First Steps by Mark Schoon and Casey McGuire

Art of the Week

In the mid-1800s, English astronomer and chemist John Herschel was in possession of something that seemed truly impossible: a photograph of a moon crater.

It was incredible enough that Herschel had a photograph of anything — the medium was just invented in 1824. And, even more astounding, Herschel had seemingly brought the new technology to another celestial body. Of course, the crater was actually made of papier-mâché and clay. But, given the fact that the first flight to space was more than 100 years away, Herschel’s constructed image was remarkably realistic.

Paying homage to this groundbreaking photograph and the mystery, aspiration and technical achievement it represents, Belmont University’s Gallery 121 presents “Analogue Landscapes: Beyond the Lunar Vision,” an exhibition of photos from artists Mark Schoon and Casey McGuire running until October 4, 2019.

“Inspired by Sir John Herschel’s iconic … images depicting a recreation of the moon’s surface, ‘Analogue Landscapes: Beyond the Lunar Vision’ is a monochromatic photographic exhibition exploring various aspects of the real, the artificial and the unattainable,” according to a press release from the gallery.

Some works in the collection, like First Steps, appear to be straight from NASA’s archives — an actual photograph of a footprint on the moon’s surface taken by the astronaut who made it. But, like Herschel’s photograph of more than 150 years ago, the images were crafted to recreate a scientific marvel here on earth. First Steps is an archival pigment print, or giclée, an image that’s been digitally printed on an inkjet printer using archival pigment inks. In this way, it mixes the modern and historic not only in its subject matter, but in its very fabric.

“These images were realized through the creation of three-dimensional sculptures for the purposes of making photographic prints,” per the gallery. “As such, they at times reference lunar models, Apollo era images and telescopic astrophotography in an attempt to bridge the gap between historic and modern modes of scientific representation while re-contextualizing and bringing them into a contemporary vernacular.”

Even today, when actual photographs and even video footage from the surface of the moon is available, these recreated images still capture an enigmatic, alien quality that is as palpable as it was in Herschel’s time. And, because they are not actual scientific documentation, their artifice makes interesting comments on the technical process of photography in relation to the space age and beyond as well as photographs as an artistic medium that “brings” us to places we could never go.

Schoon and McGuire are based in Georgia. Schoon holds a master’s in photography from Ohio University and his photographs have been collected by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. McGuire holds a master’s in fine arts in sculpture from the University of Colorado, Boulder and her installations have been exhibited in Michigan, Texas and Colorado.

Belmont University’s Gallery 121 is located in the Leu Center for the Visual Arts, 1989 Belmont Blvd.

Forever by Norf Art Collective

Art of the Week

Mural art is a particularly difficult media to capture in the confines of a museum or gallery. Yet throughout the world, and particularly in Nashville, murals are often the most powerful and moving forms of expression a viewer can experience — dominant scenes that transform architecture, embody local spirit and quite literally envelop a community.

In “Murals of North Nashville Now,” an exhibition on view until January 5, 2020, Frist Art Museum has brought the growing mural art scene from one of the city’s most culturally and historically rich neighborhoods into its free Conte Community Arts Gallery by collecting eight new, 8-by-12-foot murals from local artists. There is also a map indicating where full-scale murals throughout North Nashville can be found.

“In recent years, as the Nashville area rapidly grows and changes, a vibrant street art community has flourished,” reads a museum press release on the show. “This exhibition focuses on artists who live, work or have studied in the historically African-American neighborhood of North Nashville.”

Frist has commissioned work for the exhibition from Omari Booker, LeXander Bryant, Brandon Donahue, Elisheba Israel Mrozik, the Norf Art Collective, XPayne and young members of the North Nashville community. Each piece demonstrates a core tenet of mural artwork — commentary on the values, struggles or experiences of the community that it anoints. For instance, Booker’s work examines discriminatory lending and investment practices, Donahue’s commemorates victims of local gun violence and Mrozik’s is constructed around the unique battles that African-American women face in our society.

Norf Art Collective, a group of artist/advocates based in North Nashville that includes multimedia artists woke3, keep3, doughjoe and Sensei, provided two pieces for the show, Fly and Forever. In Forever, the artists point a young girl — one wearing the same clothes as a figure in their 26th Avenue and Clarkesville Pike mural Family Matters, but with her teddy bear and apprehensive look exchanged for a paintbrush and more confident stride — down an optimistic path. Graffiti-style writing is interlaced with stacked books and happy students, a tree of lights, Fisk University’s oldest building and North Nashville’s main thoroughfare, Jefferson Street, leading into a full moon. The airbrushed finish and dripping accents are distinctly inspired by street art, while the compiled imagery and hopeful tone lend themselves to the legacy tradition of community-oriented murals.

“The Norf Art Collective presents the children featured in their Clarksville Pike mural … as maturing individuals rising above negative situations and making plans for a healthy future with education, community and clean natural resources as necessary building blocks,” Frist explained. “The Norf Art Collective … is committed to producing public art that addresses social issues and the distinctive historical aspects of the community.”

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Dead Horse Bay by Marcus Manganni

Art of the Week

It is the rare painting, photograph or sculpture that can feel truly “immersive.” As striking and engulfing as they may be, they hardly surround the viewer and bombard their every sense. That is what installations, like Dead Horse Bay by Marcus Manganni, are for.

The piece currently installed at Channel to Channel until August 24 involves video, sound and large-scale sculpture to transport visitors from the gallery to a new place in the way that other visual art simply cannot. The name of the installation evokes that place (at least its inspiration) — a small body of water between two inlets in Brooklyn with history as a manufacturing site for fertilizer made of dead animals.

“Referring to the enchanting yet extremely polluted water body in the Brooklyn Rockaways, Dead Horse Bay contains interactive media projections that visually explore the site and its eerie history,” according to Channel to Channel. “Once home to horse rendering plants, the beach became a landfill in the 1930s and continues to leak trash into the ocean today.”

The installation certainly alludes to the darker side of the bay’s history, but also conveys the tranquility of its setting through recorded ambient birdsong and the large silk screens on which visuals are projected.

“The walk to Dead Horse Bay leads through the beautifully green and isolating Millstone trail,” Manganni explained, per an artist’s statement from the gallery. “Unconsciously, I began visually identifying objects — birds flying, bees pollinating flowers and, in the distance, the Gil Hodges Bridge. The further I walked, the more hyper-focused I was of the details — the colors became more saturated, the sounds grew louder — it was a more heightened sense of vision.”

The real power of Dead Horse Bay is the transference of feeling, the chance for the artist to make viewers feel a certain way from head to toe. At Channel to Channel, Manganni has been able to convey and elaborate on the real feeling he got from the installation’s namesake.

“Through the use of media projection, Dead Horse Bay explores this heightened visual sense,” Manganni said. “The walk through the trail is projected onto silk sheers. The physical qualities of the sheers contrast and play with the projected visual information. The forest can seem liquid at times as the the silk ripples and reacts with the viewers movement through the space. Through the silk trail, two massive beach roses intentionally replace the bay as the destination.”

In the universal way that visual art transcends its subject and in the unique way that installation encompasses those subjects, Dead Horse Bay won’t transport you to Brooklyn, but rather to the artist’s personal, heightened experience there.

Manganni is based in Brooklyn and is the sculptor behind Bending Normal and Special Housing Unit, which are installed outside of Wedgewood-Houston’s Packing Plant galleries and studio. He was featured in the 2019 Young Collectors Contemporary at Crosstown Arts in Memphis and in the Museum of Contemporary Art Nashville’s 2018 pop-up show.

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

Heaven by Jodi Hays

Art of the Week

The term “abstract expressionism” has come to describe visual art that appears wildly chaotic, as in Pollock’s splattered canvases, as well as work that seems regimentally organized, as in Rothko’s studies in color palette. The flaw (and perhaps beauty) of art movement terminology is that it attempts to group work that, in the most significant ways, defies grouping.

But if a label has to be affixed to the work in Jodi Hays’ exhibition “Tend,” on view at Red Arrow Gallery until September 7, abstract expressionism might be appropriate. Not least because of the way her paintings embrace both of the aforementioned extremes of the movement simultaneously.

In Heaven, for instance, a grid of black is interrupted and embraced by stripes and shapes of many colors — the strict lines we might associate with a Rothko are barely containing the more freeform movements of a Pollock. This use of regimentation, and an emphasis on defying it, is constant throughout the pieces in the show.

“These systems (grids) become a scaffold for pictorial inclinations,” the gallery explained. “Stripes generate a placement in pattern, repetition and seriality. Textiles, associated with warmth, the body, pattern, domesticity and weave (stripes) inform this work, as do fragmentary shapes that are plant-like or jaggedly organic, bringing the ‘outside’ into the studio. Hard-edged shapes exist with more rounded/floral moves.”

The ultimate effect that this interplay has on viewers and as an overarching statement about the longevity of the work itself is powerful.

“The way I see my paintings is like how a folded map relates to a pocket, holding potential to be a locative device, to consider consequences and ask questions,” Hays says of her own work, per a statement shared by the gallery. “This exhibition asks what it can mean to care for and remain attentive in painting, revealing how my core iconography elucidates a conversation on abstraction and a generative, inexhaustible mark.”

Hays is based in Nashville and has exhibited her work across the country, including at the Boston Center for the Arts and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She has received awards from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Vermont College of Fine Art.

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

Those Precious Marlboro Menthol Lights by Crys Yin

Art of the Week

Art exhibitions are the chance to see a wide range of visuals tied together by a single, unifying thread. Sometimes this thread is cord-thick, like when a gallery presents the life’s work of a single artist for a retrospective, or when a large museum presents concrete examples of a single artistic movement. But sometimes the thread is a little thinner or more abstract, affording the gallery an interpretive reason to bring together a wide range of work.

Such is the case with “Smoke Show,” the current exhibition found at North Nashville’s Elephant Gallery. The pieces in the show, running through August 3, 2019, are connected only through their familiarity with fumes.

“‘Smoke Show’ is a group show of all things smoke related — ranging from textile, ceramic and sculpture work to drawing, painting and photography of all sizes,” said the gallery. “Over 30 local artists participated in the open call, totaling about 50 artists including the curated out-of-state participants.”

The gallery’s building currently has a mega-sized cigarette hanging outside, above a graffiti advertisement for the exhibition. Pieces on display include a collection of hand-carved meerschaum pipes owned by late founder of Oz Arts Nashville Cano A. Ozgener, a minimal spray paint rendering on french paper called Gary Woods on Fire by self-described Gestaltist and Nashville resident Lindsy Davis and an oversized Zippo lighter dubbed Use It to Start Something by local artist Ian Bush.

Even through the smoke of their connection, you can see that Elephant Gallery has collected a wide variety of art. Many of the pieces seem to take an irreverent view on the subject matter — illustrating the act of smoking or its requisite apparatuses in comical and absurd ways. But others powerfully leverage the visual uniqueness of smoke itself or offer commentary on the role that smoke and smoking plays in the daily lives of many.

Those Precious Marlboro Menthol Lights, a glazed ceramic piece by Crys Yin, may be emphasizing the weight or power that cigarettes carry by rendering a disposable pack in a more permanent medium. China-like blue and white detailing on the box and filters renders the subject matter with more elegance than the viewer might normally consider. The preciousness of the sculpture overtly illustrates the value a smoker places on their favorite brand.

Yin is a multimedia artist who lives in Brooklyn. Much of her work echoes traditional Asian art or the Asian American experience. Her work has been exhibited across the country since 2015.

Elephant Gallery is located at 1411 Buchanan St.

An Agent of Seduction by Tula Telfair

Art of the Week

Illustrating the sheer power and majesty of our natural surroundings has always been a central tenant of visual art. From the ancient depictions of wild beasts at Lascaux to the epic landscapes of Romanticism, renderings of Mother Nature can be breathtaking and awe inspiring, even when they don’t deviate from what is real.

Tula Telfair, a painter and professor of art at Wesleyan University, has communicated this effect and drama that unadorned nature can have in a series of hyper-realistic oil paintings on display at Haynes Galleries in Franklin.

“Telfair has received critical acclaim for her grand landscapes that showcase the terrain and environment of majestic locations like ancient icebergs floating in frigid arctic waters or rugged mountain peaks drenched in the red light of the setting sun,” according to a release from Haynes.

Telfair’s work is particularly affecting when it captures the precious beauty of landscapes that are slowly disappearing. In An Agent of Seduction, the massive strength of an arctic iceberg is demonstrated through its overwhelming size and dominance of the foreground. Its sublime beauty is translated through the eery blues of the ice and dark purples of the frigid waters. But, doubtlessly brought as context from viewers, there is a sense that despite this power and beauty, the landscape presented here is fragile.

Telfair holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Moore College of Art, a Master of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University and a Master of Arts in Administration degree from Wesleyan University. Her work has been exhibited throughout the country for over four decades, from the New Orleans Museum of Art to the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts.

Haynes Galleries is located in Franklin. Visits are welcome by appointment only.

Sky Fall 30 by Stephanie Ho

Art of the Week

It can be difficult to see the beauty in our everyday bustle. And it can be just as hard to pick out what is unique among the crowds of seemingly anonymous and interchangeable people.

But in Stephanie Ho’s work currently on display at Bennett Galleries in Green Hills, the singular beauty of the masses is on full display.

Ho paints on large linen canvases, dotting the vast white backgrounds with innumerable individuals rendered in brightly-colored clothing. In her pieces, the rainbow hives are partaking in the same activities, skiing or golfing, for instance, but each faceless figure is somehow imbued with its own personality.

“Based mainly on photographs, sometimes Stephanie paints what she sees, and at other times she choreographs the picture,” according to the gallery. “[Apparently] floating liberally on the canvas; every single figure is carefully positioned. Just like composing a piece of music, with notations hanging across the lines, creating enchanting melodies, conversing with the spectators. “

In Sky Fall 30, dozens of Ho’s figures appear to be simply milling about in the rain as if all heading toward their own destinations with their own agendas. The scene might take place in a crowded city square if it weren’t for the apparently infinite empty white space of the canvas and the implication of thousands more umbrella holders beyond. This context, or lack thereof, seems to add to the individuality of each figure. Rather than losing them in the crowd, the viewer is drawn to identify the unique characteristics of them all.

Bennett Galleries points out that Ho’s work seems inspired by L.S. Lowry, a mid-20th century English illustrator and painter who is best known for depicting life in industrial North West England, particularly crowded scenes of near-faceless figures. However, Ho seems less interested in commenting on modern life than Lowry did, and more focused on an abstract notion of individuality or communal behavior.

Ho was born in Hong Kong and graduated from the London School of Economics. She went on to complete two postgraduate diploma courses at City and Guilds of London Art School, as well as a master’s degree in Museum and Gallery Management from London City University.

Bennett Galleries is located at 2104 Crestmoor Road in Green Hills.

Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach by Salvador Dalí

Art of the Week

Of the many catchphrases, idioms and non sequiturs coined by Salvador Dalí, the prolific 20th century painter, his description of the artistic school he is best known for is perhaps the most informative.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision,” he once said.

If there is any tidy way of describing Dalí’s extensive and exploratory body of work, it may be “limitless.” He is best known for conjuring images apparently transferred directly from our dreams, with melting clocks, mutated animals and a hodgepodge of other faintly recognizable figures collected in desert landscapes.

In its current exhibition celebrating Surrealism, “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s,” Nashville’s Frist Art Museum has collected several exemplary works by Dalí, along with fellow practitioners such as Magritte, Ernst and Miró.

In Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, Frist provides an example of how Dalí’s enigmatic (and seemingly nonsensical) approach can be a way of wrestling with emotional turmoil and commenting on political events.

“Dalí shows the disappearing face of his late friend, the poet Federico García Lorca, who was killed by Fascists shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936,” according to the museum. “Following the irrational structure of a dream, incongruous images morph into one another. A desolate beach transforms into a footed dish filled with pears, and then into the profile of a dog, whose snout becomes a road and his head a hill. The dish becomes the face of Lorca. A grieving woman in front of a wall and a cavalry scene below the dog’s muzzle may allude to the devastation of the Spanish Civil War.”

Apparition is emblematic of the other pieces collected for this exhibition in the way that it juxtaposes reality-bending imagery with poignant social reflection.

“Through 79 objects, including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and periodicals drawn primarily from the collections of The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, ‘Monsters & Myths’ highlights the brilliance and fertility of this period, which arose in response to Hitler’s rise to power, the Spanish Civil War and World War II — events that profoundly challenged the revolutionary hopes that had guided most Surrealist artists in the 1920s,” per Frist.

All told, it’s an exhibition that may, through its emphasis on universally incongruous imagery, demonstrate the everlasting quality of limitless vision.

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Good Bones by Sloan Bibb

Art of the Week

There is something inherently Southern about Sloan Bibb’s artwork.

Through the inclusion of found objects like classic car emblems, the use of natural media like beeswax and tar and the depiction of humble, lighthearted figures and scenes, the Alabama native has created a decidedly Dixie oeuvre. It sort of looks like what would happen if Damien Hirst joined the crew of “American Pickers.”

Bibb’s work has found a natural home at The Copper Fox, a gallery in Leiper’s Fork that is currently hosting several of his pieces.

“As far as the imagery goes, I know what the main element will be when I start, but as I flip through old magazines and catalogs the story grows and usually changes,” Bibb said in a statement provided by the gallery. “I try to put things together that don’t go together or are just comical together.”

Bibb’s sense of humor is apparent in work at the gallery, like a mounted fish sporting a Chrysler emblem. And his nostalgia for Americana media comes through in several pieces that include illustrated housewives and suburbia blueprints. But in every piece, his penchant for layering a wide spectrum of materials to create a seemingly historic and well-worn tableaux is dominant.

“As you can see, the heart and soul of my work is texture,” Bibb said. “And most, well, all of my techniques for creating these textures have been conceived through ‘happy’ mistakes.”

Bibb typically layers his work with paper, then paints over it. He often sands the paint all the way through in places, then adds a layer of beeswax that is sanded and scraped as well. Finally, he usually adds tar.

In Good Bones, a guitar has been deconstructed and reassembled, demonstrating its potential even after being discarded. It is a stark illustration of the new vitality that can come from simply reimagining a firmly “country” object. It extends beyond the canvas in a boundary-defying way.

Bibb currently lives and works in his hometown of Decatur, Alabama. He once worked in the advertising industry but now pursues art full time.

Copper Fox Gallery is located at 4136 Old Hillsboro Road in Leiper’s Fork.

My Blue Heaven by Susan Bee

Art of the Week

Visual art is just as often an opportunity to “escape” the real world as it is a reflection or distillation of the things happening around us. It has a hypnotizing power to illustrate imagined stories and worlds and plant them into the minds of viewers as realities.

“My Blue Heaven,” an exhibition of multimedia on linen by Susan Bee at Belmont University’s Leu Art Gallery, is a storybook manifestation of this power. With bright, collaged colors; simple forms; and a combination of fantastic and banal scenes, Bee’s work is a pleasant (if challenging and personal) escape from the everyday.

“She carves vignettes from the fabric of life and creates dramatic images from the peak moments of imagined narratives,” according to a release from the gallery. “These include the idyllic reveries of landscapes, that romantic image of the self and psyche tossed by the fates and colorful still life scenes.”

In the eponymous work for the exhibition, Bee presents a bright and soothing landscape, with two intimate figures in the foreground. It does evoke the climax of a fantasy tale, even if the context is not explicit. While the image is positive and simple, it tugs at the viewer’s own inner self.

Bee is based in Brooklyn and has been active since the early ’80s. Her visual art has been exhibited widely but she may be most prolific for her artist’s books, of which she has published sixteen. She has collaborated extensively with poets and was the co-editor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, an online literary and art journal. The print version of the M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive has been collected at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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