicorn we know today. This degradation of the truth can also be tracked onto the experience of the African American as they are often portrayed in the media in a negative light. Each piece in this show has layers and layers of meaning that require the viewer to approach the work with a willingness to spend time with the work. Time spent looking at this show is extremely rewarding as there are so many hidden gems of powerful text, image, or symbol that are lost with a superficial viewing. Wesley has created a show and a body of work that is imaginative, powerful, and truly meaningful within the social and political climate of today.
Allow me to introduce myself! My name is Mattie Boyd and I’m going to be interning here at the Tinney Contemporary for the summer! I’m a Studio Art major and a rising senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. I flip between painting and sculpture depending on what or who I’m looking at and inspired by. My biggest inspiration and the person who’s work I cant keep myself from going back to is Louise Bourgeois. Her work has influenced both my paintings and my sculptures over the years and no doubt will continue to do so in the future. Other than that similarity, my paintings and sculptures have become increasingly different from one another. My paintings generally use a variety of color palettes as well as a combination of graphic and painterly marks to depict an abstracted figure(s) existing in a world created for them. My sculptures, on the other hand, are much more visceral and bodily ranging from wearable sculptures to installations. I’ve inserted a few images of some of my work at the bottom of this post so you can get a sense of what I’m up to! I’m also a Center for the Outreach and Development of the Arts (CODA) Fellow which allows me to get out into Memphis and do my own projects! In the past I’ve worked with elementary aged kids in an after school art program as well as getting involved with the Brooks Museum. Some fun facts about me are: I love dogs (and miss mine back home terribly), ice cream is my favorite food, I’m an avid reader, singing in the shower is my 7th best skill, and I once threw myself a Chopped themed birthday party. I’m beyond excited to be interning here as I became interested in working in a gallery or museum post grad last fall! You may be wondering what I had intended to do before that switch and I was going to go to medical school to become a surgeon. Ever since my freshman year of high school that was the plan. Then when deciding on colleges I was attracted to the liberal arts schools because they all told me I could major in Art AND be pre-med. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard of because i could combine the two things I loved. However, last fall, as I was drowning in organic chemistry and cell biology I found myself dreading the thought of the next 4+ years of my life being nothing but those things. I decided that very day that I was not going to medical school and that i wanted to pursue a career in the Arts. The next thing I know I was talking with a friend of mine who interned at the Tinney last summer and that’s all she wrote! Looking forward to all that this opportunity and this city have to offer me before I have to head back to the 901 in the fall!
Adam and Adama Shulman are fresh faces in fashion photography. They live inspired lives, constantly creating photographic experiences that build upon their various cultural influences, having lived in New York City, West Africa, and the Middle East.
Adam Shulman is a self taught photographer specializing in both digital and medium format film. He has photographed everything from Arizona landscapes to fashion photography. His Senegalese wife, Adama, is a makeup artist, stylist, and model. She has worked in Africa, Paris, and New York City, and acquired a background in editorial fashion.
Adam Shulman was born and raised in Nashville, TN. He is a board-certified medical physicist as well as a medical philanthropist, receiving his education at Vanderbilt University. He has spent years working in and out of Africa training local doctors on modern cancer treatments as well as donating medical equipment. Living in Dakar, Senegal with his wife, Adam spent his time training medical staff, and just recently completed a year of medical training in Accra, Ghana. He has been immersed in African culture for nearly a decade, which serves as inspiration for his most recent body of work: Gold of Africa.
The title of the exhibition, Gold of Africa, equates Africa’s inhabitants to precious, stunning Gold. Shot with 6×7 film on a Mamiya RZ67 manual camera, African bodies are covered in gold, cracked earth, and bared in front of a dark background, creating narratives of overwhelming power and beauty.
Adam spent over a year working on this series, and in doing so, he managed to “capture the mass of an entire continent behind his models eyes or under the contours of each muscle and shadow.” The gold serves as a means of suffocation at times, yet also serves as an extension of each model’s body and soul.
Sisavanh 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.
Phouthavong’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.”
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 achieves 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.