Purple Empathy by Meaghan Brady Nelson

Art of the Week

In 1970, the O’More School of Interior Architecture and Design was founded in Franklin, awarding students fine arts degrees in interior design, graphic design, fashion design and fashion merchandising. After becoming the O’More College of Design, it merged with Belmont University in Nashville in 2018 and is now officially known as the O’More School of Architecture, Art & Design.

It now offers majors in architecture, art, interiors, graphic design and fashion and will be merging with Nashville’s Watkins College of Art later this year to become the area’s preeminent institution for vocational artistic studies. Throughout the changes, O’More has relied on small class sizes and focused attention from faculty to ensure that its students are challenged and develop their own voices within the media they choose. Furthermore, the teaching staff consists of active practitioners in the creative field who make firsthand contributions to the visual arts. This latter quality is the thrust behind the current exhibition at Belmont’s Leu Gallery, “In The Studio,” on display until February 28, 2020.

“‘In The Studio’ features recent studio projects by faculty and staff of the newly established O’More College of Architecture, Art & Design,” according to the university. “The variety of work, from technique to stylistic approach, mirrors and complements the rich diversity of teaching offered within the college.”

All told, a dozen staff members — including professors, assistant professors, adjunct instructors and department managers — have contributed work to the show. In parallel to the stylistic and technical diversity on display, “In Studio” presents a range of sketches and source material, giving visitors insight into the spectrum of references and studies utilized by each artist/educator.

Purple Empathy, a large acrylic piece by assistant professor Meghan Brady Nelson, serves as the entry point to a series by the artist that simultaneously presents her work as a painter, thought process as an instructor and theoretical approach as an art academic.

“For my ‘American Flag’ series, I am exploring the ways critical visual literacy can be used to promote empathy for bipartisanship among students in a time of political unrest,” Nelson said in a statement provided by Belmont.

In this way, Purple Empathy is exemplary of the show’s power to portray dynamic visuals, social undercurrents and O’More’s emphasis on firsthand exploration of artistic philosophy and education from its staff.

Nelson holds a PhD in Art Education from Ohio State University and lives in Franklin. Her work has been published around the world and often focuses on societal questions, as in Purple Empathy.

“My works are layered, complex and a bit chaotic as is mothering, education and exploring the process of becoming a socially-conscious artist,” she explained in an artist’s statement on her website. “As a Mothering-ArtAcademic, I am inspired from the aesthetics found in nature, color, design and human interactions.”

Belmont University’s Leu Art Gallery is located in the Lila D. Bunch Library, 1907 Belmont Boulevard.

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