The Answer to Your Prayers by Kate Clark

Art of the Week

It’s one thing for a luxury hotel to wrap itself in fine and visually appealing things. Lots of them are adorned with plush furniture, large paintings and sophisticated appointments. But 21c Museum Hotel Nashville puts an emphasis on contemporary art — interactive and visual pieces that challenge the viewer’s way of thinking, force them to contemplate societal themes and even, at its own risk, make them uncomfortable. In this way, 21c truly places the museum before the hotel in a way unlike any other institution.

Since opening in 2017, 21c has added a much needed raffinement to Lower Broadway. It’s a place where locals and tourists alike can relax at the bar, eat at the restaurant or wander the halls and see some truly exotic visual art. These days, that would mean taking in its latest exhibition, “The SuperNatural,” on view until September 1, 2019.

“The bombshell exhibit ‘The SuperNatural’ is capitalizing on the theme — that the relationship between the natural and unnatural is closer than it appears — in a display of more than 70 works by a multinational array of contemporary artists who will fill all three floors of the gallery,” according to press material shared by the museum.

In The Answer to Your Prayers by Kate Clark, for instance, an antelope hide and antlers have been affixed to a human-like bust, creating an eerily realistic hybrid between the perfectly natural and shockingly uncanny. Like other works in the collection, it momentarily seems like it could be real before quickly becoming recognized as fantastic.

Clark is a New York-based sculptor whose other work lives in the same vein as The Answer to Your Prayers — mostly human figures transfused with human faces. Her art has been exhibited at Brown University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and the Nevada Museum of Art.

21c Museum Hotel Nashville is located at 221 2nd Avenue North.

The Edge of Town by Brian Edmonds

Art of the Week

One should never overlook the power that simple geometry can bring to visual art.

A simple line is never really a simple line. The meaning of familiar symbols should never be taken for granted. And the very nature of space itself is best contemplated in relation to the most basic outlines.

You won’t find a better argument for how less can be more than in The Edge of Town by Brian Edmonds, one of the works on display for Red Arrow Gallery’s latest show, “In Between,” running until June 15, 2019. In it, he has demonstrated the contrast of positive and negative space, raised questions about our reliance on patterns and set the table for a variety of tangible sensations — all with a handful of colored rectangles.

“My work is focused on creating an abstract environment,” Edmonds said in an artist statement provided by the gallery. “One that is populated by symbols, shapes, lines, positive/negative space and pattern. It is through the relationship of these objects that a painterly vocabulary emerges. Is a ‘Z’ a ‘Z’? Is it a zig zag, an awkward line, a road leading you into the dark, a lightning bolt or a symbol with personal meaning?”

Edmonds’s deep yet unadorned work makes a surprisingly complex comment on space within the flat canvas, all with the use of line in abstraction. In this way, it syncs well with the other pieces featured in “In Between.” The show also includes layered, ambiguous work from Bryce Speed and geometric linen by Alex McClurg. All three artists are based in Alabama.

Edmonds has displayed his work in Nashville, Huntsville and New York City, as well as Cyprus and London. He also maintains the Curating Contemporary online exhibition space and blog.

Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville.

It’s All Life by Omari Booker

Art of the Week

Visual art often has the miraculous power to live both within the time it was produced and outside of it. Works that captured the national or international mood at the time of their creation often feel just as poignant today as they did when they were created. Even depictions of specific historical events can resonate just as clearly with contemporary audiences as they once did.

As unprecedented as our current environment may seem, today’s art is no different. Omari Booker has shown as much in his latest exhibition, “It’s All Life,” running until June 15 at Woodcuts Gallery & Framing. The collection of vibrantly colored oil works certainly captures a wide spectrum of modern life, from the last moment adjustments of a graduation gown to Donald Glover framed by a barbed wire outline of the United States. It all comes together to remind visitors that, even today, everything is connected.

“In one way or another it’s all good because it is what we are experiencing right now,” according to a press description of the show. “Positive, negative or neutral, Omari captures it all with color, shapes and images.”

It’s All Life, Booker’s namesake piece for the show, shares the thick brushstrokes, free color palette and focus on black subjects of its other pieces. It also captures the reflective and positive spin Booker’s show has put on our hectic modern times — keeping the viewer within the now but also granting them a chance to escape. It’s an effect that is baked into Booker’s creative process.

“I paint to visually express the concepts in my mind,” Booker said in the release. “The freeing of my spirit is the gift that makes me continue to produce work. The level of intense presence that I slip into while painting provides a cathartic experience. Painting allows me to both deal with the world and escape it simultaneously.”

Booker is native to Nashville and serves as an art instructor at the University School of Nashville. His work has been featured in local shows for years, as well as exhibitions throughout the Southeast.

Woodcuts Gallery & Framing is located at 1613 Jefferson Street.

Bomb Pop by Frances Berry

Art of the Week

With a focus on modified nostalgic images, Frances Berry’s work highlights the power of contemporary art.

Active since 2008, she is best known for both minimally- and highly-altered photography, either capturing her own images or altering found ones. But what really accentuates her thorough immediacy is a focus on old photographs, warped and affected in surprising but thoughtful ways. In her series “Becoming,” for instance, she mirrored and stretched archetypal American portraits, twisting their canned immobility. And in a series for BAZAAR Art, Berry worked with vintage images of Singapore, overlaying them with themselves, highlighting the country’s architecture as well as its penchant for Americana.

Now, Berry has returned to Nashville’s Channel to Channel gallery for her first solo show there in years: “Unladylike.” (The exact date of her last show at the gallery varies, depending on who you ask. Channel to Channel marks that debut as 2016, while Berry seems to list it as 2015 on her artist’s CV.) Running until May 25, this show offers a new approach from the contemporary artist — while still inundated with nostalgic imagery, Berry has drawn the works that appear.

“This show created a new foundation for Berry’s work which began to include many works on paper drawn with mixed media such as pastel, acrylic marker, charcoal and printed imagery,” according to Channel to Channel. “A narrative began to unfold of characters from her [Memphis] upbringing, strangers and ‘lady parts.’ Sensual and sexual at times and bizarre and humorous at others, Berry has created a body of work that embodies her spirit, personality and is often times autobiographical.”

In Bomb Pop, Berry has rendered the melting confection of American youth and adorned its dripping stickiness with graffiti and provocative statements. Like much in Berry’s oeuvre, it reconsiders the nostalgic through her unique contemporary lens.

Berry received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Alabama and her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Memphis College of Art. Her work has been featured in Marfa, Texas; Paris and by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She currently lives in Memphis.

Channel to Channel is located at 507 Hagan Street in We-Ho.

Vacant by Linden Frederick

Art of the Week

There is something magical about the night. Maybe it is the way that the ominous silence makes even the slightest noises ring out. Or maybe it’s the way that the darkness obscures even the most banal figures, casting them in dramatic shadows. But, undeniably, once the sun goes down, things seem to get a little more interesting.

This special feeling has inspired countless works of art, often referred to as “nocturnes.” While nocturnes are generally pieces of music inspired by the twilight, the term can also describe visual art — perhaps most famously applied by James Abbott McNeill Whistler to explain his own work. In “Linden Frederick & Seven Contemporary Guest Artists,” the latest exhibition at Franklin’s Haynes Galleries, it’s clear that nighttime magic can be captured and evoked through contemporary painting.

The show features several nocturnes by its namesake, a Maine-based realist painter whose work has been professionally exhibited since the 1980s. His latest is a series of hyperrealistic oil paintings that could be set anywhere in America, all imbued with the magic of the night. In Vacant, for instance, the light from a small suburban garage is dwarfed by a massive evening sky — seeming to capture the moment that dusk turns into night. Further highlighting the inspirational power of the darkness, Frederick’s work in the show is accompanied by tailored prose.

“The centerpiece of the exhibition is Frederick’s Vacant, a painting created during a special cross-genre collaboration,” according to press material from Haynes Galleries. “Frederick began a new series of nocturnal landscapes and a handful of the country’s best writers were asked to put into words what sprang forth when they viewed a painting. Novelist Ann Patchett, author of the award winning Bel Canto, was paired with Vacant, a nighttime view of a home seen from afar. Frederick, as with many of his paintings, manages to create a scene that is crisp, foreboding, calm and enticing.”

In addition to Frederick’s work, the show features pieces from other contemporary artists, including Alan Feltus, Alan Magee, Alyssa Monks, Guillermo Muñoz Vera, Brian Rutenberg, Tula Telfair and Jesus Villarreal. “Linden Frederick & Seven Contemporary Guest Artists” will be on display until June 29.

Haynes Galleries is located in Franklin.

The Feathered Hat by M. Jean McLane

Art of the Week

At this time of year in Middle Tennessee, natural splendor often outperforms any human-made art.

But at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, the historic home of Nashville’s Cheek family that was converted into open gardens and an art museum in 1960, nature and artist have come together in an exhibition meant to celebrate the former in ways uniquely possible through the latter.

“In Bloom: Works from Cheekwood’s Collection” features paintings from the estate’s vast permanent collection of fine art — which totals dozens of pieces from notable 20th century American painters like Robert Henri, John Sloan and William Glackens; modern and post-modern creators like Andy Warhol, Jamie Wyeth and David Hockney; and local artists like Red Grooms, William Edmondson and Louise Dahl-Wolfe. But this show presents just those works inspired by Spring’s favorite muse: flowers.

“In Bloom,” which will be on view in the estate’s museum until September 1, gives visitors a new lens by which to contemplate the color, diversity and fragility of flowers. It won’t hurt that they have to walk through Cheekwood’s dazzling array of flower beds first to get to the museum.

The Feathered Hat by M. Jean McLane, for instance, an impressionistic rendering of a near-featureless woman in a floral-printed shirt, demonstrates just how defining flowers can be in artwork.

“The woman is not given any distinguishable features other than her dress and accoutrements,” according to a statement from Cheekwood. “The woman finds her identity in the botanicals on her dress. She sees herself in the strength and beauty of the flowers.”

McLane (born Myrtyle Jean MacLane) was best known for her intimate portraits of women and children. When asked to help depict the Allied leaders of World War I, she produced a portrait of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, the only female subject in the series, that now hangs in the National Museum of American Art. Her work is also in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

This study on defining ourselves through flowers is a central theme for a show that connects Cheekwood’s natural bounty with its human-made one.

“The exchange of flowers exists as an expression of human intimacy,” per the museum. “When words fail, flowers step in to evoke the deepest of human emotions, including love and loss… This exhibition connects the indoor with the outdoor and continues the visitor’s experience of flowers through the museum.”

The Cheekwood Estate & Gardens are located in Belle Meade, 1200 Forrest Park Drive.

Ghost by Jack Spencer

Art of the Week

Jack Spencer’s photography may appear to focus on the fantastic — impossibly haunting interiors, ethereal lighting and shadows and eerily desperate landscapes. But make no mistake: He is documenting one of the most critically real developments of our time.

A common theme running through Spencer’s exhibition “Short Stories,” on view at David Lusk Gallery through April 27, is the state of our natural world and its struggle against our overwhelming indifference toward its wellbeing.

“As much as he shares a mythical, yet very real, world with us, Spencer reminds us of the peril that apathy or ignorance ensures,” according to gallery information about the show. “‘To save the Earth cannot be left to the worst of us,’ says the artist. ‘It should go without saying that our own backyards are certainly worthy of protection.'”

For the collection, Spencer captured a single, struggling tree in a snowy field, a dark and infinite ocean through the tactile windows of a seemingly-abandoned building and a distant mountain range juxtaposed with a large nautilus shell. In them all, the state of nature in all of its limitless, unknowable power, is rendered dark, spooky, empty. Ghost is the only piece in the collection that features a humanesque figure, albeit sparingly.

In Ghost, Spencer presents a shadowy natural background seen through the empty doorways of a vacuous stone building. Passing through the home is what looks like a spiritual figure in stride, its footprint the only seemingly-recognizable impression. This may be interpreted as a message about humankind’s temporary place among the natural or its smearing effect on the landscape. No matter how a viewer specifically reads the image, it effectively compares a ghostly moment in the foreground with an ominous one out in the natural background.

Spencer was born in Mississippi and currently lives in Nashville. His work has been featured around the world and in The New York Times Book Review, Oxford American and on “Charlie Rose.” More of his work can be found on his website.

The David Lusk Gallery is located at 516 Hagan Street in WeHo.