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.

Essence of Calm by Peter Kuttner

Art of the Week

Despite its history as humankind’s most ancient form of creative expression, visual art is constantly iterated upon by contemporary creators and new processes and skills are always emerging.

For proof, look no further than Peter Kuttner, a visual artist who combines a number of techniques to create art uniquely suited for the contemporary world. In Essence of Calm, a large-scale mixed media piece currently on view at Nashville’s Bennett Galleries, for instance, Kuttner has turned the painted canvas into a background plane, layering cut-out shapes on top of it to add new dimension and depth. It is an approach to creating visual art that helps Kuttner comment on some thoroughly modern dynamics.

“[Kuttner] exploits the painted plane as a structure of opportunity for depth by layering textures, colors and finishes,” according to the gallery. “His technical skill, paired with an organic style and neutral palette captures the tension between city life and the inevitability of quiet moments to be found there. He considers the textures of urban existence, from our emotional responses to the physical environment to the everyday practical concern of inhabiting a densely populated city.”

In addition to Essence of Calm, Bennett Galleries is currently hosting several other pieces from Kuttner. Since 1977, the gallery has housed contemporary paintings and sculptures and offered custom framing services.

Kuttner received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Ringling College of Art & Design in Florida. His work has been featured in television shows including “Californication” and “Nashville” and is on display in several museums and collections around the world. His work is part of the permanent collection of the International Museum of Collage in Santa Fe. A video of Kuttner’s process can be found on his website.

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

Vulnerable by Craig Carlisle

Art of the Week

All too often, innovative and affecting art originates from tragedy. How can an artist channel life’s biggest questions and its most profound heartbreaks unless they’ve asked these questions and felt these heartbreaks themselves?

The works featured in “Letters to a Friend,” two month-long exhibitions of fifteen paintings each by Craig Carlisle now on view at Julia Martin Gallery, do just that, distilling great pain into a soothing, harmonious collection of natural scenes and abstracted figures.

“‘Letters to a Friend’ is a series of paintings created by Craig Carlisle in response to the sudden loss of his best friend of 25 years,” according to the gallery.

In Vulnerable, for instance, Carlisle presents a doe standing in winter’s elements. Despite the brightly-rendered water around its legs, the pastel background and its wide-eyed demeanor, the animal appears innocently susceptible to sudden danger.

The other works in “Letters to a Friend” share elements with Vulnerable — in palette, serenity and, critically, a shared sense that there is more to be considered underneath.

“The idea of meditation and contemplation play a major role in the paintings of artist Craig Carlisle,” his website reads. “His paintings articulate indelible images which evoke an emotional response from the viewer… Each expression Carlisle creates in his paintings are meant to pull from one’s subconscious.”

Much of Carlisle’s work, in this exhibition and preceding it, depicts large-scale, anonymous, genderless heads meant to be free of any specific representation and to illicit emotions and responses that viewers can relate to universally.

Carlisle is from Oklahoma City and received his fine arts degree from the Columbus College of Art & Design. His work has been presented throughout Tennessee, as well as in New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere. His studio is located outside of Nashville.

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

White Angel Breadline by Dorothea Lange

Art of the Week

Few have ever achieved the artistic and documentary goals of photography as successfully as Dorothea Lange.

Lange began her photography career in 1918, working in a photographic supply shop and shooting portraits of San Francisco’s upper crust. But as the Great Depression rose, Lange shifted her focus to documenting the unemployed and homeless, capturing one of the most pivotal eras in American history through starkly straightforward yet emotionally charged photographic studies.

Her first such study was White Angel Breadline, depicting a crowd of men with backs to the camera and a single figure leaning on a fence in the foreground, eyes covered by the brim of his hat, a tin cup sheltered near his body. The scene took place in 1933, outside of a soup kitchen run by a widow known as the “white angel.” The photograph captured the rising depression — its mass effect on the working class, the dejecting struggle for basic necessities and the resigned acceptance many had come to adopt — in unvarnished truth and led to Lange’s employment with the Farm Security Administration. In her new role, she traveled through rural America, photographing migrant laborers and sharecroppers, and her work was published widely.

She went on to catalog some of the country’s other historically pivotal moments in similar style and, while Lange’s heartbreakingly beautiful documentation of the Great Depression may be her best-known work, it is just one part of the retrospective currently on view at Frist Art Museum in the exhibition “Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing.”

“Dorothea Lange … is recognized as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century, and her insightful and compassionate work has exerted a profound influence on the development of modern documentary photography,” according to a press release from the museum. “In addition to presenting Lange’s iconic photographs from the Great Depression, the exhibition will feature works from her early years as a studio portraitist in San Francisco, along with images of the grim conditions of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, naval shipyard workers of different sexes and races contributing to the patriotic cause, and inequity in our judicial system in the 1950s.”

Upon her death in 1965, her husband Paul Taylor donated her archive of more than 20,000 negatives and 6,000 prints to the Oakland Museum of California. The Frist exhibition will be the fourth time this collection is presented — following its display in Oakland, at London’s Barbican and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. The works will be in Frist Museum’s upper galleries until May 27.

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Changes by Faig Ahmed

Art of the Week

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, the historic grounds on Nashville’s western edge that were once home to a dynastic wholesale grocery tycoon and now house botanical gardens and an art museum, lives as one of the area’s most inspiring and precisely designed locales.

It’s hard to walk Cheekwood’s acres, explore its mansion and consider its art galleries while remaining blasé. Manicured lawns and blooming flower beds are reminders of the everlasting splendor of nature. The Cheek family’s historic mansion offers architecture, furniture and ornamentation of a quality that isn’t seen anymore. And a rotating selection of contemporary art juxtaposes this all with dynamic and thoughtful interpretations of what creativity can mean today and in the future.

Cheekwood’s latest exhibition to accentuate its historic legacy through a new lens is called “Derived from the Decorative: Works by Faig Ahmed, Beth Lipman and Bouke de Vries.” It is a collection made particularly powerful in contrast to the antiquities that populate the Cheek’s former mansion.

“The exhibition consists of artists who take cues from decorative arts traditions yet invert the precepts by blurring the space between functional forms and art forms,” according to a description from Cheekwood. “The exhibition celebrates the work of a national and international group of artists who look at traditional decorative arts as a point of departure for contemporary creations. The artists in this show challenge the idea of historically informed notions of craft and provide a contemporary entry point into the space between fine and decorative art.”

Pieces include deconstructed glasswork by Beth Lipman, a multimedia artist from Philadelphia; fragmented china statues by de Vried, a Dutch conservator and fashion designer working in London; and Changes by Faig Ahmed, an artist from Azerbaijan who incorporates traditional carpet-weaving techniques with mind-bending alterations to create unique textile sculptures.

“Ahmed takes an object meant to be functional and positioned on a floor and presents it on the wall as one would a painting, removing the intended use most frequently associated with carpets,” per Cheekwood.

In Changes, Ahmed has produced a beautifully handmade, woolen carpet and warped its middle, inserting a new and disruptive perspective directly into one of the world’s most ancient functional art forms.

Ahmed’s work has been exhibited around the world and is held in collection at the Seattle Art Museum, the West Collection in Philadelphia, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and elsewhere. He represented Azerbaijan in the country’s pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

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

Dinosynchlastic by David Ribar

Art of the Week

In its latest exhibition, “David Ribar: A Semi-Retrospective,” Belmont University’s Department of Art is celebrating the namesake in a perfectly quintessential way.

Ribar has been producing visual art since arriving in Nashville in 1979. He’s explored drawing across many media, represented a wealth of the city’s cultural institutions and has explored nearly every facet of what visual art can be across four decades. He has written art criticism, served on art juries and curated and consulted for art galleries.

Now that he is retiring from his latest position as a professor at Belmont, the university has assembled a “highly random” selection of his work for the show.

“More specifically, the exhibit explores the three distinctly different ways Ribar likes to create art,” according to a press release from the university. “These include drawing directly and quickly from the figure engaging in the immediate moment; drawing for longer periods from photos and reproductions or with the use of Photoshop, for more calculated ends, which are more abstracted from the real moment; and working without reference to a person or thing.”

The piece Dinosynchlastic appears to be an example of the middle way: a highly elaborated rendering of a classical bust or portrait. With a superimposed grid, spectral bending and radical colors, the figure could have been transported from the classical era to a galactic space age via wormhole. It seems an appropriate representation of work from someone who has spent years considering what art has been, what it is and what it can be.

In addition to serving as a professor, Ribar has chaired the Belmont’s art department. When he first moved to Nashville, he worked as an exhibitions designer for the Cheekwood Museum of Art, then as its curator of exhibits. He has shown his own work in galleries across the country.

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

Jen And Reba By John Paul Kesling

Art of the Week

In his latest exhibition, “Panic and Purpose” featured at Red Arrow Gallery until March 30, John Paul Kesling has assembled a series of works that rethink the familiar. Through harshly bright pastels, abstracted figures and convoluted scenery, he has rendered images that may be recognizable but still raise unsettling questions.

“Music, foggy memories, a new tube of paint, conversations, a comedy podcast, politics — they are all image-making materials,” Kesling said, according to a statement provided by the gallery. “I use these as fuel and interpret them into a personal lexicon of imagery, symbols and mark-making techniques. Through visual narration, I paint fluid ideas that try to answer questions about living but usually end in the creation of new questions.”

In Jen and Reba, an acrylic and pastel piece in the show, Kesling presents two figures entwined together in repose. The simplicity of their outlines and lack of detail in their expressions gives them a serene — if not uncanny — presence while the layering of their bodies and bright coloring gives the scene dynamism.

“In Jen and Reba, two friends, completely comfortable sharing a space, rest together in a midday nap,” Kesling explained. “Tangled like headphone wires but without the frustration, the figures, shapes and colors dance in the silence of the moment.”

Kesling is originally from Kentucky and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Morehead State University. He went on to obtain his Master of Fine Arts degree with a focus in painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design. He lived and practiced in New York City before moving to Madison in 2016.

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