Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nashville Visual Arts Events, September 1-10

Back to the typical busy Fall schedule. I’m sure I’m missing something significant, but here’s what I’ve got in my inbox and a little internet surfing.

As always, if you have an email list of your own, feel free to forward this.

If someone wants to get added directly to my list for the email version of this listing, send me an email at To get taken off the list, email to that effect at the same address.

Featured Event, September 4 and 6

Sarratt Gallery, Jose Torres Tama. Nashville doesn’t see a lot of performance art, although maybe we wouldn’t know it if we saw it. Is Dave Cloud performance art? Probably. One thing that performance art would seem to do is occupy the middle ground between dance and the visual arts, and that makes it a very natural place for Vanderbilt’s Sarratt/Great Performances programming to go under Bridgette Kohnhort’s direction. The Sarratt program is opening the school year with a performance piece by artist Jose Torres Tama, who has lived in New Orleans for 20 years. His performance starts at 7:00 on Thursday, September 6 (with a reception beforehand), accompanied by an exhibit by 4 New Orleanian photographers. Torres Tama’s piece is called The Cone of Uncertainty: New Orleans After Katrina. The title is a reference to prediction reliability in projects, but it also seems like a reference to those hurricane projection maps where the further you get from the current time and location of the hurricane, you see a widening area of the possible route. The performance is described as combining film projections, ritual elements, and personal storytelling. Torres Tama is also giving a lecture on performance art in Vandy’s Ingram Studio Art building on Tuesday, September 4 at 6:00.

OK, back to the chronology.

September 1

Twist Gallery and Downtown Presbyterian Church, Whole Milk and Mural Project. OK, I’m going to plug something at DPC again (I’m a member there). Twist Gallery is presenting an exhibit by four young artists from Minneapolis (Isaac Arvold, John Grider, Eric Inkala and Drew Peterson), but not only are they showing their paintings and drawings at the gallery, but they are collaborating on a big mural that will take up a blank wall of the Viridian building that faces Downtown Pres. The design for that project mixes up images of a lamb or goat, some glyphic animals, abstract patterns, and an odd kind of angel. You can find Christian imagery there if you look for it, but even as you do that you realize you’re probably stretching it. If I don’t say so myself, it’s not what you would imagine a church arranging to have painted on a wall, and it will be the most interesting bit of outdoor painting downtown (tell me if I’m forgetting something). The mural will be “unveiled” at DPC Art Luck event before the downtown gallery crawl, although my understanding is that it will still be in progress this weekend.

Dangenart, Connect 12. Curated by Ben Vitualla, an active participant in the local art scene whose work continues to grow on me—I’m thinking of stuff like his mixed media paintings that incorporate toy soldiers into compositions with strong graphic structures like target forms. He’s invited 12 other local artists (Eric Denton, Jimi Benedict, Erika Johnson, Daniel Lai, Samantha Callahan, Sean Jewett, Rick Bradley, Alesandra Bellos, Tiffany Denton, Chris Hill, Andee Rudloff, and Shana Kohnstamm) to display work of their own next to his.

TAG McCay Otto and Monica Cook. So of course you’ve been wondering how Nashville galleries can better serve the interests of water sports fetishists. TAG gallery is determined to see what they can do for their cause with the exhibit “Pee Girls” by Monica Cook. The exhibit title pretty much describes several of the paintings, but they are done in a heightened realistic style that sounds lovely in its way. That’s in the back gallery, in the front TAG has an exhibit by McKay Otto. Otto does ethereal paintings (that's one of his at the beginning of the post) inspired by the mystic spirituality of Eckhard Tolle that will contrast with the intense corporeality of Cook’s work.

SQFT, Ladies (and Gentleman) An exhibit by 8 artists from all over, Portland, Oregon to Halifax and Germany. Several of them are illustrators, so there’s a lot of economic and expressive drawing here. Amy Ruppel’s work sounds particularly interesting—“beeswax layered under and over digital prints on paper derived from her photography, completed with drawings etched into the wax,” and the surface is smoothed out with a propane torch.

The Arts Company, Wes Sherman. Sherman bases his paintings on Old Master artworks, but not in the form of derivative visual quotations. He boils down the massings and colors of those works into graceful abstractions that echo the massings and colors of the older works. I find Sherman’s results stand on their own very well, but they serve as a gloss on these other paintings, pointing out ways to look at their essential structures. One of his paintings in this year’s show is based on O’Keefe’s Radiator Building, a tribute to this big piece of Nashville’s artistic legacy and a sad reminder of the possibility that the painting will leave town after the lawyers get done.

LeQuire Gallery. LeQuire has opened an auxiliary space in the Arcade so they are getting in on first Saturday art crawl. I’m not sure what work they expect to have on display, but it’s good to see them establish a presence at the Arcade and get their artists in front of this crowd.

September 7

Renaissance Center, Dickson, Jaime Raybin, “Milk Shelf” Another milk-themed show, this one by local artist Jaime Raybin. The opening reception runs from 6-7:30 on Friday the 7th at the Renaissance Center, a straight shot out I40 in Dickson. Jaime has shown in a number of group shows, including with the Off the Wall group. It sounds like this show will include a number of the paintings that were in her senior show. It is the first in a series at the Renaissance Center that will feature recent graduates of area art programs. The Ren Center is also opening their annual regional art show, which usually includes several interesting artists you wouldn’t otherwise encounter.

September 8

Estel, Sean O’Meallie, “Object Circus” O’Meallie makes toy-like objects out of wood but finished with highly refined surfaces. There’s a lot of wit in the forms and titles. The show opens this week, but the gallery is having a reception for O’Meallie on the 8th.

Zeitgeist, John Folsom. Large scale photographs of landscapes like Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee and Banff, Alberta. He starts with a group of small images, pulls them into a single image digitally, and then treats it with oil paint and wax to give the texture of painting.

September 9

CRAFT: A Creative Community A group of local artists/artisans holds a monthly sale/fair in the parking lot of Lipstick Lounge, the next one is 11-5 on Sunday, September 9.

Other announcements

A couple of things from Watkins:

First, the school is holding auditions for people to appear in student films. The auditions will be from 6-9 on Thursday, September 6 and 6-9 on Friday the 7th, at the College in Metro Center. They encourage people to schedule an audition via email at You can walk in also. They ask folks to bring a headshot and resume, just like real actors and actresses. There’s more information at their website.

Watkins also has announced their community education classes for the Fall. You can find the schedule and class descriptions here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Website for Arts Listings In Nashville

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has started a comprehensive events listing called, and it has a section for visual arts. So far it doesn't include a lot of the private galleries, but some are there, like Estel. I'd encourage everyone with a gallery or one-night event to submit. I'm not sure how useful this site will be--there are separate listings for each exhibit at some of the major venues (including a separate listing for the George Rickey sculpture at the Frist, and items for each artist showing at the airport), but there is a search function that I haven't checked out yet. Whatever. Everyone might as well take advantage of this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Indian Kathak Classical Dance this Sunday

Sri Ganesha Temple is presenting two classical Kathak dance dramas performed by a group from New Dehli, The Dhwani Repertory led by Vaswati Misra. The performance starts at 3:30, on Sunday, August 26 in the temple’s auditorium. I’m not sure I can put this into words effectively, but I’ve found the Indian dance dramas absolutely riveting. The one time I attended one, I was very aware of them deploying the bodies and groupings in a sculptural way. Technique is important, but I don’t remember it being as flashy as some of the other forms, particularly solo. The dramas, working largely with the dancers as a company, leave a very strong visual impression, and are on important levels comprehensible in spite of the unfamiliar narrative content. They are dramas without words, so they cross some of the major language barriers.

The notice on the performance offers the following descriptions of the pieces programmed for the 26th: Jeevan, based on Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan's poems, and. Kanupriya, a poetic work of Dr. Dharamvir Bharati. I know these poems probably have a strong narrative content, but I find the idea of basing a performance on poetry extremely appealing. The troupe itself, coming from New Dehli, is likely to be very good.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

SooPlex's last show

SooPlex had its last show last night. Associates of Mike’s and Julian’s from various places. Now Mike Calway-Fagen heads to Athens, Georgia, where he already has plans to open a space. And Julian Rogers goes to Brooklyn to give that a try—y’know, New York, just like I pictured it, tall buildings, art critics, hedge fund managers with wads of cash…

Like the previous shows, one or a handful of pieces from each artist. Here’s what I responded to, in something like order of preference. 3 photos by Damien Crisp, of bits of crumpled newspaper set against a pitch black background, broken by a areas where points of light seem to glint off the black surface. The paper looks like it was soaked in wax—it’s moist and textured, taking on characteristics of skin, but also making it luscious in a way. Although it’s the most trivial material possible. The images were improbably sleek. The setting could have been the depths of the intergalactic sky, or dark water in a gutter. It also has purely formal qualities, or constitutes an updating of Cubist treatments of newspaper text.

Then there were a couple of pieces by Survival Design, Jason Brown and Elizabeth Scofield in Knoxville. The piece I liked best was a set of nylon pods, sewn together in sections. An oblong one hung from the ceiling, and maybe 7 little ones lay on the floor below. Inside each bag, a red LED element flickered. The room was well-lit, so the LEDs were dim. I took that on face value, and found myself looking at these units as engaged in withholding rather than delivering light—Mike pointed out that in a darker room, the effect would be different. I also had the sense that the LED was more visible from some angles that others, so even thought the piece was in the middle of the room, I found myself negotiating with the piece over the plane of approach. And the forms were pretty just on their surfaces.

Let’s see. Christopher Ho, with a different use for newspapers—a couple of prints that took print window ads, stacked them up vertically and took away elements. The sequence of panes suggested there was a narrative in there somewhere. In each print, there was a point where the word “free” stood alone inside one of the panes. An utterly out of place word really, since the point of the source material in every case was to sell something.

Elisha Kerlin. A folded sheet, blue stripes on white, lay on the floor and was painted over with a blue cross that extended past the edges of the sheet onto the gallery floor. It has obvious formalism—I was looking for a comparison, and came up with Ben Nicholson, although there’s probably something closer. Except it’s a sheet not canvas, on the floor, not the wall. And the work was created in situ by Mike, following instructions from the artist. Of course it reminded me also of Mariah Johnson’s use of bedsheets.

There was also a story posted on the wall written in response to the show’s theme and inspiration, a failed adventurer named Bas Jan Adler. It was one page and reminded me of an Italo Calvino fable, a similar tone of timelessness in a setting which you have no reason not to think is contemporary, and the same hyper-distilled content. I didn’t remember to remember the name of the author, so I’ll throw it out here and hope I get a comment posted filling in that important detail.

Good luck to Mike and Julian in their next things. Sorry to see them go. Now it’s someone else’s turn.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nashville Visual Arts Events August 16-31

I think really we’re talking about what’s coming up this weekend – I’m aware of two things and they should both be very good. It seems like I’m missing something that’s crossed my inbox, but I can’t find it right now.

August 17

SooPlex, “Dedicated to the Search for the Miraculous” This is SooPlex’s last show before Mike and Julian head off to Brooklyn and Georgia. It’s a group show of Christopher Ho (NY), Survival Design- Jason Brown and Elizabeth Scofield (Knoxville), Alisha Kerlin (Brooklyn), Ciprian Contreras (Knoxville), Kristin Calabrese (LA), and Tom Zarilli (Atlanta) inspired by Bas Jan Adler, who tried to cross the Atlantic in a single person sailboat in 1975 and was lost at sea. The interest here seems to be in the failed grand experiment. One night only, 6-9, last chance to see what SooPlex has come up with. Their shows have been very thought-provoking, people should really try to stop by and take a look. Zarilli just finished a show at Ruby Green where he staged scenes out of stuff he found at yard sales that was fun and surprising. SooPlex is in the 310 Chestnut Street building.

August 18

Cumberland Gallery, “Pursuit of Happiness,” Bhutanese Thangka paintings by Phurba Namgay Carol Stein and her husband Richard have made numerous trips to Bhutan over the years, hosted students here, and so forth, so they must have developed a great attachment to this Himalayan country. I’m more familiar with Tibetan paintings, but I’m guessing it’s pretty similar. These are devotional images of Buddha and associated deities, done in incredibly vivid colors. The Himalayan strains of Buddhism (at least in Tibet) have absorbed local folk religions, resulting in a wildly varied pantheon. I think of it being like syncretic Haitian or Mexican practices of Christianity where saints absorb qualities of local gods, making for a lot more interesting mix. Again, assuming I can extrapolate from Tibet to its neighbor, devotional painting is a living art, with contemporary painters continuing the practices and styles developed over several hundred years. The Steins have gotten to know one of these painters, and will be showing his work for one night only, during gallery hours (10-5) on Saturday the 18th plus a reception for the artist from 5-8.

Also, Estel is opening a show featuring toy-like sculptures by Sean O’Meallie on August 29th, but they are doing their opening reception on September 8 so I’ll write about it more next time.

Maria's piece on zines

My wife published an article this week in the Scene on local folks making and paying attention to zines. I didn't realize you can check out zines from the big collection that Jerianne Thompson has at the main city library in Murfreesboro. Maria borrowed a bunch from there, and some from Angela Messina, so I got a chance to thumb through them. Some of the things that Jerianne counts as zines I'm not sure I'd agree -- Fifth Estate is a long-standing anarchist magazine that's now published in TN. But she's preserving this stuff, and that's very good.

The best stuff Maria had was Kate Csillagi's hand-made series. I think she calls it Romance. Angela had copies. I don't know if you can get them from Kate.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Finally, a review – Holt and Seigenthaler

This may the first in a series of reviews of shows that have closed by now. I think a saying that would cover this approach is “with miniscule readership comes miniscule responsibility.”

On Friday I went by Belmont’s gallery to see the show by Emily Holt and Delia Seigenthaler. It was announced as closing Thursday, but I didn’t believe it. Sometimes I am caught by surprise, by ambitious gallery staff, but no such problems Friday.

Very briefly, because I just want to talk about a couple of pieces: Emily does paintings and constructions of birds, bugs, monsters, dog gods, graveyards that have a creepy but funny air. You could compare it to Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, but that’s not right. A rough, hand-made quality is important in Emily’s stuff.

Seigenthaler makes ceramic dolls of babies and children often doing odd things, and paintings with these characters and others. She plays with and emphasizes dolls’ inherently creepy quality, wide-open fixed staring eyes. And she gives a lot of them anatomically correct genitalia, which you would think would get a reaction from the Christian Taliban, but apparently standards of pious rectitude have declined rapidly now that Belmont has cut its ties with the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

So the first piece on my mind is Diminishing Triage, a set of sculptures by Emily. (BTW, I know Emily, but not Delia Seigenthaler. My practice in the blog is to refer to people I know reasonably well however I refer to them in real life, and anyone else by their last name.) A dragon, cobbled together from plastic, cans or cardboard packaging, maybe a deer’s skull with a garden trowel in place of its lower jaw, swoops over the scene at eye level. On the floor a single file line of bugs variously wrapped in gauze and riding all sorts of wheeled conveyances march along a curved path that starts at a sort of tunnel entrance on the wall and ends in another one a few feet to the right. The first tunnel entrance, on the left, is big, the second one much smaller, and the bugs get progressively smaller as they move away from the big entrance to the little one.

It’s like a perspective effect, defined by the figures getting smaller in the distance. Except they don’t get smaller along a straight line away from the viewer, but do so along a curved on that puts foreground (bigger) and background (smaller) the same distance away. It’s the curved universe, post-Newton.

The piece also is a good introduction to a bunch of things in Emily’s work. The presence of threat, the interest in flying things (bugs, birds, bats), and a pervasive sense of fragility. Sometimes dirt and the ground figure in her pieces (and there’s dirt pile dup along the edge of the curved track in Diminishing Triage), but air seems to be the dominant element for Emily. All the bugs and graves bring out chthontic qualities, but this is the somehow the chthontic dimension of the air, not of the Earth. The overunderworld.

And maybe there’s political overtones—attacks from the air, resulting in various casualties. Maybe it’s there, maybe not.

Obviously Seigenthaler shares Holt’s childish creepiness. The piece I want to talk about is Landscape with Baby. A child lies on a background of patterned fabrics stuffed like upholstery. In the background are a few buildings. The pieces looks remarkably like an early Renaissance painting—the buildings seem Mediterranean, with tile roofs and bleached colors, and they are arrayed with the jumbled perspective that paintings had before artists started organizing them around a single receding point. The sirface details on the child including sections that have flaked away, like a fresco in an Italian church.

But the fabric underneath the baby, which as I recall was the largest element, has outright Moorish patterns and outlines. The total effect is similar to art works created at the interface of Christian and Islamic cultures. Again, maybe a contemporary reference. Subtle enough that you can take it or leave it.

On the way back to the car I stopped in the art department gallery which had a show by a student, Matt Chenoweth, who has found his way into clay. It’s definitely a student show, where he tries out different techniques (including some Jason Briggs-y objects with stuff attached), but he seems to have a really good feel for glaze and color combinations. He’s got a ways to go before his nice but conventional vessels challenge the boundary between art and craft, as he declares is his intention. But he has good fundamental skills to work in this medium, whatever he decides to do with it.