Birds in Flight by Jon Carsman

Art of the Week

After touring its acres of manicured grounds, artfully arranged botanicals, outdoor installations and historic mansion, it can be surprising to realize that the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Belle Meade also has a modern wing housing visual art. Even more impressive is to find that when this section is not occupied by a traveling exhibition, it is filled with astounding selections from the Cheekwood Permanent Collection of Fine Art, including historically significant examples of American impressionism, abstract expressionism, pop art and more.

In its current exhibition from the collection, running until January 5, 2020, visitors will find work by renowned founders of the Ashcan School William Glackens and John Sloan, Nashville native and pop art trailblazer Red Grooms and postwar abstractionist Helen Frankenthaler. All together, it is more than enough to make the Cheekwood collection one of the most critical and impressive assemblages of 20th century American art anywhere in the world. And when a particular selection is on display, as it is now, it’s enough to make visitors wonder just how many more gems are still in storage.

In addition to about 600 paintings, the Cheekwood Permanent Collection of Fine Art includes thousands of prints, drawings, photographs and sculptures, most of which were created by American artists between 1910 and 1970. The collection was founded in 1959 when the Nashville Museum of Art turned over its holdings and, through millions of dollars in new acquisitions, has been growing ever since.

And, even among the incredibly historic and well-known paintings currently on display, Jon Carsman’s Birds in Flight stand out. At more than 5-foot tall and 4-foot wide, the work from 1974 draws attention from the brightly-colored impressions and large-scale abstractions of its colleagues — not least because of the stark contrast of shadow and color and thickly-rendered outlines of Carsman’s style.

“Carsman isolates strong areas of color in juxtaposition with dark outline, the colors become crystallized motifs with a sparkling, jewel-like quality,” as auction house RoGallery explained. “Color is the greatest emotional factor in painting and Carsman uses this device very successfully. Carsman paints broad areas of vivid high-key tones with a surprising effect that creates a dynamic interplay of light and shadow.”

Born among the Appalachian Mountain Range in Pennsylvania, Carsman is best known for depictions of natural and rural scenes in his trademark thickly-outlined style. In good company with Cheekwood’s other samples of distinctly American painting, Birds in Flight is recognized for its contemporary take on realism and working class sensibility, attitudes that reflect the moment in which it was painted and Carsman’s larger influence on American art at the time.

Carsman’s work was widely exhibited in the ’60s and ’70s, featured at Brooklyn College, the Phoenix Art Museum and the Coventry Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, among other places. Today, his work resides in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, among others. He passed away in 1987.

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

Dolly Parton by Jim McGuire

Art of the Week

Portraiture is one of the most prevalent forms of visual art, but also one of the most difficult to parse. Particularly in an age when the average photograph taken is most likely a selfie, it’s easy to forget how personal, dramatic and affecting a portrait can really be.

Jim McGuire, a local photographer with a near-50 year career of creating portraits, reminds us of the artistic value that can come from placing a subject in front of the camera and clicking the shutter-release button. In “The Nashville Portraits,” an exhibition of his work on view at Belmont University’s Leu Art Gallery through December 6, 2019, one can find intimate and touching studies of some iconic subjects.

“From a young age, McGuire was drawn to hillbilly music, to the sounds, the emotion, the honesty, and then of course to the people who made it,” according to a release from Belmont. “Discovering country music changed his life in ways he couldn’t have dreamed. Over the past thirty-five years, he has had the good fortune to have met, photographed and befriended many of his musical heroes.”

This reverence for and firsthand intimacy with his subjects is perhaps what elevates the 1974 print Dolly Parton beyond a mere photograph and into the more intentional realm of a “portrait.” Parton is presented in much of her well-known “girl next door” glory — with a gentle smile, crossed legs and cradling her guitar. But the monochromatic lighting is also dramatic, offering a glow that seems to emanate directly from Parton. The piece achieves perhaps the loftiest goal that a portrait can: creating an immortal image of its subject that subtly, but definitively, articulates their individuality.

McGuire has been making photographs in Nashville since the early ’70s, creating portraits of regional royalty like Waylon Jennings and Barbara Mandrell. But in addition to creating intimate portraits of country music legends, McGuire has created photographs of live concerts, of dramatically staged scenes and of seemingly candid moments. His work has been featured on hundreds of album covers and collected in a “Nashville Portraits” book.

“Most of us have a drawer full of snapshots that remind us of the good times,” McGuire has said of the collection. “These are some of mine.”

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

Ancestral Apple Core Unscrolled by David Onri Anderson

Art of the Week

Visual art can often create a unique intersection between temporality and permanence. Static images are, of course, unchanging and add some level of immortality to moments in time that would otherwise be fleeting. While no piece of art truly lives forever, the practice of creating one might be the single most powerful method for imbuing perpetual life on a scene, being or idea.

Through “Fragile as Fruit,” an exhibition currently on display at David Lusk Gallery, David Onri Anderson plays highlights this intersection. In a series of simple pastel-colored paintings featuring produce and broken eggs, Anderson captures themes as large as the passing of time, the inherent fragility of life and the power of art to bring immortality to otherwise temporal subjects.

“Comprised of paintings on canvas, ‘Fragile as Fruit’ speaks to temporality and decay,” according to press material provided by the gallery. “The common factors [for this show] being the vulnerability of transformation over time, fragility and the potential for consumption.”

In Ancestral Apple Core Unscrolled, Anderson elevates a simple depiction of an apple core, painted with dye made from flowers and herbs, imbuing it with ancient and mythical iconography. The notion that a fruit core could be “unscrolled” to reveal mystically decorated seeds implies an ethereal, timeworn power inherent in the otherwise discarded and forgotten subject. By identifying this ancient power within such an everyday and fragile thing, Anderson strikes a chord that should be felt in every viewer — one that reminds us of our own temporality and the beauty that resides there.

“My goal is to form a path that allows the viewer to enter in a way that unites our experiences without homogenizing our differences, so that there can be an open and clear space where there was none before,” Anderson said in an artist’s statement provided by David Lusk Gallery. “Resisting the spectacle and urging the awareness of our fragile existence, the works emphasize the need to soul search for balance and reciprocity in order to rediscover the self.”

Seen together, the works for “Fragile as Fruit” are a reminder of how much power can reside in the seemingly simple — through the pieces themselves, as well as through the notion that something as basic as visual art can breath life into the humblest of subjects.

Anderson received a bachelor’s in fine art from Watkins College of Art in 2016. His work has been exhibited around the country, including in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Anderson also runs the Electric Shed arts venue in South Nashville.

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

The Last Suppa by Marlos E’van

Art of the Week

Marlos E’van’s work is not only intended to comment on our times — our times are weaved into the very fabric and nature of its being.

Their paintings have been inspired by gun violence, prevalent commercialism, social inequality and the other preeminent anxieties inherent in the contemporary American experience. And, in their very composition, these pieces seem to channel something quintessentially contemporary through a scattershot range and unapologetic conflation of symbols and ideas.

“My work is a statement of the harsh, often self-contradictory ideologies on which America is built,” E’van said in an artist’s statement. “Using found materials, obsessive mark making, text and hyperbole, I hope that my work encourages dialogue among different classes of people.”

This wide-ranging approach and contemporary subject matter is well encapsulated through “Slightly Dangerous!,” an exhibition of E’van’s painting, sculpture and installation work currently on view at Red Arrow Gallery. The show includes pieces inspired by racial tension, fear of nuclear attack and the crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico. And it refracts these particularly American stressors through multiple media, mixed iconography and a seemingly rushed, unpolished technique — a combination that instills the very nature of our modern society into the pieces themselves.

“From athletes to historical figures, from cars to fast food, [E’van uses] symbols to cross-examine stereotypes and institutions that perpetuate inequalities,” according to a release from the gallery. “Consumerism offers us both practical and impermanent symbols in our lives that, in some ways, have become standards of Western civilization. By changing the context of these symbols, they hope to transform them into instruments of meaningful reflection/understanding.”

The Last Suppa is a good example of E’van’s ability to play with symbolism. Toying with one of classical art’s most iconic scenes, they have inserted a cast of unexpected and playful figures, including a woman in a burqa and Christ as Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player turned social activist. The scene is messy and colorful but with an explicit use of cultural symbols that gives the viewer no choice but to reflect on our modern times.

E’van is a multimedia artist based in Nashville who received their bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Watkins College of Art in 2016. E’van also cofounded the McGruder Social Practice Artist Residency (M-SPAR), a program to accelerate artistic participation and collaboration in North Nashville through the McGruder Family Resource Center. Red Arrow and E’van will be giving 10 percent of all proceeds from “Slightly Dangerous!” to the McGruder Center.

Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville. The gallery will be hosting a special discussion about the artist and exhibition on October 12, 2019.

Back in the Days by OSGEMEOS

Art of the Week

A recurring set of iconography or particular way of rendering characters has become a staple of contemporary art. The “elevation” of cartooning to echo the rise of street art, inject the artist’s own persona directly into pieces, comment on the proliferation of corporate branding or otherwise has been successfully accomplished by the likes of Keith Haring and KAWS, among many others.

OSGEMEOS, the pseudonym of Brazilian twins Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo, similarly merges the worlds of graffiti and traditional art, cartoon iconography and nuanced metaphor, whimsical depictions and social commentary in their work currently on display at Frist Art Museum’s “OSGEMEOS: In Between” exhibition.

“The works tell stories — sometimes autobiographical — of fantasy, social change and how tradition and progress coexist in Brazil,” according to Frist.

The duo, whose moniker means “the twins” in Portuguese, began as graffiti artists in São Paulo in the ’80s. As their frail-limbed, large-headed characters and ability to blend hip-hop culture, Brazilian folklore and regional social issues became recognized, they were commissioned for public works and added to private collections around the world. But, despite any “validation” offered by this rise in popularity, their work has remained as unique and broadly iconic as ever.

“While their major reputation in the art world is well established, with works in major private and public collections, OSGEMEOS has never lost sight of their desire to be accessible to wide audiences,” Mark Scala, Frist’s chief curator, wrote in a press release.

Frist is exhibiting eight mixed-media paintings and two sculptures by the duo until January 12, 2020. Among the works on display is Back in the Days, a meta study of graffiti culture that offers some insight into the brothers’ own development from practicing street artists to lauded representatives of the genre itself.

“During the 1990s, they were in close contact with the American artist Barry McGee, who met the twins while traveling in Brazil and was so impressed with their work that he offered advice on painting techniques and shared photographs of New York graffiti with them,” Scala wrote. “Works like Back in the Days … which depict American rather than Brazilian subway cars, likely relate to this early exposure.”

Back in the Days is also representative of OSGEMEOS’ close ties to street art and their ability to create nuance from it. The work itself is not graffiti, but rather a scene in which graffiti thrives — offering some elevated perspective on the movement’s roots. The character depictions for which the duo has become well known stand with icons of hip-hop culture and a range of skin tones. Explicit text encourages viewers to “make your mark on society.”

All together, the piece makes it easy to see how OSGEMEOS has become a contemporary art movement in and of itself.

Frist Art Museum is located at 919 Broadway.

Burst VI by Heather Hartman

Art of the Week

Even the most basic visual elements can offer incredible depth and beauty when presented through the right lens. And this lens is front and center in the current solo show of mixed media paintings by Heather Hartman, “Spare Room,” currently on view at We-Ho’s Channel To Channel gallery.

Through a skillful combination of material, Hartman creates the effect that her work is making a light of its own, softly filtered through obscuring veils. Window VI offers suggestions of a curtain pulled against the sunrise while Pool IV recreates the effect of bright light reflecting from a body of water, for instance. When viewed as a collection, the pieces are each a unique but unified study on light, that most crucial element of visual art, close up, pared down and played with.

“Hartman’s work combines paper softly appearing behind polyester mesh to create the illusion of light glowing through the periphery of life,” according to the gallery. “Her interests lie in capturing the soft, diffused glow of the Tennessee atmosphere.”

Burst VI may be the most overt and aggressive exploration of the show’s unifying element. An explosion of warmly colored bokeh — the way that a camera lens renders out-of-focus points of light as flat, bright circles — and shafts of luminescence erupt from the center. There is no recognizable figure producing this light, just a study on the visual effects of it.

“I am interested in the constant flux of the visual world and our temporary space within it,” Hartman’s artist statement reads, offering some insight into the inspiration behind works like those in “Spare Room” in particular. “Through common distortions of light, shadow and atmosphere, the familiar can become abstracted and unfamiliar. Thus — for a fleeting moment — the mundane is transformed into the sublime.”

Hartman holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Auburn University and a master’s in fine art with a concentration in painting and drawing from the University of Tennessee. Her work has been included in numerous art publications and exhibited across the country. She is currently an assistant professor of art at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City.

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

Anything’s Possible by Will Schumm

Art of the Week

How do you capture the spirit of an entire city in a single image? That is, of course, the type of challenge that’s been tackled by visual artists for eons. They have rendered entire cities realistically from distinct vantage points, imagined distinct sections wrestling with historic events and shown representative inhabitants as embodiments of larger ideals.

It’s a challenge newly confronted by Will Schumm, a self-taught artist whose latest series of oil paintings is titled simply “Nashville.”

“I’m passionate about our great city, all of its nuances, activities, music, people and heart,” Schumm told Art of Nashville. “As such, I’ve elected to use Nashville as my motivating creative emphasis for the balance of my productive days. I’m attempting to paint the history of Nashville on an ongoing basis.”

To capture the full breadth of the city in his work, Schumm has created pieces inspired by Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, the presence of local musicians and Nashville’s explosively creative spirit, among other local points of interest. The series includes skylines, portraits and studies of musicians’ fingers as they play their instruments. Put together and even individually, the works capture something indelible about being here — Nashville’s history as well as its thoroughly contemporary energy.

Anything’s Possible, for example, presents the vitality of Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, one of its most significant tourist destinations today, in the context of its historic legacy.

The painting shows Tom Ryman, the riverboat captain and businessman who built the church-turned-auditorium, standing with Reverand Sam Jones, the preacher who inspired its creation and first stood behind its pulpit.

“My motivation to create the piece was the incredible story of Captain Ryman and about how he came to build the Union Gospel Tabernacle,” Schumm explained, using the original name for the building. “In short, Tom Ryman went to the Rev. Sam Jones’ revival knowing that a certain Sunday’s sermon was pretty much directed at him and business operations that involved gambling and booze, amongst other activities. Before he left the revival on that fateful day, he was saved by the power of the Holy Spirit and decided that he would use all of his influence and money to build a church worthy of the city and citizens of Nashville.”

To create the painting, Schumm conducted a photo study of the Ryman Auditorium, asking tourists to stand in front of its windows for reference. The result bathes the men in light filtered through the space’s infamous stained glass windows, anointing them with the auditorium’s lasting influence. Schumm believes this to be the only image in existence that features both men together and he hopes to eventually donate it to the Ryman.

“Very few buildings truly represent Nashville like the Ryman Auditorium,” Schumm said. “And … very few, if any, historic stories concerning Nashville are more powerful than the Union Gospel Tabernacle/Ryman Auditorium’s story.”

Anything’s Possible will be on display at the 100 Taylor Arts Collective on September 21, 2019, as part of the weekly Germantown Art Crawl.

The 100 Taylor Arts Collective is located at 100 Taylor Street in Germantown.