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.

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.