While planning a road trip from Little Rock to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN, I noticed a perfect opportunity to stop over in Nashville where I could visit the growing list of cool art galleries, as well as visit a dear college friend. Staying overnight both Friday and Saturday, thanks to my kind hosts, allowed plenty of time for multiple stops. More importantly, and quite unexpectedly, we were able to spend quality time in the galleries, where owners and sales people were professional as well as encouraging, even when I mentioned my interest in gallery representation.
One of our most delightful surprises and longest stays, was at the Bennett Galleries where we were immediately greeted by Emily Cothran. Upstairs there is a frame shop, though this is a fine art gallery with many long established art contacts – from well known artists to top decorators to savvy collectors. The art styles represent a range including figurative, landscape and abstract. Though there is a wide variety, there is also a common larger theme: provoking, interesting, high-quality work.
The surprise came as we stood at the top of the stairs admiring a large abstraction that included random bits of architectural and figurative drawings embedded in the layers. This painting did what I most love…it gave the viewer the opportunity to discover and imagine. The longer we stood gazing at the heavily textured surface, the more information was revealed. The only problem was that the painting was hung in a position that was difficult to see closely. I suspect the layered surface, created with paint, pencil or charcoal, and fabric, would continue to delight upon closer inspection.
As we stood discussing the piece, Emily explained the artist, Myles Bennett, attended the Rhode Island School of Design and now lives and works in Brooklyn. At that moment, a young man strolled up as if on cue…it was the artist himself! Unbeknownst to Emily, Myles was visiting Nashville for a few days. When deeply appreciative of a specific piece of art, it is always a treat to meet the artist and hear his or her thoughts. We had the pleasure of talking with Myles about his work, education, family, and all sorts of topics. What perfect timing!
After a quick coffee at the Frothy Monkey in the hip “12south” neighborhood, we headed downtown to The Rymer Gallery, The Arts Company, and Tinney Contemporary. Like many artists thinking about how technology is changing our lives and changing how we relate to each other (for both better and worse), I am always excited to see this topic tackled and was delighted to find the provocative paintings of John Jackson currently hanging at The Rymer Gallery. Many of his pieces incite thoughts about technology’s influence on intimacy as well as what we view as “real.” The space at The Rymer Gallery is clean and open, which creates a calm environment and allows a deceptively large volume of work to hang without feeling crowded. We then moved a few doors down to Tinney, which was closed due to the installation of a new exhibit.
The tour would not have been complete without a visit to the ultra avante garde art space, Zeitgeist, where we were fortunate to meet contemporary multi-media artist, Lain York. He showed us his work made of vinyl strips which led to a discussion about the expanding definition of art and potential art materials. As Lain spoke, I thought of the recent “State of the Art” exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art (for more information, scroll down to see earlier blog post) and how the exhibit presented to the public a show in which there were almost no limits on materials used in today’s art. To many, it was baffling, and not necessarily art, but to artists, the show was ground-breaking validation. And before I could ask, Lain mentioned his awareness and appreciation of the Crystal Bridges exhibit.
Zeitgeist represents a variety of artists. My impression after visiting the converted warehouse is that the space provides a place for artists who are combining mediums and art forms (for example, think of dance, film, light, and sound combined to create a performance piece), who are experimenting with materials, and who are successfully communicating ideas through alternate uses of materials. This is a place to visit, and think, and learn. Thanks to Lain, we were educated about several of the represented artists, about recent exhibits, and about the purpose of the space.
In the mood for a scenic drive, we decided to head to historic Leiper’s Fork to visit Leiper’s Creek Gallery. I’d communicated with owner Lisa Fox through email years ago and was excited to meet her and talk about her art and the artists she represents. Warm and welcoming, Lisa told us about the gallery, about the historic area and surrounding businesses and about several of the artists. It was well worth the drive (which was stunning in the afternoon light) and a nice complement to a busy day in the city.
Because of meaningful conversation and contacts made at each gallery, it turns out a full day in Nashville wasn’t quite enough time to visit each gallery on my list. I’ve got another list going for next time with Cumberland Gallery at the top, followed by Tinney Contemporary. I would also love the visit the tiny space called “Nashville’s Smallest Art Gallery,” which according the the website, “measures a miniscule 27 inches wide by 37 inches tall, but has been attracting the work of top artists from around the US world, and local Nashville artists alike. In a former life, the gallery was a neglected, graffiti-covered display case. Soon with a little help from some Goo Gone, a razor blade, and a total interior makeover, the gallery started to take shape, and on March 15, 2008 NSAG was born.” Seriously? How cool! Perhaps my next visit can coincide with the art walk, which I hear is quite a scene. Thank you to all the fine folks in Nashville’s art galleries, and a big thank you to my kind hosts, Chuck and Tony.