Month: April 2015

Vanderbilt’s Hamblet Award Exhibition

posted by – 04/15/15 @ 1:26pm

Each year, Nashville’s own Vanderbilt University gifts one of the most impressive undergraduate art prizes in the country.  The Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award, or “The Hamblet” as it’s known colloquially, awards a $10,000 prize to the runner up, and $25,000 in the form of a travel and research award to the winner. Since 1984, this prize has been given by the Hamblet family to allow for graduating art students to travel and make work that was inspired by their experience abroad. The department brings in three outside jurors, all of whom are respected practicing artists and academics in their own mediums. This year, the Tinney Contemporary’s own Carol Prusa was selected as one of the three jurors who had the responsibility of choosing the recipient of this impactful award.

 

Prusa is a professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and has been represented by the Tinney since 2010. Prusa’s work is both intricate and otherworldly. Her silverpoint methods are dazzling in their technical application, and she continues to push the limits of her work, incorporating three-dimensional forms, as well as multi-media aspects in many pieces. Prusa was joined on the judging panel by Billy Renkle, of Austin Peay State University, and John Douglas Powers of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. It is notable that Powers was a winner of the Hamblet Award in 2001 as a Vanderbilt graduate.

Alexis Jackson's "1,437,201,654 Black Lives"

This year’s show was a beautiful and ecclectic gathering of works that represented the diversity of the art department at Vanderbilt. As a B.A. program, the department requires that students take courses in each of the mediums offered. From meditative video, to complex and immersive installation, to portrait painting and photography, the show reveals the essence of the department’s character. As many of the students major in other departments as well as the arts, the influence of other academic and social interests was apparent. This year’s winner, Alexis Jackson, impressed and challenged the viewers in the gallery with her piece 1,437,201,654 Black Lives. Her poignant discussion of the history of racism in this country, as well as events in recent years was powerful yet non-confrontational. The work consisted of photographic prints depicting recent young victims of racial violence done in the iconic style of the Obama “Hope” campaign posters. These still pieces were accompanied by a running video of portraits of black individuals throughout history, with soundtracks running from racial protest events. The second place winner, Emily Neal, displayed her piece Clonal Colony in the very center of the gallery. This three-dimensional work incorporated an actual tree stump in an installation depicting relationships of time and organismal ancestry.

Crowds around Emily Neals' "Clonal Colony"

Altogether, this show was a strong display of well-developed student work. It is exciting to see the abilities of these young artists, as well as to know that they are receiving critique and guidance from such well-established and talented artists. As the concepts discussed in their shows become more developed, it is almost certain that the research and time invested into the work will compound to produce even more impressive pieces. Make sure to watch for the return show for the winner held at Vanderbilt’s Space 204 gallery this coming January.

 

SGC Knoxville; A Conference for a Creative Community

posted by – 04/03/15 @ 3:09pm

The Southern Graphics Council printmaking conference is an annual affair of ink (whether there is more in on paper, or on the arms of the attendees is still up for discussion). The conference usually gravitates toward the typical artistic destination cities; Portland, San Francisco, and New York City are found among the short list of recent host-cities. However, the neon allure of middle Tennessee seems to shine as a beacon for creative individuals across the world. Knoxville, an oft-overlooked town in art conversation, has been home to one of the top printmaking departments in the country for decades. The University of Tennessee volunteered as host school for this year’s conference titled Sphere. They undoubtedly delivered on the expectations of southern hospitality and home-cooked creativity. During my four days among the Knoxville downtown area, I met printmakers from Belgium and Birmingham, Texas and Tacoma. It’s interesting to see how an art process can unify such a diverse group. Not only does the conference aim to host helpful workshops, informative and interesting speakers, and portfolio sessions, they also work to build a community among the artists in attendance. Throughout the week, there were official conference social events scheduled and aimed at facilitating the camaraderie of creativity, and even more were spontaneously born at local social establishments. It seemed that everyone was there to share their knowledge and learn from each other. Tips and tricks of the trade were passed around like the latest gossip on the playground, jokes were told that only a seasoned pressman would catch. As a student I was astounded at the breadth of technique I found in many of the artists’ work both in casual discussion and the workshops. One workshop was particularly impressive (and over my head). Ohio University professor Art Werger demonstrated how to achieve an infinite range of tone in his etchings through a two-plate, à la poupée inking technique using complimentary colors. The process was delicate, intricate, and innovative. Undoubtedly, the most memorable event hosted by the conference was the printmaking/performance piece by Midwest Pressed titled Freebird. Througout the day images of iconic Americana were heavily screen printed on oddly shaped pieces of plywood nailed together in a structure reminiscent of an 8-year-old’s fantasy backyard fort. During the performance, members of Midwest Pressed and their friends strummed through a rough rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous track of the same name. Then, all of the sudden, in a fight for freedom the lead guitarist and operator of Midwest Pressed, Tim Dooley, swung his instrument into the broad side of the fortress splintering and shattering the rickety makeshift building. Blow by blow, the red white and blue clad plywood crumbled, and by the final swing, the guitar was wedged perfectly horizontal in the center of the wall, declaring its defeat over the contrived edifice. The performance perfectly depicted the expressive spirit of the conference.

The final day of the conference was a full open portfolio session. Every artist who was able to register for a table displayed their work for an hour. The sea of work was dizzying and after the first hour, I found that my mind had a hard time deciphering one image from the next. It was like a year’s worth of Saturday Art Crawl’s in one afternoon. But, by the end of the conference, I found myself already thinking of ways to emulate some of the new and interesting things I found there. I contemplated the use of new methods, and relished my new friendships and acquaintances. Among my new friends were many of the entertaining folks who work at Hatch Show Print, Nashville’s most famous letterpress shop. Many other of our town’s locals made the drive down I-40 for the conference, and I realized how lucky we are as a city that the printing industry is alive and well here.  It’s a funny thing how travel can make you appreciate where you came from. The community of printmaking, especially in middle Tennessee, is a thriving source of creativity and culture.