Month: April 2011

From Nashville to Nairobi: Vanderbilt’s Senior Art Show

posted by – 04/23/11 @ 4:09pm

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When Sarah, our gallery director, asked me if I was attending Vanderbilt’s Senior Art Show, I will shamefully admit that my response was: “Oh, how interesting…I don’t think I’ve ever been to the show.” It was only mere months ago that I urged my peers to cultivate an interest in art collecting, or criticized the traces of sexism that still pervade our art world. While I won’t self-flagellate on this blog, I will say that I have been a bit hypocrtical and patronizing–how can I motivate the collegiate masses, while I am safely ensconced in my office chair surrounded by art, but not producing it? Perhaps I have been perched so high on my soapbox, that I haven’t been able to appreciate that young adults are not only collecting art, but starting their own art careers within Vanderbilt’s boundaries.

Just a brief background: Vanderbilt’s spring Senior Art Show–in the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Art Center–is an exhibition which provides senior art majors with the chance to showcase their portfolios to both a panel of judges, and the greater Nashville community. The exhibit opened yesterday, April 22nd, and will show until Friday, May 13th. Honors and awards include the  $25,000 Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet award, the Allen P. DeLoach Award for Photography, and the Mid-South Ceramics and Plaza Artist Materials.The gallery also opens up wall space for works from all Vanderbilt studio art majors. One of Tinney’s very own artists–Nicole Pietrantoni–was honored with a merit award in 2003. For a glimpse of past winners, click here.

The most exciting aspect of the Hamblet Award? In 2008, it provided the winner with the chance to travel the world, and make artwork for a full year. I know that we hesitate to think that artwork is invaluable, and we don’t care to imagine budding artists pitted against one another for a financial prize; however, it is undeniable the window of opportunities this award opens up. As the neuroscience student gets the chance to pursue his/her research through XYZ Fellowship, the young artist should also have the chance to travel off the beaten path, and expand his/her anthology. What better way to get inspiration, than by wandering under the twinkling lights of Tokyo streets, or careening through Calcutta’s famed Kolkata district? And all this through a university-run competition? Now, I definitely have to make a pilgrimage to the Ingram Studio Art Center.

Vanderbilt’s Senior Art Show will be showing until Friday, May 13th. Gallery hours are Monday thru Friday, 9:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M., and Saturday and Sunday, from 12:00 – 4:00 P.M. The E. Bronson Ingram Studio Art Center can be found at 1204 25th Ave. South at Garland, Suite 240.

The new face of Earth Day

posted by – 04/20/11 @ 11:59am

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When someone asks you how you’ll celebrate Earth Day 2011, perhaps you’ll shrug and mumble something about recycling, or carpooling to work. For college students and young professionals, it seems cumbersome to find a spare moment, put down our coffee/economics textbook/IPhone, and appropriately celebrate our humble, celestial abode: planet Earth. As much as I cringe to admit this, Earth Day brings back memories of elementary school, and ill-executed, construction paper homages to the holiday: “Save Mother Nature; She’s crying,” plastered alongside a teary-eyed image of planet Earth. (Oddly enough, the materials used in said endeavours were not the most environmentally friendly).

Although my inner skeptic may be rearing its ugly head, I do think that there is a way to play your part on Earth Day, without building a car made of solar panels, or planting an organic, microbiotic garden of turnips. For young adults, sometimes the best way to be your own John Muir is to simply listen, or educate yourself. Pam Longobardi and other artists provided the opportunity to do just that. At Georgia State University, Longobardi and other Atlanta artists partnered with the Center for Collaborative and International Arts (CENCIA), and hosted the Nature of Waste: An Art Meets Science Symposium. With ocean plastic pollution as its cause, the symposium uses visual arts as a platform for sustainable solutions–marine debris will be reprocessed into artwork.

Personally, I love this approach to oceanic pollution–rather than serve up steaming dishes of guilt, and barrage us with images of sea otters tangled in six-pack plastic rings, the environmentalists and artists behind this symposium engage in a more optimistic approach. In this case, one man’s marine trash is another man’s artistic treasures. Perhaps the pollution solution isn’t to wave a wand, and make all of the environmental illnesses disappear, but rather convert the plastic soda rings into the stuff of beautiful artwork.

Revitalizing the Revolution

posted by – 04/13/11 @ 11:53am

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If you spotted someone running around the streets of Nashville in a gorilla mask, you might just write this off as a college frat-boy type, someone following through on a dare, or maybe even a wayward tourist who enjoyed himself a little too much at Cadillac Ranch. But a card-carrying feminist?

This is precisely what the Guerrilla Girls are–a group of ‘anonymous’ feminists who ‘expose racism and sexism in politics, the art world, film and culture at large.’ The band of fearless feminists, who see themselves as the somewhat more brazen analog to Robin Hood and Batman, are just a few of the key characters in Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new documentary, Women Art Revolution (W.A.R.). In her film–which will make waves in Nashville this Tuesday–Leeson chronicles the Feminist Art Movement, and gives us a snapshot of the women who agitated for a revolution in the arts world.

So, why care about/see this film? Why make the pilgrimage to the Nashville Film Festival? Many of us might scoff at the idea of a film that links ‘art’ and ‘revolution’–a relationship that seems rather played-out. When you ask yourself, What are present-day hotbeds for discrimination and exclusion?, I doubt that the arts community would be the first name that leaps to mind. To many of us, the world of art is exhaustively progressive, the one forum in which all walks of life enjoy sheer, uninhibited self-expression. Is there really any room for a “revolution?”

Perhaps there is. Speaking as a college student, I would say that we enjoy a culture of reticence. For the number of Invisible Children screenings we attend, and the Habitat for Humanity fundraisers we promote, there is a tendency to view social strife and foment as a relic of the past. Utter the date ‘1969,’ and students will remember highlighted passages in their sociology textbooks, or documentaries viewed on a dusty projector, during an afternoon history class. I don’t want to undermine the admirable charities and causes my peers pursue; rather, I suggest that we consider the fact that, just like any other institution, our arts world is exposed to its own diseases.

While any number of written publications and visual imagery can bring this fact to our attention, sometimes an hour of our time, and a barrage of images dancing across a film screen, is all it takes to shift our paradigm. You may just emerge from the W.A.R. screening at the Green Hills Cinema on Tuesday evening, and grab your favorite cheesecake next door at the Cheesecake Factory, or you might scrounge up your own guerrilla mask, and join the ranks of these ‘masked avengers.’

Hershman’s film will screen at the Green Hills Cinema, this Tuesday, April 19th at 5:45 P.M. Reception will follow at 7:00 P.M. To see the trailer, click here.

A call for patriotism in the arts

posted by – 04/09/11 @ 4:03pm

spaceyIn his interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews, actor and arts lobbyist Kevin Spacey reflects on the GOP’s push to slash arts funding. In the midst of a budget crisis, and threats of a government shutdown, Spacey’s interview could not be more germane. When looking to streamline and prioritize this nation’s activities, many politicans may seize upon arts and humanities, that sector of society which seemingly has little place in institutions of law, finance, and defense. While he makes astute observations that arts are a fundamental part of our self-understanding, and emblematic of our cultural identity, one of Spacey’s most memorable quotes is this:

“Every member of Congress and the Senate should be just as patriotic about our arts as they are about so many other issues that they are enormously patriotic about.”

We like to think of our political elites as slick, 2-dimensional figures, who eat, breathe, and sleep pork barreling, or the future of Social Security. However, we rarely delve into their passions, and the extent to which the arts have informed their outlooks, and even policies. Spacey mentions the poignant role arts and literature have played in politics, citing traces of Shakespeare and the Bible found in President Lincoln’s speeches. Perhaps art has simply remained a minor character, shoved to the bottom of the political playbill. In the wake of the budget crisis–the metaphorical third act–arts and the humanities may emerge as a necessary protagonist which will keep our culture afloat.

Rather than recapitulate Spacey’s articulate comments, I will leave you with a few quotes from the political crowd, pertaining to the value of arts.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, : “Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land, but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples.”

President John F. Kennedy: “We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.”

Sir Winston Churchill: “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”

To watch Spacey’s full interview, click here .

God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt

posted by – 04/06/11 @ 11:56am

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It’s no surprise that many artists rely on gritty, visceral imagery for their work. For viewers alike, there seems to be a directly proportional relationship between works that make us squirm, and the extent to which we enjoy them: at least for art, we utter the words “cringe” and “absolute genius” in the same breath.

But what about images and artwork that are literally gritty?

James Croak, along with Igor Eskinja, Susan Collis, and a host of other artists, are all unraveling the sociological, scientific, and historic narratives behind filth and grime in the Welcome Collection’s exhibit: Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life. When asked about his budding interest in employing dirt and tar as a medium, Croak reasoned: “It was everywhere, but never used.” Taking to Brooklyn’s gutters, Croak swept out the material that would change the course of his career. What’s most striking is this declaration of dirt’s omnipresence, and almost pedestrian nature. When we stop to think about it, filth is in fact, everywhere, and the exhibition confirms this statement, by presenting the six different realms that it permeates: the home, the street, the hospital, the museum, the community, and the land.

I think that a powerful–albeit obvious–corollary to the exhibition would be one that explores cleanliness, and its relationship to dirt. There are some obvious venues that one could pursue, from its literary role in Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues, to its psychological component in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. How, you might ask, can we link the world of dirt with the world of Mr. Clean and the like? My answer: the environment.

Whatever you want to call it–dregs, slime, decay–dirt, at its basis, is organic. As shown through the exhibit’s categorization, it is the careless choreography of our history that has changed the fecund into the vermin we know and love today. It’s fascinating that dirt has become almost a villain, a symbol of overflowing landfills and unrelenting industrialization, and that environmental initiatives, and the green movement have rushed in as our modern-day hero: Captain Cleanliness. Obviously, concern for our environment and its future is a worthwhile and admirable endeavor, and we shouldn’t write it off as a simple pursuit of cleanliness. But, you have to ask yourself: have we antagonized dirt, and how did we get to this point? Was it originally Mother Nature’s helper, an inextricable link in the nutrient cycle, that has now become a symbol of waste?

Storytelling with Patricia Bellan-Gillen

posted by – 04/02/11 @ 2:47pm

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In her exhibition at Tinney Contemporary, Stealing Stories, Patricia Bellan-Gillen strings together a collection of stories, both dreamlike and virtuosic. Whether arranging a bouquet of silver-point/acrylic flowers into the silhouette of a bear, or sketching a renegade wolf, running off the edge of her composition, Patricia Bellan-Gillen establishes herself as the ultimate storyteller: she presents her narrative and cast of characters, but allows the viewer to inject his/her own voice into the recanting o the tale.

It’s not very often that a gallery intern such as myself gets the chance to rub elbows with an artist like Patricia Bellan-Gillen. I caught up with her on this lazy Saturday afternoon at the gallery, merely hours before the bedlam of tonight’s First Saturday Art Crawl. Approachable, relatable, and poised are words that only begin to describe Bellan-Gillen. Keep reading, and see for yourself.

Tinney Contemporary: In your artist statement, you mention that you place great trust in the viewer. What do you think is the value of this approach, and how has it evolved?

Patricia Bellan-Gillen: My ultimate hope is that my work is visually intriguing enough to draw the viewer in, and I always quote Joseph Campbell: “If you tell people everything about your work, you deny them the full experience.” Some people call it copping out, but I believe that everyone has their own associations with my work, to something as simple as the color, and my wish for that to continue has grown. People will often tell me something about some of the objects or symbols [in my work] that I didn’t know. For instance, I had done a painting, and someone had burst into tears, and said it was about losing people to AIDS. I hadn’t thought about this, and he explained his association. I think it’s naïve to believe that I will get a strictly one-to-one idea across with my art.

TC: Some of your paintings and drawings explore the connections between science and religion. What is your ultimate goal in exploring this linkage?

PBG: To me, it’s more of a fascination of the two things [science and religion], but I wouldn’t say it’s paramount to my art. I’ve always been interested in asking myself questions, like: Why does science become politicized? I was raised Roman Catholic, and that was my first introduction to art, but also to this curiosity, in exploring challenging questions. I actually found a portfolio of work I had done at age ten, and I found a drawing of Pope John XXIII, John F. Kennedy, and a watercolor of a bear—I would say that this thread between animals, science, and religious imagery has been consistent throughout my life.

TC: What is the greatest challenge in your work?

PBG: For me, the greatest challenge is to do something really well, but not to become formulaic. I try to find a thread of connection in the works, but at the same time, I’m not necessarily looking for a signature. I have a fear of formula.

TC: What is your greatest accomplishment?

PBG: My greatest accomplishment has been the ability to continue working and be able to support myself, and to have it be a big part of my life. I feel that one thing I am happy with–that I have been able to maintain–is a balance between teaching and making my own work. I may be one of the few people out there who think I am a better educator than an artist, and I think that I need to keep working as an artist to be true to my students.

TC: Do you anticipate a new direction or vision for your body of work?

PBG: I see my work coming as a series of bumps and waves, as something cyclical. I notice that ideas from as far back as college will make reappearances in my work, even on a subconscious level. I was struck by how much the drawing of the bald figure [in Beautiful Stories Remix/Rocky J. Squirrel as Ratatoosk] related to some of the pieces I drew in college. I was always drawing bald men with neckties.

TC: What kind of advice do you give to your students?

PBG: I always tell my students that you have to learn how to be your own best critic and cheerleader. You have to learn how to listen to advice, and sort through it. Some students find it easy to dismiss it, while others find it too easy to grab onto everything. You really need to have the intelligence and the heart to say that this advice truly applies, but also the courage to say that this is good advice, and doesn’t apply. I believe that you have to understand the whole situation: who is giving you the advice, and where is their aesthetic advice coming from?