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VISUAL ARTS

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MAGAZINE

John Mellencamp Dean Dixon William W. Rosen Gabriel Mark Lipper Megan Lightell Kevin Gordon Leslie J. Klein

ArtHouse B. Wilker

Houston Station


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spotlight

Historic Howe Garden Debuts by Emme Nelson Baxter Cheekwood’s beloved Howe Garden reopens in mid April following a nine-month, almost-$1 million renovation funded by the Garden Club of Nashville. The garden, originally a mid-twentieth-century garden at the East Nashville home of Cora and Harry Howe, was moved to Cheekwood in 1968 at the behest of Elizabeth Proctor. In the wake of the Howes’ deaths, Proctor—then serving as president of the Garden Club of Nashville—led her club as they uprooted, transported, and transplanted the precious contents of the Howes’ “Wildings” garden. Since then, the Howe Garden has served as one of Cheekwood’s dominant attractions. The current extreme makeover has been the largest and most comprehensive renovation project recently undertaken in the 55-acre botanical garden. The project is expected to garner national recognition for its horticulture, design, and environmental impact. “Mrs. Howe welcomed thousands of visitors into her private, eight-acre garden each spring, and through this renovation we honor that legacy and hope to inspire thousands more to experience the Howe Garden at Cheekwood,” said Jane Offenbach, president and CEO of Cheekwood. “We are grateful to the Garden Club of Nashville for funding this exciting project and look forward to the myriad new experiences it will offer our visitors.” Two Nashville firms have been responsible for the work. Ben Page, of Page-Duke Landscape Architects, masterminded the new look, while the Carter Group served as general contractor.

photo : bob schat z

In addition to renovation, the project has included the creation of a rain garden. This state-of-the-art garden will allow 30 percent more water to soak into the ground and ultimately help recharge groundwater supply and prevent runoff. Once fully established, the rain garden will be filled with vivid sweeps of native flowers and shrubs that thrive in wet conditions. “Through acknowledging the past and responding to today’s environmental concerns, the Garden Club of Nashville intends to provide a treasured place for many generations to come,” said Lisa Campbell, current president of the Garden Club of Nashville.

While the garden does not officially reopen to the public until Saturday, April 21, those desiring to get an early stroll through it may attend Celebrate Howe Wild! on April 18. Hosted by the GCN, the event includes a garden preview, plant auction, and cocktail supper. Another opportunity for a sneak peak will be Thursday, April 19, at Wine & Wildflowers in Botanic Hall. This event includes a tour, cocktails, and remarks by Ben Page. At the official garden opening on Saturday, the public may enjoy tours, live music, art activities, and lemonade and gingersnaps ala Cora Howe. For more information about Howe Garden opening events, tariffs, and times, contact Cheekwood at 615-356-8000. www.cheekwood.org 10 | April 2O12

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spotlight

Nashville Film Festival After breaking its attendance record last year by close to 15 percent and increasing its ticket sales total to 19,130—an increase of more than 1,500—the forty-third edition of the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) presented by Nissan returns. April 19–26 will bring eight days of studio and independent releases, international films, panels, workshops, music performances, and more to the Regal Green Hills Stadium 16. Competition for the more than 200 film slots for the festival was stiffer than ever, with NaFF receiving 2,839 entries—a 20 percent increase over 2011—representing 101 countries. The festival will open with director Neil Berkeley’s Beauty Is Embarrassing, the funny, irreverent, and inspiring story of Wayne White, an MTSU grad who worked on kids’ shows at Nashville Public Television before becoming a renowned puppet designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and an MTV award-winning designer for videos by Peter Gabriel and Smashing Pumpkins. Opening day will also feature “Tennessee First,” a celebration of films shot in Tennessee and Tennessee filmmakers. Features this year in that category include 5 Days in Denver (Todd Cassetty), Hell or High Water: The Story of the Nashville Rollergirls (Deja Brandeis), Late Summer (Ernie Park), Many Monsters of Sadness (Motke Dapp), Music City Underground (Houston), Street Paper (Christopher Roberts), and Welcome to Nash Vegas (Julie Dove, Martin Desmond Roe). Friday and Saturday nights will be the Festival’s big spotlight Red Carpet nights. Among the highlights scheduled are screenings of Bringing Up Bobby, the directorial debut from actress Famke Janssen (Goldeneye, House on Haunted Hill, X-Men trilogy), and the new short directed by celebrated actress Beth Grant, The Perfect Fit. Janssen and Grant are expected to attend.

Bringing Up Bobby

“For the past couple of years, we’ve moved the big Red Carpet events to the weekend and highlighted some local films on Thursday night, and it’s worked really well,” said artistic director Brian Owens. “So this year we thought we’d try making that lineup a little more formal and really showcase the Tennessee filmmakers on Opening Night.” The Festival's World Cinema and Special Presentations categories, featuring the best in filmmaking from around the world, along with significant premieres and international festival winners, will again lead the lineup of strong programming and highly anticipated selections. Of note is Girl Model, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin's expose of the complex global supply chain of young

Girl Model

girls sent abroad to seek their fortunes in the unregulated and often murky world of the modeling industry. NaFF’s signature Music Films / Music City categories will again give cause for music documentary fans to rejoice. Highlights this year include Under African Skies, director Joe Berlinger’s profile of the making of Paul Simon’s groundbreaking album Graceland and the political and cultural controversy that surrounded it. And, in what may turn out to be a favorite of the festival, Paul Williams: Still Alive, documentary filmmaker Stephen Kessler tracks down the actor, singer, and songwriter in an attempt to find out what happened to his idol.

Paul Williams: Still Alive

All films and guests were correct at press time but are subject to change. For a full updated list of films, categories, panels, events, and guests, please visit nashvillefilmfestival.org. Tickets go on sale on the NaFF website on April 7.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

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spotlight

Party On with Jackson and Abegg

Jimmy Abegg, Fissure

Leiper’s Creek Gallery throws a welcome party for two of its newest artists in the form of a threeweek celebration of their work. Jimmy Abegg’s abstract images on paper and board use ink stains and mixed-media applications. From polished, graceful bronzes to primitive, rough-hewn wood, Buddy Jackson’s human figure sculptures reveal his versatility, range, and intensity. Both artists bring years of experience in the art world and a mastery of diverse media. Abegg works in photography, film, and design. Jackson has wowed Nashville art lovers with works on paper, monumental bronzes, and small sculptures. Visitors will enjoy the fluid curves of Jackson’s figures and the creative use of space in his compositions. Leiper’s Creek Gallery will host an afternoon of music and dancing with the Hog Slop String Band on April 22 to welcome Abegg and Jackson to the fold. Gallery owner Lisa Fox claims, "Both Buddy Jackson and Jimmy Abegg are the real deal. They are artists in the truest sense of the word, bringing a unique energy and vision to our gallery.”

Jackie Osborne

Portfolio Review at The Arts Company Jackie Osborne's Sublime Uncertainty was selected by SouthLight's Portfolio Review to be featured in this month’s issue of Nashville Arts Magazine. The reviewers, including photographer Jerry Atnip, were impressed with Osborne’s work, stating that it shows great promise. We agree! Well done, Jackie, and all of the other contributing photographers. www.theartscompany.com www.southlightsalon.com www.jackieophotography.com

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spotlight

New Art

at the Governor's Residence Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam hosted a reception to honor Tennessee artist Joel Knapp at the Governor’s Residence on March 15. The evening celebrated Knapp’s donation of four paintings to the growing collection of state art at Conservation Hall. The First Lady has worked with the Tennessee State Museum and the Tennessee Arts Commission to bring the work of Tennessee artists and artisans to Conservation Hall. The result is a diverse array of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and craft objects from every corner of the state. First Lady Haslam says, “I love having examples of Tennessee art for people to see.

It highlights the talent and diversity of our state.” Recent additions to the collection include art works and photographs from Tradition: Tennessee Lives and Legacies (see our story on page 30). First Lady Haslam chose Knapp’s paintings because his art focuses on Tennessee scenes and offers a perfect representation of the state’s natural appeal. First Lady Haslam states, “I wanted the art work here to show off the beauty of the state of Tennessee.”

Spring

Fall

Summer

Winter

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Joel Knapp is represented by Bennett Galleries. www.bennettgalleriesnashville.com

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Behind the chain-link fence is the studio, a vast, beautifully decorated space. The light hits the bare wood floors and the cracked leather chairs just right. Perfect rows of paint cans line the shelves; clean brushes in vases stand at the ready. Everything perfectly placed, everything balanced. John Mellencamp is exactly what you expect. Nothing precious or pretentious here. A straightforward kind of guy who could've ridden the trains cross-country with Woody Guthrie or stood in line at the work camps, hunger in his eyes, shuffling his feet, hand-rolling cigarettes. The kind of guy who puts up his dukes to defend the family name. I like this guy, and I like his art even more. He's a lot more cordial in person than I expected. Friendly, present in the moment. I quickly get the sense that small talk is not his strong suit, and that suits me just fine. He asks if I mind if he smokes. What followed was an honest, down-to-earth conversation with one of the world’s great performers. A master songwriter/ storyteller whose catalog of work has introduced us to Jack and Diane and the Pink Houses they live in. Whose efforts to save the family farm touched deep into the lives of millions and made a significant impact on the history of this country. This is not a man who spends his time in pursuit of the trivial. The room filled with clouds of blue smoke. I took a big breath . . . You started painting at a very early age. What triggered that? What got you started?

My mother painted. She painted landscapes and flowers, all that kind of stuff. But with five kids it would take her forever to finish a painting because she could only paint for fifteen minutes at a time. So I grew up thinking that oil paintings took forever to complete.

Stephen King, Oil on canvas, 24" x 30" 24 | April 2O12

Deportie, Oil on canvas, 42" x 36" NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


Coast to Coast, Oil on canvas, 58" x 144"

So when did you start putting paint on the canvas?

You want to know how did this happen . . .

I started messing around with oil paints when I was about 10 but, you know, without instruction. Just drawing pictures of naked girls and things like that. I didn’t have any outside influence. It was the ’50s, and we weren’t encouraged to look too far out the backyard.

Exactly! How did this happen? How does the background work? How does it not work? How does the math work? As much as I hate to admit it, math is very important in everything, in music and in painting. If your math is incorrect you’re not going to get the results you’re looking for.

You were going on feel, purely by instinct.

Can you give me an example of that?

Well, I could always draw. Nothing serious, but I knew I could always do it. If I wanted a poster I would just grab a piece of construction paper and draw it myself. Let’s say I wanted a picture of Dylan for my wall—I would draw it as opposed to going out and spending $5 to buy it.

Sure. I know that in that painting (points to Deportie still on his easel) the right shoulder is bigger than the other shoulder. I can

I see traces of the Old Masters in your work. Have you ever had formal art training?

I studied for one week at the New York Art League with a guy named David Leffel. There was so much information from this guy that I’m still trying to learn and put into practice what he taught me. Still trying to get the hands to do what the brain is thinking.

Particularly when there are certain rules that you have to follow. You have to do certain things or your painting is just not going to work out. You have to follow certain rules. Like what?

Like painting dark to light. You have to do that or you’re not going to get the results you want. Did you consciously study the Old Masters’ techniques?

Yes, I did. And at the same time I became almost an art historian. I discovered German art; I discovered New York turn of the century, Walt Kuhn, all those guys. I looked around a lot until I found what I liked, and then when I looked at a painting it’s like, how did he do this?

Mneleh, Oil on canvas, 30" x 24"

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see that. But it’s offset by the fact that the belt is wider on the left side, and it balances it out. The math works. I’m not saying you can’t make a beautiful painting without math or without certain rules, but I couldn’t get the results I do without following them. Just like in society. If you don’t have any rules you get what we have on Wall Street. Everyone in your paintings looks like you, but no one ever smiles.

They’re all me in one shape or another. They’re all just paintings of me. I don’t try to make it look like anybody. I don’t use models. I just look at myself. That begs the question, are you painting for yourself or are you painting so the viewer can have a relationship with your work?

No, sorry man, they’re not in it. I’m painting because I have to. It has nothing to do with them. And when I’m satisfied with it, I’m on to the next one. I’m going to paint, and whatever anyone says is not going to deter me from doing it. People have written wonderful things about me, and people have written terrible things. I would like people to say it’s great, but that’s not going to happen.

Redemption, Oil on canvas, 72" x 50"

Why not?

Because people go into galleries and recording studios with good ears and bad eyes and bad ears and good eyes. They carry themselves into it. They’re bringing their own baggage to your art?

Listen, I understand how that conversation goes. “I never really liked that Mellencamp guy and now he thinks he’s a painter.” I get that. I do the same thing. I’m human. I’m like, what is this actor doing with a guitar in his hand; he can’t even act. I totally understand, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me. I look at someone like Max Beckman, and there’s so much going on. So much abandon, such beauty. Same with Chaim Soutine.

And people who know nothing about art say, "I could’ve done that," but the point is, they didn’t. It’s like someone walking up to me and going, "Hey, I could’ve written 'Pink Houses,' but you know—they didn’t. I did. Same with my paintings. In your new work, there’s a lot of text on the canvas. Messages, thoughts tied to ideas. Are you trying to make bigger statements here?

Boom, Oil on canvas, 50" x 30" 26 | April 2O12

I’m just trying to work street art into my paintings. But I think, even more than that, as an artist it kind of says I’m an adult. I’ve grown up, and I don’t need to lie to myself about who I am or what I’m doing. NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


Temtation, Oil on canvas, 60" x 60"

Are you saying that your attitude towards your art has changed?

Look, I’m a hypocrite. You’re looking at one. But at the same time, being a hypocrite means that you’ve changed, and you have a different opinion of something. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we all had the same opinion that we had when we were 18 years old of what the world was supposed to be and how men and women were supposed to act. Want to see a hypocrite, look in the mirror sometime.

Party Goers, Oil on canvas, 40" x 32"

Do you sketch out first, or do you go straight to the paint?

The most I do is sketch where the head is going to be on the canvas, but that’s about it, very crude lines. If you’re drawing on the canvas, that’s drawing, not painting. That’s why I like to use house paint; there’s only so much you can do with house paint. Some of my work has house paint, oil paint, paint stick, charcoal, spray paint. All of that on one painting. I mean, it’s hard to get a hard line with house paint. The way you apply the paint is courageous. It’s very strong.

I’m not precious. If I have to struggle with something too much, I’m not going to do it. Sometimes I’ve written songs or finished paintings and I looked up and went, “Thank you! Thanks for that.” Because I really didn’t have much to do with it. It just comes through me. So many people are caught up in trying to make a likeness of something, and I just don’t understand that. If you want a perfect likeness, take a picture. You gotta bring something of yourself. Are you happy with what you’ve accomplished so far?

No, for me it’s the act of doing. The sense of accomplishment is zero. My girlfriend said to me, aren’t you just a bit proud, and I said of what, of something that I gotta do? Nothing Like I Planned: The Art of John Mellencamp opens at the Tennessee State Museum at 505 Deaderick Street on April 12 and closes June 10. There will be a reception on May 17.

Juggling Life, Oil on canvas, 50" x 36"

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Royal Lao Classical Dancers perform to the music of Bob Kounlavong and his band at the annual Laotian Festival in Nashville.

Billy Tripp's mammoth sculpture The Mind Field dwarfs the artist who fabricated the entire structure by himself. Tripp began work on this evolving piece in 1983 in memory of his parents.

Jack Martin in Selmer, Tennessee, makes brooms with some of the same equipment used by his great-grandfather, Will Hockaday.

The late John Phillips, a gospel singer from Nashville, performed in several groups throughout his lifetime.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

April 2O12 | 31


Willie McLerren of Celina, Tennessee, has been making baskets of white oak for more than 67 years! He starts with the tree and keeps splitting the wood down till he has a thickness he can weave with.

Malcom Strong and others play a marble game called Tennessee Square with marbles he and his brother Junior fashion themselves from raw chunks of flint. This weekly tournament that takes place in the Strong brothers’ barn in Moss, Tennessee, is just as much about visiting as competition.

Memphis bluesman Robert Belfour makes his way down the stairs in a Memphis club. 32 | April 2O12

Mark Guenther of Monterey, Tennessee, skims impurities from boiling sorghum juice that will become sorghum syrup.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


artist profile

Gabriel Mark Lipper

Thoroughbreds at the Rymer by Emme Nelson Baxter

H

orses have been indirectly responsible for the rise and fall of many societies. From the war horse to the work horse,

these fine animals have propelled some civilizations and broken others for more than 4,000 years. Yet in the past century, that interconnected infrastructure of horse and man has become fairly obsolete. Today, the horse appears to factor most prominently as a vehicle for racing, of interest more to high society than to our collective culture. Oregon-based painter Gabriel Mark Lipper is intrigued by that transition. He is clearly touched by the relevance and perhaps relegation of the horse in modern society. The 36-year-old artist plans to debut his most recent body of work—entitled Thoroughbreds— at a Rymer Gallery show April 7 through May 26. The exhibit will include more than a dozen of his large oils on canvas.

Classicism, once pronounced dead, is reemerging with a new contemporary vitality.

photo: Laney D'Aquino

36 | April 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


The Thoroughbreds collection features men, women, and horses as they comport themselves at the races. The artist is coy on whether the title refers to the horses or the society denizens he so intriguingly depicts. In some cases, Lipper’s subject matter is straightforward: a horse and rider against a color field. Other paintings focus on the complex social scene beyond the turf, as spectators lounge, decadently swirling cocktails, smoking vacuously, and people watching. Meanwhile, the horses are visible in the background.

Lipper’s paintings of social groups appear to invite us, the viewers, to be part of the scene, to join the party, as it were. Yet in contrast, the painted figures themselves often seem perturbed with the viewer, staring right back, mildly irked by our intrusion into their intimate selfabsorption. At any moment, one might expect one of them to rise out of the canvas and inquire, “What are you doing here?” Lipper’s work depicts a separation of man and animal as well as the separation between people themselves. “There’s something introspective in them,” he explains. “People appear in groups but not engaged with one another.”

The Green Horse, Oil on canvas, 48" x 36"

With his juicy brushwork and lush color, Lipper adds a sexy, modern twist to classicism. Moreover, he feels fortunate to live in this era, with the ability to study the great masters from the fourteenth century all the way through to the avatars of modernism. “Classicism, once pronounced dead, is reemerging with a new contemporary vitality,” Lipper says. “The gifts of modernism—color, form, and abstraction—are now being seamlessly integrated with the craftsmanship and techniques of the past.” Modernism’s desire to break rules catalyzed a necessary revolution from classicism, yet perhaps, in those efforts, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater, Lipper maintains. Lipper is clearly influenced by Degas for his composition, Van Gogh for his brush marks, Renoir for his socializing scenes—think of his 1881 masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party—and Toulouse-Lautrec for his provocative nightclub atmospheres.

Short Work, Oil on canvas, 24" x 30"

He has also been inspired by Italian neorealist filmmaker Federico Fellini. “As I was watching this one movie, the figures were staring right at the camera as it panned through this huge, involved scene, and everything moves along with it.” It was an effect he had been working on in his own paintings. NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

April 2O12 | 37


His frame of cultural reference is impressive, especially from a trained artist who claims never to have taken an art-history class. Lipper began drawing at age two. “I was an only child, so that was how I’d entertain myself,” he laughs. After graduating from an “international studies” magnet school in Portland, Oregon, he studied for two years with classically trained Russian painter Semyon Bilmes. From there, he educated himself by working, studying, wandering, and painting in Europe. “I had never even been to the East Coast, so the first cobblestones I saw were in Prague,” he laughs. He went to Europe armed with $8,000 earned from a coffeehouse job and painting sales. His primary belongings were his sketchbook, watercolors, and camera. “I had so many studies from my time there . . . that’s where my whole first body of work came from,” he says. His career was officially launched around eighteen months later with his first one-man show. His connection to Nashville comes from country performer “Big Kenny,” aka Kenny Alphin. “He found me over here at National Cowboy, and my life has never been the same,” Lipper says. National Cowboy refers to a body of work Lipper created for a show in Oregon. Since then, Alphin has collected probably thirty Lipper works, including pieces from their jointly conceived The Pirates of Cookie Town collection.

Gray Lag, Oil on canvas, 24" x 48"

Cognac, Oil on canvas, 30" x 40"

“I remember he came to my gallery, bought a bunch of paintings, then gave my wife and me tickets to his show that night. Afterward, he invited us back to the tour bus where he asked me if I liked pirates.” Thus, the new body of work—including nine paintings and an animation project—was born. Today, Lipper and his wife, Naomi, live in Ashland, Oregon, where he divides his time between painting and teaching at Talent Studios. He is a member of the Portrait Society of America and the Southern Oregon Arts Council. In addition to Nashville, his work has been shown in galleries in Oregon and California. artofgabriel.com www.therymergallery.com


Gateless Dream, Cast glass, acrylic paints, 5" x 13"

Binh Pho at the Temple by MiChelle Jones

D

ragonflies, butterflies, skyscrapers, and latticework are recurring motifs in Binh Pho’s sculptures and vessels. The Illinois-based artist’s richly painted wood

and delicately constructed glass pieces will be available at this month’s Temple Arts Festival at Congregation Ohabai Sholom. In some respects Pho’s wood and glass pieces are strikingly similar because the latter are created using molds cast from the wood originals. Yet the pieces are also defined by the properties of each medium—the translucence of glass, the grain of the wood. Woodworking came first, initially as a hobby. Pho became more and more proficient and began experimenting with different techniques for turning and surface design. He began working in glass in 2006, attracted by its fragility, which he says intrigues him because “life is very fragile.” He says he now needs both media to tell his story. In wood and glass, Pho creates vases with wafer-thin sections of latticework combining straight horizontal lines, organic swirls, and the occasional insect. Dragonflies cover Glasswings Red 1e, a frosted red-violet cast-glass vase, and are also found in lattice inserts on the piece. Latticework is also used in Between Worlds, a blood-orange vase whose color deepens at the base and is set off by cobalt-blue accents. Blood-orange details adorn a pearlized vertical panel in the piece. Pho grew up in Vietnam and was studying architecture when Saigon fell in 1975. He made it to the U.S. embassy for evacuation but was one of the many left behind when the last helicopters departed. After three years in re-education and prison camps, he managed to flee the country and was subsequently reunited with his family in St. Louis. Though he left architecture behind (he eventually earned a degree in engineering and electronics), he does incorporate it into his work—skylines appear in a number of his pieces, including Gateless Dream. The lavender hues of this glass bowl fade to a mere hint of color at its rim ringed in skyscrapers. One side of the bowl features a cluster of buildings in

48 | April 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

Between Worlds, Cast glass, gold leaf, 14" x 8"


ArtHouse

Ana Carolina Monnaco Imaginative Worldscapes by sara estes | photography by rob lindsay

I

n 2007, Ana Carolina Monnaco became not only the youngest but also the first female to win the coveted ASAI Hugh Ferris Memorial Prize, the highest international honor given for architectural illustration.

Her award-winning design proposal was called the Coral Helix, a 360º live coral reef viewing gallery off an island in Singapore, created in collaboration with Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of the famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. At the young age of 33, Monnaco has had an impressive career in architecture. A 2002 graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Monnaco has been involved with over fifty projects in countries such as the U.S., Brazil, China, Singapore, Dubai, and the Caribbean. Now, after several years spent working with Morris Architects in Orlando, Florida, Monnaco, along with business partner Sarah Ryan, recently relaunched her own architectural design firm in Nashville. First, a brief overview of the three stages of architectural design is in order. The first major step is conceptual architecture, where the designer sits down with clients and gets their ideas onto paper. From there, the idea gets taken into design development, studying proportion and fine-tuning the details. Finally, it moves on to construction documentation, which tells each trade what needs to be done to build it. Monnaco compares this step to writing sheet music for a symphony. Monnaco’s firm, aptly dubbed MONNACO, specializes in the first step, conceptual architecture. Since the beginning of her career, Monnaco knew her passions lie in the artful rendering of a client’s vision. “When I start drawing, I try to put myself in the client's head. I try to imagine their vision. It’s really kid-like. We think big and bright and beautiful. And I try to get all of that on paper,” she explains. 60 | April 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


April 19 is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We asked two Nashville artists with personal ties to share their work with us.

Leslie J. Klein

Stories Made from Whole Cloth by Sally Schloss

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ppearances can be deceiving, a first impression misleading.

Leslie J. Klein plays with these ideas in the complex narratives she weaves into her fabric art. At first glance you might see a gorgeous velvet coat or a luxurious smoking jacket and think how beautifully made they are, admiring their materials and their colors. But on closer inspection, images and messages appear, sewn or airbrushed into the fabric. What you took for an abstract motif on a sleeve turns into a tangled pile of eyeglasses. Rich satin on the outside is lined on the inside with stained concentration-camp fabric. Shocking things are hidden in plain sight. Klein’s garments are not made for the living, but for remembering the dead—evoking ghosts from the Holocaust and all that remains of them in our imaginations. “My first husband was a Holocaust survivor,” said Klein. “We were in Munich in the 1970s, and I wanted to see Dachau. My husband couldn’t go with me. He was too afraid. So I took the train and then the bus. The concentration camp was in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood, just as it had been in the 1930s and 1940s. So the idea that this was a place that nobody knew about, or they didn’t know what was going on there, is completely outrageous.”

Lily's Birthday Dress

As she walked through the camp she felt the presence of the dead. The number of prisoners incarcerated between 1933 and 1945 exceeded 188,000. It is unlikely that the total number of victims who died there will ever be known.

Havdalah

Her visit to Dachau haunted her, and the dead began to have an identity in her art through the intimacy and immediacy of clothing, or a child’s teddy bear, or installations where walls expressed Jewish resistance, containment, and the hiding of the truth.

Lily's Birthday Dress, skirt interior


exhibit

Mathilde Roussel

Greener Grass at Cheekwood by Deborah Walden

E

xperience la vie en rose at Cheekwood this month as artist Mathilde Roussel brings a touch of France to Nashville. The Normandy native who now calls

Paris home has spent months in Nashville cultivating a new series of living sculptures. Anatomia Botanica debuted March 24 at Cheekwood’s Courtyard Gallery. Those who visited the Antiques and Garden Show in February got a sneak peek at Roussel’s suspended grass figures. Strung from invisible wire, they appear to float mid-air above the ground. Roussel, who was raised on a farm, claims she grew up “in the middle of a field.” Wheat, green peas, lentils, and all manner of

plants helped shape an idyllic childhood in the countryside. Incorporating nature into her art was an instinctive choice. The sculptures go beyond mere garden sculptures—they make philosophical statements. “I try to explore this idea of impermanence,” says Roussel. Drawn to the changing cycles of nature, she makes her sculptures of living grasses and plants. As the plants mature and eventually die, they offer commentary on the ephemeral nature of human, plant, and animal life. Roussel hopes that her art gives physical form to the concept of time, “to show time—it is very invisible,” she claims. When asked about the role of death and decay in her work, Roussel asserts, “I don’t think it’s dark or sad. They always grow and metamorphose. The plant

As the plants mature and eventually die, they offer commentary on the ephemeral nature of human, plant, and animal life.

photo : Mat thieu Raffard

80 | April 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


people

Matt and Norm Urmy

Playing the Game by Joe Pagetta

M

att Urmy may be the only CEO of a burgeoning technology company to hold a BA in creative writing and an MFA in poetry. His father, Norm, may be the

Matt Urmy

photo : susan urmy

“I can’t wait to tell him to get a life,” jokes Norm, looking forward to the day when he gets to tell his son the same thing his son told him when the elder Urmy retired a few years ago from his post as vice president for Vanderbilt Health Services. The two are sitting side by side in a booth at Fido on a Saturday morning where a line of customers stretches from the cash registers around the counter toward the bathrooms. This being Nashville, it’s a good bet that at least half of those waiting to get their hands on caffeine would love to get their hands on one of Norm’s beautifully handcrafted Red Mountain Guitars. It’s an even better wager that those same people could probably benefit from Matt’s web-based artist management tool and app Artist Growth, which launched amid great fanfare at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and aims to give musical artists one-portal access to all the tools they need to manage their careers. Matt would know how much they need it. He’s been there.

Norm Urmy 82 | April 2O12

photo : susan urmy

only former vice president of a major health organization building custom acoustic guitars. The artist becomes businessman. The businessman becomes artist. Let the gentle ribbing begin.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


photos : norm urmy

Brazilian Rosewood Orchestra model, Cedar Top with Green Abalone inlay, top, sides and back. Mother of pearl star inlay on the fretboard.

For years, the younger Urmy has been twisting his talent for creative writing into critically and peer-acclaimed songs that he’s released on three independent records and performed on stages around the country. His latest, produced by the legendary Cowboy Jack Clement, is due out this year. He knows it can be hard enough for an independent musician to compose and record, never mind book gigs, do tour press, sell and keep inventory of merchandise, and build a fan base. But being an independent musician these days also means being an accountant, a marketing professional, a publicist, and a sales forecaster. It means knowing how much attendance increased when you returned to that club in Milwaukee, this time with another good story in the local alternative weekly but also a review in Pitchfork and steady spins on the college radio station. And registering all those new songs with your PRO so you can get those radio plays tracked and submit your set lists. And drawing connections between YouTube views and Facebook fans and digital music sales. It means all these things and more, and still rehearsing for your next gig. Now, says Matt, you can pull out your phone or tablet, tap on your Artist Growth icon, and take care of everything in one place.

being mentored himself, whether it’s by his father in business or by Clement in the studio, he becomes enthusiastic when discussing Artist Growth’s mentoring module, which will allow users to access exclusive videos by songwriters and musicians such as Mary Gauthier and Buddy Miller or managers such as John Grady, completely scalable to the level of the artist.

In his transition from artist to businessman, Matt remains attuned most to the value of a strong mentor. Still growing and

Visit Red Mountain Guitars at redmountainguitars.com. Learn more about Artist Growth at artistgrowth.com.

That artist could be a 13-year-old girl who just got her first guitar and is writing songs in her bedroom, a highly successful independent artist with hundreds of thousands of downloads and two hundred dates a year, or the band his father used to play guitar with and now manages, the cover band collective of Vanderbilt Medical Center doctors and professionals known as Soul Incision. “It's great for me that it's out,” Norm says. The time that the elder Urmy might have devoted to details of Soul Incision’s next musical operation can now be spent in his woodworking and guitar shop behind his house in Franklin, delivering custom-made guitars into the hands of satisfied clients.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

April 2O12 | 83


event

TACA’s

Spring Craft Fair Centennial Park May 4, 5, and 6 by Karen Parr-Moody

W

hen an artisan creates a piece, it may or may not be functional, but it will certainly be decorative. And when that artisan is part of

the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists' annual Spring Craft Fair, his or her work is sure to be at the height of the genre. The fair, which will be held in front of the Parthenon in Centennial Park on May 4, 5, and 6, is a highly anticipated event each year, in large part due to its quality offerings. Teri Alea, the executive director of the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists (TACA), says, “This is an elevated form, and I think one of the reasons we get some of the artists we get is for that reason.” The quality is a direct result of the show’s being a juried event. Alea explains that, with the rating system, jury members do not go below a certain rating, no matter what. That is why the number of booths may vary from year to year. “I’ve heard from artists that they’ve quit going to shows because the quality started dropping,” Alea says. “I think most people would agree that the TACA quality is always there.”

Jen Winfrey 86 | April 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


beyond words by Marshall Chapman

A Tribute

M

Photo: Anthony Scarlati

uch has been written about author William Gay since he died February 23 in his cabin near Hohenwald, Tennessee. The New York

Times, Washington Post, and USA Today all weighed in with lengthy obituaries. Perhaps the best writing on the subject is posted at Chapter16.org, an online journal based right here in Nashville that celebrates all things literary as they relate to Tennessee. If you've never visited this site, it's a treasure trove worth exploring.

"Celebrating William Gay" (posted February 29) contains tributes from novelists Tony Earley, Suzanne Kingsbury, George Singleton, Robert Hicks, Darnell Arnoult, and Sonny Brewer, to name a few. My favorite may be Earley's "The Myth of the Drywall Hanger." The national press always made much of William's lack of formal education, but as Earley points out, “ . . . in his fields of interest, in his areas of expertise, [William Gay was] maybe the most impeccably educated man I ever met." Gay and I became good friends after meeting in 2003 at a SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) convention, so I have my own treasure trove of memories. One revolves around the time Minton Sparks, David Olney, Mary Gauthier, and I drove down the Natchez Trace to visit William in his cabin. This was a few days after a seizure had prevented William from joining David, Mary, and me for an in-the-round at the Bluebird Café during the Southern Festival of Books. Minton and I had been talking for months about making a pilgrimage to Hohenwald, so it only seemed natural for the four of us to pile in my old Land Rover and head down the Trace. It was a glorious fall day. The leaves were just starting to turn, and the air was crisp, the skies blue, the sun bright. Perfect football weather, as we say in the South. In fact, my football— Miss Piggy—was along for the ride. I had called William ahead of time, so when we pulled up the drive, he and his two dogs—both pit bulls—were there to greet us. Later, as we all sat around the main room of the cabin, the talk mostly revolved around music. Then William asked his son, Chris, who was living with him at the time, to play us a couple of songs he'd written. Unsurprisingly, they were good.

William Gay 194 3 - 2 012 94 | April 2O12

PHOTO : ANTHONY SCARLATI

William and Chris had been smoking nonstop ever since we arrived. I was sitting between them as the room thickened with smoke. At one point, after they lit cigarettes simultaneously, I eased myself off the sofa and headed for the front door. I was trying to prop it open, when William said, "Is the smoke bothering you?" I admitted it was, then added, "Hell, it's your house, William. Y'all smoke all you want. I'll just sit out here for a while." He then quietly walked around the room opening windows, all the while smoking a Marlboro Red. When the four of us got hungry, we asked William and Chris to join us at a Mexican restaurant up the road. "I don't go out much around here anymore," William said. Then he nodded toward the kitchen. "There's a can of soup in there I can open up, if you like." Fairly famished, we declined the soup offer and began making our way toward the door. Once outside, Olney and I tossed Miss Piggy for a while. Then we all waved goodbye, as William stood on the porch. www.tallgirl.com

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


my favorite painting

Bob Kucher

Senior Director of Fine Arts, The Renaissance Center Project Coordinator, Tennesseans for the Arts

I

first came into contact with this beautifully disturbing painting back in 2003, when artist Hannah Maxwell Rowell carried it into the painting studio at the Renaissance Center. Spending time with Under the Roses became a daily duty of mine, while it

Photo: elizabeth estes

was being used as a teaching tool for the oil painting students. I immensely enjoyed witnessing the reaction of those who came into contact with the work, most viewers finding it “creepy” to say the least. Years later, now hanging in my home, it still holds the power to stop me in my tracks when I pass it, and I still look for the reactions of family and friends when they visit. I love the contradictory emotional quality that the painting evokes in me; it is simultaneously comforting and haunting. I feel protected with these girls looking over me. Hannah Maxwell Rowell continues to be a close friend, and I am happy to surround myself with her work. ABOUT THE ARTIST Hannah Maxwell Rowell earned a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Middle Tennessee State University in 2001. The mother of three works in her home studio in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. She is an instructor at the Renaissance Center in Dickson, Tennessee, and was formerly the Studio Manager for the Visual Arts there. In 2011 Hannah had a solo show at the Renaissance Center titled Celestial Terrestrial as well as group shows at Centennial Art Center and Blend Studio in Nashville, in addition to giving birth to a baby boy. In recent years, Hannah has participated in many exhibitions, winning Best of Show at Nashville Fusion, a sold-out cancer-awareness arts event juried by some of the Nashville art scene's elite. Hannah had a solo exhibition at A Village of Flowers and was juried to participate in East Nashville's acclaimed Tomato Art Festival. Her work currently resides in many private collections and is represented by Art and Invention Gallery and the Tennessee Artisan Market. Hannah is currently working with Roy "Futureman" Wooten, from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, on a series of portraits. Wooten is directing and producing a movie about the life of Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an eighteenth-century composer who is also known as the Black Mozart. Her charcoal drawings will be exhibited in conjunction with the opening of the movie. www.hannahmaxwell.com

98 | April 2O12

Hannah Maxwell Rowell, Under the Roses

ARTIST STATEMENT Through drawing and painting, I search for meaning and find that the psychic landscape evolving is both personal and collective, familiar and elusive. I'm interested in representing a reality where reverence for nature and disregard for laws of nature coexist, where magical elements blend with realism to access a deeper experience of reality. Under the Roses is an exploration of a recurring dream I had as a child. NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


2012 April Nashville Arts Magazine  
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