Across The Clouds by Duncan McDaniel

Art of the Week

The latest exhibition from OZ Arts Nashville is a reflection on some pertinent themes in the era of social isolation: long-distance relationships and the ability to connect virtually.

The show is titled “Long Distance” and is available for consumption remotely through the OZ Arts website or in-person by appointment. It features the work of Tennessee artists Sibley Barlow, Nuveen Barwari and Duncan McDaniel. Surprisingly, the hyper-relevant content in the show was chosen by local curator Pam Marlene Taylor before COVID-19 spurred quarantines around the world.

“This exhibition is very close to my heart,” Taylor said, per a release shared by OZ Arts. “It was created before the global pandemic and now feels especially paramount to discuss during a year where almost every relationship in one’s life is long distant.”

Barlow’s work in the show explores the passing of time through the lens of the human body, with daily photos capturing progressive removal of the hair on their head and application of that hair onto their face. It may leave viewers with a sense that we can maintain a long-distance relationship with our own selves. Meanwhile, Barwari reflects on the experiences of immigrants who maintain long-distance relationships with their previous cultures once arriving in their new homes.

McDaniel’s sculptural work for the show, Across the Clouds, is an investigation of long-distance communication inspired by his own experience in maintaining a relationship with his now-wife via video chat while they were living on different continents. It simultaneously evokes one of the most rudimentary communications technologies: tin cans united with pieces of string; and the cutting-edge in virtual connection: the digital cloud that stores our modern communications data.

“McDaniel’s dreamy lit sculptures illuminate a long-distance relationship which could never have taken place before this advanced technology,” as the release put it.

A detail of Across the Clouds

McDaniel’s work specifically, and the show in general, has the chance to reach viewers in the ways that long-distance communications work best: from a safe distance, but with a lingering intrigue that leaves them counting the days until they can see them again.

Duncan McDaniel holds an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and his work has been exhibited throughout the country. He utilizes bright colors, reflective shapes and patterns.

OZ Arts Nashville is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.

VOTE!! A Mail Art Project by Jonathan Nicklow

Art of the Week

In a special exhibition of a unique medium for visual art, “VOTE!! A Mail Art Project” will be on display at East Nashville’s Red Arrow Gallery on October 17, showcasing some thoroughly contemporary social commentary with a decidedly old school process of solicitation.

The exhibition has been organized by Jason Brown, an advocate of mail art, which sees participants submit their creations via the post office, with pieces created directly on postcards and envelopes. It’s similar to another recent mail art project led by Brown called “My View From Home” which collected pieces from around the world reflecting on the advent of quarantining in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

History’s most well-known mail art program was instituted by mid-century collagist Ray Johnson, known as the New York Correspondence School. Johnson’s program has influenced Brown and now, with the creation of “VOTE!!,” has inspired artists to submit work dedicated to our democratic process. The upcoming election is expected to solicit a record number of mail-in ballots, adding an urgent dimension to this project.

“What does voting mean to you?” asks the VOTE!! website. “The cornerstone of a democracy is the citizen’s right to vote. On November 3, Americans will vote for the next President of the United States. Let’s say this mail art is your ballot — what are you voting for? What would you like to see changed?”

For instance, Colorado-based artist Jonathan Nicklow submitted a watercolored postcard to the project, depicting a skeletal mail carrier that emphasizes this critical chain in our voting process, drawing a parallel between this importance and the ongoing decline or “death” of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as accusations that trusting this institution with our votes will lead to fraud.

The front of Jonathan Nicklow’s submission to “VOTE!! A Mail Art Project”

In addition to selections from Brown’s mail project, this show will feature work from Nashville artist Paul Collins.

“Paul is painting ‘VOTE’ signs to drive voter awareness for each of the 100 days leading up to the election,” explained a statement from Brown. “You may have seen them in a yard near you! As part of [the ‘VOTE!!’] closing reception, there will be a VOTE sign giveaway from Paul. I will also have pre-stamped and addressed postcards for guests to take with them to create a piece for the VOTE!! mail art project.”

The project is ongoing until November 3 and, once it’s complete, Brown will be donating all pieces to the special collections department of Vanderbilt University’s library. You can find all of the pieces on Brown’s website.

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

Sisters by Omari Booker

Art of the Week

In recent months, artists throughout Nashville have been exhibiting work inspired by the social events now shaping our society. With work that considers politics, systemic racism and the novel coronavirus pandemic, the city’s creative community has clear points of view on the state of our country.

As the latest entry into this oeuvre, Nashville artist Omari Booker’s “Need A Hug” showcase is particularly noteworthy for its hopeful message and positive perspective. The exhibition, on view at The Black Box Gallery in Germantown’s The Local Distro, is an attempt to rediscover human connection at a time when that basic need can feel so difficult to fulfill. In particular, it seeks to emphasize that connection for a group that feels particularly dehumanized right now.

“‘Need A Hug’ explores the vulnerability that is integral to the human condition, alongside the incredible isolation and loneliness so many are experiencing in this moment,” Booker explained in an email to Art of Nashville. “Minimal human connection impacts our ability to empathize with each other. Social media, camera phones and news outlets have continued to expose police brutality.  We are inundated with images of public assault on the black body.  This body of work humanizes black people, contrasting the violence and brutality inflicted on black bodies.”

To create much of the work on view, Booker asked friends to send him their favorite photos of people hugging. Many of the pieces were ultimately inspired by these photos. In work like Sisters, fabric and oil are combined to add texture and make use of negative space on the canvas, creating an engaging and warm effect that truly humanizes the subjects.

All told, “Need A Hug” offers a positive lens through which we can think about some of our time’s most glaring realities.

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.

The Black Box Gallery in The Local Distro is located at 614 Garfield Street in Germantown.

Blood At The Root By EXO:DUS

Art of the Week

Nashville’s Frist Art Museum is now hosting an immersive installation in its courtyard by Nashville artistic duo and married couple Elisheba Israel Mrozik and Aaron Mrozik who, when paired together, go by the moniker EXO:DUS.

The free-to-the-public installation will be open until November 1, 2020 and visitors are expected to experience the piece alone or with one other person in their group to maintain social distance. The Mrozik’s are an interracial couple whose own conversations around racial justice were the inspiration for the project, which features a trailer adorned like an average American household but with some provocative differences. It’s designed as an exploration of how implicit bias can be born and fostered within family households.

“The domestic tableau installed inside of a small trailer features furniture, everyday household items, audio recordings and photographs meant to evoke a typical white middle-class home,” according to a release from Frist. “Close looking reveals that several objects have racist undertones and that the eyes of many figures have been market out by flame-like strokes of white paint, suggesting that the notion of white supremacy is subtly, sometimes even unknowingly, passed from one generation to the next.”

It’s more than likely that some visitors to the exhibition will recognize elements of this domestic recreation in their own lives or from their own upbringings. But at least one member of EXO:DUS plans to be on site at all times to engage visitors with constructive dialogue about their message, elevating what could be seen as an accusatory or unfair comparison into an opportunity for genuine conversation and potential self reflection.

The piece was originally on view over the summer at EXO:DUS’ studio in North Nashville. Frist has decided to host it in its courtyard as a way to engage its visitors in a subject matter that has taken precedent around the country in recent months.

“Current events have deepened the Frist’s commitment to our community and prompted efforts to respond in real time to the shifts taking place,” museum curator Katie Delmex explained in the release.

Elisheba Israel Mrozik and Aaron Mrozik own and operate North Nashville’s One Drop Ink tattoo parlor.

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Thank You, Come Again by Frances Berry

Art of the Week

The current exhibition on view at Nashville’s Channel To Channel gallery is a collaboration between two dynamic and energetic creatives: Frances Berry and Stacy Kiehl. The show, titled “At Your Convenience,” includes bold visuals that jump off of the gallery walls and visual reminders of the synergistic potential that this type of collaboration can manifest in the creative process.

“Though Frances Berry and Stacy Kiehl have vastly different artistic styles (Stacy having a more graphic style, Frances, more painterly), they share a bold and vibrant color palette,” explained the gallery in a statement. “They have described their collaborative process as being comparable to tag-team wrestling or pen pal correspondence, as they pass work back and forth until they achieve a satisfying result.”

Berry’s Thank You, Come Again is a powerful example of her signatures: it’s a bold elevation of a seemingly benign object, rendered with a brash outlook. In some ways, it is a variation on her previous work, exhibited at Channel To Channel in 2019.

But the tag-team approach between Berry and Kiehl seems to have drawn new energy and execution out of the artists, as the collaboration marked firsts for them both.

“While Frances has previously created collaborative art with her past studio mate … she has never collaborated with another female artist before,” per Channel To Channel. “This is Stacy’s first artistic collaboration.”

The two found that their partnership could yield substantive creative output almost instantly — Kiehl visited Berry’s studio one day and Berry asked her on the spot to help with a piece that she felt wasn’t quite finished. Two days later, Kiehl came back, added some elements to the painting, and the pair began their working relationship.

“She’s become my very best friend in such a short period of time,” Berry told Choose 901 in an interview.

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.

#1508-3d by Kit Reuther

Art of the Week

Currently on view at David Lusk Gallery until October 17 is a variety of work by multimedia artist Kit Reuther, including painting, mixed media and sculpture work, for a show titled “Assembly.” As a collection, the pieces complement one another through geometric form, tone and palette, but each add a variation on the themes.

Reuther’s collection of sculpture on display at David Lusk Gallery.

The centerpiece of the show is a range of a dozen or so wooden sculptures arranged on a white platform on the gallery floor. As a whole, they convey a power in the show that can transcend the sum of its parts, a forest of seemingly organic forms containing mysterious power. Taking in the show as a whole this way enforces the self-taught Reuther’s approach to her work, which is dictated by the natural material and a respect for her community.

“This series of wood sculpture begins and ends with compositions of simple shapes,” Reuther explained in a statement shared by the gallery. “Each piece is dictated by the wood resources available to me. I am surrounded in the studio … by builders and artisans making beautiful furniture and other utilitarian objects, so I’m always observing and taking in technical information. Working in wood is always a negotiation between my ideas and the limitations of the material — it can be a humbling process but ultimately satisfying.”

But the collection doesn’t need to be viewed as a whole to convey this sense of organic discovery or aggregate respect. As a series of Reuther’s trademark wooden forms presented side by side, for instance, the single piece #1508-3d contains a diaspora of form and movement in and of itself.

Reuther‘s work has been displayed across the country and she’s been selected for numerous awards and fellowships, including the VCCA International Residency Program in Schwandorf, Germany.

The David Lusk Gallery’s Nashville location is located at 516 Hagan Street in We-Ho.

June 2020 by Mark Mulroney

Art of the Week

For its latest exhibition, Wedgewood-Houston’s Julia Martin Gallery presents a compelling, sardonic collection of mixed media pieces by New Haven-based artist Mark Mulroney. The show, called “Family Values,” offers artistic takes that are firmly rooted in the here and now, as well as reflections that are thoroughly timeless.

Mulroney’s work features political figures, cynically-edited cartoons, magazine cutouts and other creative collections to elicit humor, ironic reflection and a range of other reactions. In the pieces that dwell on current events particularly, this approach is uniquely effective for this confusing and unprecedented time.

“Mulroney’s narratives often depict superheroes, baseball players and charming little scenes from when America was so ‘great,’ albeit peppered with missing limbs and squirting blood,” exhibition curator Daniel Lonow explained in a message from the gallery. “This is a grail show for me. Mark is an artist I have dreamed of bringing to Nashville since I first encountered his work in Miami in the early 2000s.”

Lonow highlighted Mitch McConnell From Memory, a piece that depicts the Senate Majority Leader as a pink puddle of goo wearing his trademark spectacles.

“His touches on the political are flat-out genius,” Lonow said. “For instance, Mitch McConnell From Memory captures McConnell as a slab of raw meat wearing glasses. Enough said.”

The acrylic collage June 2020 offers multiple touch points that serve as a kind of microcosm for the collection as a whole. Painted on “quarantine cardboard,” as the gallery put it, it includes a smattering of cartoon characters, memento mori and earnestly haggard faces — all rendered in cartoonishly bright fashion.

It speaks well to how Mulroney has been able to capture the unique, disturbing essence of our time throughout Family Values.

Mulroney holds a BFA from San Diego State University and an MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. His work has been exhibited throughout the world, including at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, SUNY Cortland in New York and the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago.

Julia Martin Gallery is located at 444 Humphreys Street in WeHo.

Simon The Protector by Mary Kinzel Means

Art of the Week

As important as it is for artists to interpret and refract the social issues of their time, visual art is often just as powerful when it provides a complete fantasy or escape from our fixed perception of reality.

As a showcase of this fantastical power, Bennett Galleries is now hosting the work of multimedia sculptor Mary Kinzel Means, a collection of ceramic busts depicting mythical figures and animals that project a serene and joyful energy.

“‘I aspire to capture lightness and fully embrace the spiritual feel of my work,” Means said in a statement shared by the gallery. “It may sound strange to some, but I can feel the energy come through the clay, almost like I’m capturing an image of a visitor from above. I feel only lightness when I work, stress and negativity seem to magically disappear the minute my hands get in the clay. I’m hopeful the gift of ‘lightness of being’ translates through my creations.”

No piece in the collection better captures this spiritual feel than Simon The Protector, a 10.5″ bust depicting a Romanesque winged figure. It appears that, rather than a representation of a specific myth, the piece was derived from the visit of a figure directly to Means as she worked. Its serene expression, inventive composition and handcrafted finish all contribute to its lightness of being.

Means’ ability to instill her work with such lightness and imagination may derive from her earliest experiences with art, as she observed her grandfather work in his own studio.

“My grandfather’s studio was mesmerizing, full of odds and ends with paintings strewn everywhere, the smell of turpentine thick, I was in awe!,” she said.

It’s comforting to know that memories like that, even from the very beginning of an artist’s journey, can ultimately elicit the same feelings of awe, no matter what else has changed.

Means studied art and psychology at the University of Tennessee. She is an award-winning artist and gallery operator whose work has been exhibited throughout the Southeast.

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

Lil Ratchet: Tryin’ To Ride Up by Desmond Lewis

Art of the Week

It’s been pretty clear over the last few weeks that Nashville’s artists and curators are aiming their creative efforts toward the avalanche of social issues proliferating our times. There have been the fundamental inequalities laid bare by the death of George Floyd and emphasized in protests and activism across the country, the rampant spread of the novel coronavirus, the damage wrought by local tornadoes less than six months ago, a tense political climate punctuated by the upcoming presidential election and more.

Putting these issues on display, local galleries have exhibited Marbles by Lorenzo Swinton at DBOGallery, Tribute To George Floyd by Ashley Doggett at David Lusk Gallery and The Survivor by Eleanor Taylor at Frist Art Museum, just to name a few.

And now, Red Arrow Gallery is hosting “Breathless,” an exhibition of work from 15 artists that emphasizes the broad range of creative interpretations being applies to current events all in one show. The name is derived from a common feeling generated by this unique place and time.

“Since early March 2020, the state of the world has changed, and our lives have been altered forever,” the gallery explained in a release. “‘Breathless’ is a group exhibition featuring new work created at the beginning of March through present. Influenced by the March 3 tornado. Influenced by the pandemic induced quarantines we’ve experienced over the last five months. Influenced by the racial divide, injustice and protest movement that is at the center of our current political and social environment.”

Exhibited artists include Nuveen Barwari, Bethany Carlson Coffin, Paul Collins, Lindsy Davis, Amy Dean, Marlos E’van, Jodi Hays, John Paul Kesling, Marcus Maddox, Joe Nolan, Dax Van Aalten, Tara Walters, Ripley Whiteside, Christopher Wormald and Desmond Lewis. Exhibited works include photographs of local protests, portraits of political figures and mixed media representations.

Lewis’s piece, Lil Ratchet: Tryin’ To Ride Up, hangs from the ceiling of Red Arrow as an installation — a single-wheeled BMX bike suspended with a ratchet strap. Among the recent local artistic commentaries on current events, it stands out for its use of found objects and three-dimensional attention. Visitors may also be struck by the hopelessness it evokes, which draws a parallel between the challenges faced by those attempting to lift themselves through a rigged system, and the inherent futility of a bike with one wheel and a flat tire.

As for people of color who live under an unequal social system, or victims of a tornado who are then quickly buffeted by an international pandemic, it’s more than just difficult to lift yourself up when you don’t have the necessary tools or circumstances — it’s nearly impossible.

Lewis received his master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Memphis. He has participating in residencies at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Skowhegan School of Painting, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and others. His work has been collected at the Carolina Bronze Sculpture Park, Vermont Carving and Sculpture Center, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music and elsewhere.

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

White Nationalist by Marlos E’van

Art of the Week

From now until August 29, Nashville’s Channel To Channel gallery features three local artists who present complementary but diverse viewpoints on our past and present society using kindred creative approaches. The artists — Nuveen Barwari, Courtney Adair Johnson and Marlos E’van — have assembled for a show entitled “Hot Cheetos: Activism and Junk Food.”

“Barwari, E’van and Johnson first came together in 2018 and again in 2019, working together with local youth on a summer program with McGruder Social Practice Artist Residency (M-SPAR),” according to a release from the gallery, referencing a program to accelerate artistic participation and collaboration in North Nashville through the McGruder Family Resource Center. “There are many parallels in their methods and personal histories, as each artist was raised in the southern United States. However, each has different heritage and backgrounds that play an important part in their independent art practices. Their interest in social justice, historical narratives and the use of repurposed material have interlaced them into a working collective.”

Barwari is a Kurdish American whose work spans multiple disciplines and whose focus tends to be on migration, refugee experiences and transnational identity. Johnson explores issues of waste and consumption through her work, emphasizing sustainability and reuse. E’van works in multimedia, including film, and much of the resulting art accentuates figures from current events and the vices of commercialism — as in the piece The Last Suppa. But E’van’s work also offers perspective on other contemporary issues, particularly at this moment of reflection on societal inequalities.

“[E’van delivers] critiques on the criminal justice system, both in America and abroad, while offering works and exhibitions that ask questions of how we, as a society, can break the chains that oppress us and finally live in a world as a unified people.”

His piece White Nationalist, featured in “Hot Cheetos,” offers a seemingly clear viewpoint on a social issue: a call to eliminate white nationalist sentiment. But it is more than just a social traffic sign. The canvas is stretched over a window pane that E’van salvaged from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, literally embedding a moment in American history during which people of color suffered disproportionately and, like the peers along whom this piece is hung at Channel To Channel, demonstrating the power that art has to revive and transform found objects.

E’van received their bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Watkins College of Art in 2016 and has been exhibited widely throughout Nashville. E’van also cofounded M-SPAR.

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