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March 2O12 | 5


spotlight

Love Grows at Rymer

March gets off to a festive start with the Hillsboro Village Art Walk. Zeitgeist brings art and music together with their award-winning performance/discussion series Intermediacies hosted by Nashville Symphony Director Alan Valentine. The gallery continues Vandy prof. Vesna Pavlovic’s Search for Landscapes.

Nashville oil painter Emily Leonard opens a new show at the Rymer Gallery on March 3. Love Grows will feature Leonard’s signature Middle Tennessee landscape paintings. Leonard shares, “The title of the show is a phrase that came into my heart seven or eight years ago when I was driving across the country.” The artist began scribbling the phrase onto napkins and “drawing it on everything.” Years later, Love Grows has taken on new meaning with Leonard’s beautiful, dream-like tree compositions.

The first Friday of the month, March 2, brings the Franklin Art Scene from 6 to 9 p.m. Participating galleries include Gallery 202, Merging of the Arts, and Damico Frame and Art Gallery, among others. From academic Daniel Smith art at O’More College of Design to whimsical blown-glass sculptures by Jose at Imagine Gallery of American Fine Art & Objects, the evening offers something for everyone.

The show runs March 3–31. therymergallery.com emilyleonard.com

photo: Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum of StyleLikeU

The Crawl Guide

On March 3, from 6 to 9 p.m., the First Saturday Art Crawl will flood 5th Avenue downtown with throngs of art lovers. The Arts Company opens Self-Portraits of an Artist’s Life: Paintings and Sculptures by Leonard Piha. The exhibit includes sculpture and two-dimensional art from Piha’s intimate, autobiographical oeuvre. The Rymer Gallery will debut Emily Leonard’s Love Grows. Tinney Contemporary continues The Architect Within: New Paintings and Drawings by Peri Schwartz.

American Cedar, 2012, Oil and ink on panel, 48" x 66"

Peri Schwartz

LeQuire Gallery hosts an international show that commemorates the career of Murat Kaboulov. Works on Paper celebrates the late Russian master’s work in pastels, watercolors, and acrylics. The gallery will stay open for a reception from 5 to 8 p.m., with Kaboulov’s wife, Marina, on hand for the beginning of the show.

photo: jim mcguire

And the Winner Is...

Second Saturdays at Five Points is the reincarnation Murat Kaboulov of the East Nashville Art Stroll. Art & Invention Gallery, Bryant Gallery, and a band of creative shops and businesses will join forces for an evening of art and activities on March 10 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. 12 | March 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

“Trees of Friendship” by Britt Savage took the prize in our Cherry Blossom Songwriting Competition. The winning song was picked by a panel of musicindustry professionals and volunteers from the Japan-America Society of Tennessee, headed by Consul General Hiroshi Sato. The song will be performed at the 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival on March 24. Consul General Sato states, "Once again, Nashville has reaffirmed why it is called Music City. The Cherry Blossom Songwriting Contest entries were so outstanding that choosing the winner was quite a feat. I am so pleased that the winning entry exemplifies the strong bond between Japan and the U.S. It is my hope that this song will be loved and sung by not only Nashvillians but by all Americans." www.nashvillecherryblossomfestival.org


spotlight

Ron York

With a Little Help From His Friends by Sally Schloss Creative people often find the business side of art-making daunting. “Why do I have to be the artist and the savvy marketing person?” For Ron York, painter and gallery owner, there is no conflict. The two talents seamlessly complement and feed each other. Self-taught, York started painting in 1991, the year he opened his first gallery, Local Color. When he asked an artist to paint something he thought would sell, the response was, “Why don’t you paint it yourself?” So he did, and immediately sold his first four paintings. Today his work resides in eight galleries and appears in many shows. “I get up at 5 a.m. and paint five days a week, on average, and then go into the gallery. Even when I’m completely in the flow of my work I never feel like it’s an imposition to stop.”

photo: anthony scarlati

That’s because he loves being in his one-year-old gallery, York and Friends Fine Arts. “I don’t feel that if I’m at the gallery I wish I were home painting. I get here way before the gallery opens and stay late. I love working with artists. I think my business name says it all—I’m working with friends who’ve become my family.” Even in this economy, he moves 75% of the art on a monthly basis. “I tell everyone, ‘Don’t get too attached to your wall because this is not your final resting place.’

My artists realize I’m a little different as a gallery owner because I understand their needs and frustrations since I also walk in their shoes.

I update my artists all the time on what I’m doing to promote them. I know how I want galleries to treat me, so that’s how I treat the people I represent.” You could say that Ron York has a charmed existence, but it’s not accidental. “People come in and say that being here makes them happy. It’s wonderful to have people love what you do.” But the real secret to his success is that he loves it—all of it. Yorkandfriends.com

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March 2O12 | 13


photo : jerry atnip

Disconnected, Waiting with Filter, 1999


artist profile

Doug Schatz

Full Metal Jacket by MiChelle Jones

S

oft-spoken and reserved, Nashville native Doug Schatz is nevertheless a man of extremes, at least when it comes to his sculpture. On the one hand he creates bright,

large-scale “event” pieces—part parade float, part piñata—that he stuffs with fireworks and sets alight at outdoor festivals. He likes watching people watch the spectacle. There’s something intriguing about the temporal state of sculpture made to be burned, not to mention the primal connection between humans and fire. The other side of Schatz’s work is more reflective, personal even, as he contemplates the passage of time. Not that Schatz is overly serious either in his work or his personality; he displays a subtle wit in both. Take those burning pieces, some created for Don Evans’s Burning Banjo events—they include the pink Notorious P.I.G. and a towering Burning Elvis with guitar. These not only share a connection with Evans, one of Schatz’s mentors, they also derive from his experiences building parade floats in a Portland, Oregon, workshop serving a number of West Coast events, the Rose Bowl Parade among them.

Schatz’s metal fabrication in recent work includes outdoor steel constructions such as Crown, a multi-piece steel abstraction that is composed of tall, pointed structures arranged in a circular pattern. Like many similar themed outdoor sculptures by Schatz, these points represent the visible tips of that which lies beneath, as if a vast construction were underground with only the ‘crown’ cropping out. These outdoor sculptures have been exhibited from Nashville, where some can be seen currently, to as far away as Switzerland.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

photo : jerry atnip

There he learned to build constructions up to sixty feet long based on small drawings. Part of the trick, he explains, is using a gridded floor to aid in preserving proportions. Schatz was also exposed to the welding and metal construction techniques that are still integral parts of his work, whether he’s making larger-than-life event sculptures or smaller indoor pieces.

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photo : jerry atnip

He has transformed typically hidden armature into a key aesthetic device, particularly in the thick, black-steel cages of his hanging pieces. A pair of these in the atrium stairwell of Schatz’s family home hold a bronzed apple and a ten-yearold orange, respectively. Near these, a decades-old portable television is suspended like a plant in a macramé holder. Schatz made a number of these and called them self-portraits. He covered the TV in burlap then welded the steel cage around it. The TV still works, but the screen now displays only blue static since the switchover to digital channels. The piece has thus become an unintentional reference to obsolescence. With their incorporation of a manufactured, massproduced item, these are reminiscent of Duchamp’s ready-mades. Schatz’s hanging pieces also tap into a Calder-like use of potential energy and motion. Schatz’s fascination with them began while he was an undergraduate majoring in art and geology.

I started hanging rocks from trees because I was thinking about gravity and how it forms everything, where we live and the shape of the rocks. Then it just seemed like a natural thing to do. I love the movement. I like the kind of instability.

Schatz’s cages include thin structures similar to birdcages and house furniture, miniature or fullsized. The latter are part of his Futility series in which he rendered fully functional items useless by “trapping” them. Schatz also creates cast bronzes, including recent wall sculptures, classic nudes with a retro-future sci-fi aesthetic akin to Fritz Lang’s 1920s film Metropolis. In patinas ranging from brownish-green to black-green, these torsos bear a journal engraved into their surfaces. “I’ve always been pretty reticent 24 | March 2O12

Fossil Record, 2005 NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


photo : jerry atnip

Inscription, 2008

Listening, Detail, 2007

In Waiting, Disconnected, with Filter, a standing figure plays what appears to be a hybrid of saxophone and lamp—it is in fact a plumbing part.

Jamie

Disconnected, Waiting with Filter, Detail, 1999 NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

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artist profile

Barry Buxkamper Magical Realism by Nancy Cason | photography by Lawrence Boothby

E

ntering the world of a Barry Buxkamper painting is a little like stepping through the looking glass.

Rendered in rich, luminous color and exacting, illusionistic detail, his landscapes and interior scenes are at once conventional and contradictory. They beckon the eye to the familiar, only to turn reality on end with fanciful imagery and visual sleights of hand. The result is magical. It’s also personal and witty, not unlike the charming and personable artist himself. In Looking Down the Front of His Pants (2009), Buxkamper reveals himself as a man who at sixty-five is dealing with physical challenges that come with age. Seen from above, the artist gazes down past his unzipped pants to a world under siege. On a camo-patterned battlefield, inset images of fiery explosions on land and sea mingle with painted models of human organs. An unfurled banner clearly identifies this as 28 | March 2O12

one of Buxkamper’s Vanitas paintings. With tongue in cheek, Buxkamper laments the transitory nature of living things, even while cajoling the viewer to enjoy the humor so characteristic of his work. Similar in vein are his Wobble paintings, majestic landscapes painted in response to a tremor that developed in Buxkamper’s drawing hand, and the cleverly subtitled Artist Loses Motor Skills; Is Helped by Bird. In each work in the series, Buxkamper’s painted world has come unglued: a ship sinks in a pitched ocean, a train derails over loose tracks, an RV glides helplessly over a lake. Coming to the aid of the painter—a tiny figure encircled in a field of nerve fibers—is a hummingbird, clutched in a giant prosthetic hand that extends from the painter into the center of the landscape. With tiny strokes, the bird’s beak corrects the paintings and restores order to Buxkamper’s world.

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Subjects for Buxkamper’s art emerged from childhood experiences. His step-grandfather was an engineer for the railroad and stoked Buxkamper’s early fascination with trains. He vividly recalls the thrill of riding the rails with him and listening to exotic tales of his grandfather’s military exploits with the cavalry during the Boxer Rebellion in China and in the Philippines. His father, who grew up in a German-speaking farming community in Texas and played accordion in a traveling polka band, fostered Buxkamper’s fascination with animals as a favorite subject for his art. Artistic recognition came early for Buxkamper. His BFA show at the University of Texas featured iconic Texas imagery of “cows and cowgirls” and combined his natural inclination toward realism with the sensibilities of British pop art. It attracted the eye of art critic and author Dave Hickey, and Buxkamper became one of the first artists Hickey represented in his influential Austin art gallery, A Clean, WellLighted Place. Hickey remembers Buxkamper as “my primary discovery. He was extremely gifted. His drawings were ‘to die for,’ just exquisite.” Despite Hickey’s encouragement to move to New York to

Looking Down the Front of His Pants, 2009, Acrylic on unstretched canvas, 48" x 60"

With tongue in cheek, Buxkamper laments the transitory nature of living things, even while cajoling the viewer to enjoy the humor so characteristic of his work. practice his art, Buxkamper chose the more secure path of attending graduate school. When his work was accepted into the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 1975 and purchased for a noted collection, he attracted the attention of New York art dealers and media. However, it was not the heady experience he’d anticipated, and Buxkamper confronted a gnawing disillusionment. Was it dissatisfaction with the kind of art he was making—essentially art about art? Buxkamper thinks so. “But I also knew that the quiet, self-reflective life was what I needed.” He began work as a commercial illustrator in Nashville, producing album covers for CBS Records, and, for a number of years, quit painting for himself altogether.

Office Park: Getting Mower In Touch With Nature, 2007, Acrylic on canvas, 51" x 41" 30 | March 2O12

Then in 1981, Buxkamper and his wife, Margret, lost their first child. He immediately returned to his own artistic pursuits, creating a different kind of work—paintings that were rooted in his own life experience. A year later, they were expecting again— their daughter—and Buxkamper produced his first series, Waiting for Rachel. For the next several years,

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he devoted nights and weekends to the development of his “personal work.” In 1984, he showed his paintings to Cumberland Gallery owner Carol Stein who, “speechless” at the quality of this unsolicited work, immediately signed him, beginning a long professional association through which he has earned local prominence and, increasingly, national recognition. Stein says, “It is difficult to pigeonhole Barry Buxkamper’s body of work. Technically, he is right up there with some of the best ‘narrative realists’ of our time. But it is how he uses his imagery and interfaces his concepts with intellectual underpinnings that makes him unique.” With teaching responsibilities at MTSU and representation in art shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Miami, Buxkamper is intentional about putting in the hours in his home studio. There, on one wall is a bookcase where telling sources of his curious imagery can be found: a bug collection, toy train, botanical calendar, and farm journal, as well as books on artists, zoology, hummingbird gardens, the Civil War, and even A Short History of Nearly Everything. The opposite wall, illuminated by a bank of track lighting, is the vertical surface on which he tacks his unstretched canvas and actually paints. Although guided by a preliminary drawing, Buxkamper has learned to stay open to imaginative breakthroughs that happen during the process. Pulling a science education catalogue from a shelf, he explains, “It’s not unusual for an idea to trigger an association with a formal element I’ve seen”—pointing to an illustrated cross section of layers of skin that has an architectural look to it—“and that image will become part of the painting.”

Beauty's Big Ol' Tears: Disaster Attendee, 2004, Mixed media on canvas, 44" x 54"

In the quirky content of his works are clues that communicate his thoughts about diverse themes that interest him: human frailty and the increasing tendency for humankind to distance itself from nature. Sometimes his paintings include references to the work of other painters, like Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt, or cultural notables like Charles Darwin. Despite the intellectual heft of his work, Buxkamper isn’t interested in coming off as esoteric or mysterious or even serious. In fact, he feels strongly that entertainment has to be a function of art. “When the work doesn’t work well, I think that’s why not. The meanings can remain an entertaining question as long as the audience is reading the information in the painting and having fun with it.” An exhibition of Buxkamper’s work will be presented in the Leu Art Gallery on the Belmont University campus June 4–August 3, 2012, in conjunction with the Tennessee Arts Academy: www.belmont.edu/art/ leu_art_gallery. Barry Buxkamper is represented by Cumberland Gallery: www.cumberlandgallery.com.

Auto Natural with Apologies to Frederick Church, 2011, Acrylic on canvas, 49" x 36 1/2"

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

March 2O12 | 31


collectors

Luke and Susan Simons with Bo Bartlett's True Love

The Luke and Susan Simons Collection

A Lifetime of Collecting and Painting by Deborah Walden | photography by Jerry Atnip

A

tall, rainbow-colored sculpture by Louisiana sculptor Ida Kohlmeyer greets visitors to Luke and Susan Simons’ Nashville home. It strikes a ballet-like pose in the spacious entryway, with cursive lines

demanding the viewer’s attention. This work is the perfect introduction to the wonders that lie in store throughout the home. It is flanked on both sides by compelling contemporary works: Stephen Antonakos’ backlit gold disk He Who Is and Richard Serra’s Trajectory #4, an expressive streak of black on a pure white background. Tall, almost humanoid vases by Roseline Delisle stand proudly in the back corner. The entry of the home, with tall vaulted ceilings and a glass wall that overlooks the garden outside, seems to embrace each guest with art. It prepares those who enter the Simons home for a tour de force of contemporary world art at the same time that it gives them a glimpse of the passion and character of the Simonses themselves. If there were one word that might describe this diverse and varied collection, it is “living.” Nashville Arts Magazine has seen many collections, but few have seemed so vibrant and animated as the works inside the Simons home. Sculptures arch and dance in rays of white sunlight, while quiet, thoughtful canvases draw guests into the darkened corners of hushed rooms.

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Walking through these rooms, one gets to know the personalities of the homeowners. Paintings and sculptures tell a narrative of their life together as collectors, and each work makes a statement about a different aspect of their identities. As a painter, Susan Simons’ artist statement reads, “I have to make sure . . . that it’s not just a pretty picture. It has to say something about me.” The same motto seems to apply to her collection. Pacing down an open corridor beside the front door, one encounters two massive Bo Bartlett canvases. True Love depicts a young couple leaning on each other in a moment of youthful trust. Leaving Eden shows a fragile, youthful girl in an unblemished white garment. She floats away on a placid lake in a small, white vessel. The calming blue of the water blends into a peaceful sky. A barely visible rim of pale blue surrounds her face in a halo-like impression of light. The youthful, innocent quality of the Bartlett paintings is reminiscent of the start of the Simons collection.

Bo Bartlett, Leaving Eden, 2003

A Nashville native, Susan had left her hometown to study art history and economics at Wellesley College. Her young suitor, Luke, sent her a watercolor painting by Robert Andrew Parker while she was away. It was just the beginning of a lifetime in the arts. Susan relates, “When Luke started collecting, we both started collecting. It’s been a passion for us.” The tale of their art collection is nothing if not a love story. Their natural sensibility for art is so similar that they have developed a playful ritual around their love of paintings. Susan laughs, “We play a game when we go to a museum—“Which one is your favorite?” After

Christopher Brown, Potemkin, Study #4, 1995

seeing all of the works, we often have the same favorite.” That similarity, she says, defines their habits as collectors. “It’s easy for us to decide on artists.”

Morton Kaish, Summer, 1993 40 | March 2O12

Susan and Luke pride themselves on building a collection by living artists. This activity helps support contemporary artists and galleries, and it allows them to get to know the people who make the works in their home. “Our focus has been on living artists,” Susan relates. “We have met many of the artists, and it makes it that much more special to us.” By concentrating on practicing artists, the Simonses have cultivated a collection that changes shape as the artists themselves change. “They grow or they begin to see things differently,” Susan claims. By following favorite artists through different chapters of their careers, the Simonses have built a multi-dimensional collection that changes mood, matures, and evolves with the lives of the artists. This focus is what gives their collection such a palpable sense of life. Works in the Simons home do not simply hang on walls or sit on pedestals. They live and NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


breathe in an environment that honors the life of the artist. Susan likes to see the way that an artist changes his or her vision over time. She believes that these changes influence the way that she sees the world around her. Pointing to a work by Maine artist Alan Magee, famous for his paintings of stones, Susan says, “Every time I go to Maine, I see rocks and I think of Alan Magee.” The love of collecting has guided Luke and Susan Simons around the world. Avid travelers, they support artists from Azerbaijan, North Vietnam, and Cuba. Arranging paintings around her home, Susan says, “They relate to each other.” A hallway lined with Christopher Brown’s Soldiers of Potemkin, Study #4, Martin Kaish’s The Irish Chair, Orange, and Catherine Drabkin’s Studio Interior sings with vibrant patterns and colors. There is a narrative, a conversation that connects the works to one another throughout the home. Susan explains that the liveliness of the works forms part of their attachment as collectors. “Whenever we come home from traveling, we both say it’s good to be home. The artworks become friends, and you miss them.”

above :

Wayne Theibaud, Paint Cans, 1990, Lithograph

below :

Catherine Drabkin, Studio Interior, 2007

top left :

Harry Burtoia, Sea Anemone, 1968

below left :

Bo Bartlett, The Present, 2003

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

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artist profile

"A Giorgio Morandi Person"

Susan Simons Captures the Light by Marshall Fallwell, Jr. | photography by Jimmy Abegg

“S

urrounded as I am by such excellence, can I, too, create art?” is a question most

art collectors eventually have to answer, a question not at all frivolous, but often overwhelming in its consequences. Although a collector since her Wellesley days, Susan Simons waited until twelve years ago to pick up her own brush. Her daughter—also named Susan—had given the final push: “Mom,” she said one day, “learn to draw.” From then on, there has been no hesitation. One imagines, however, that there was more to provoking such a sea change in Simons’ life than the suggestion “learn to draw.” Neither the serious making nor the collecting of art is a casual pastime. Art is a continuum, a kind of great chain of being that requires both makers as well as users, artists as well as collectors. There would be no art without both sides of the aisle, and both require persistence, study, and thick skins. But, isn’t talent enough? “No,” says Susan. “You have to work hard to develop taste and harder to nurse whatever talent you might have . . . I myself found teachers— Catherine Drabkin [Delaware College of Art and Design], Wolf Kahn [National Academy of Art, New York City], Charles Brindley [Nashville’s University School]. “And what did they teach me? Fundamentals. Basics. How to draw, to paint what I see—which is more profound than it sounds. They showed me how to use negative space. Ways to make paint do what you want. And much, much more.” In this respect, perhaps Simons reveals an aesthetic reaction to the go-for-it attitude of the twentieth century, the notion that anyone’s self-expression, however superficial, is as profound and noteworthy as anyone else’s. Unfortunately, a flawed consequence of such politicized and personalized reasoning is that we shouldn’t need to learn anything to hang out our shingles as artists. Anybody can be Picasso.


above: Still Life with Raven, Oil on canvas, 18" x 14" below: Magnolia with Wooden Box, Oil on canvas, 24" x 20" top right: Spring Marsh, Oil on canvas, 20" x 24" bottom right: Umbria Still Life, Oil on canvas, 9" x 12"

The cold, hard fact, though, is that there are more significant artists who become savvy collectors than there are collectors, even diligent ones, who become significant artists. In fact, even trying one’s hand at painting or drawing can be an ego-shattering experience (don’t ask how I know this). Most who do try to create art abandon their efforts as so many Impossible Dreams. But not Susan Simons. For her, the teachers earned their fees, and the hard work—more love’s labor than work—paid off as well. Susan and her husband’s home was designed to achieve the proper display of their art collection; many styles adorn the walls. But in Susan’s upstairs studio, only one style prevails—her own, as it matures and strengthens with every new canvas. Still, she relishes her inspirations from, and her homage to, her artists. “Call me a Giorgio Morandi person,” she says. “What’s more, I’m ready to explore the abstract. Maybe I’ll become a [Richard] Diebenkorn person too. We’ll see.” As the day fades from Susan Simons’ northwest-facing skylights, one thing is clear—she understands her artists. Simons’ paintings may be seen at the Harpeth Hall Alumnae Art Show and at the Temple Arts Festival in April.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

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Waiting, waiting, waiting . . . most of my photographic life is spent waiting on the moment when it all comes together.

Reflections transform reality into fantasy by creating imaginative, layered environments that defy gravity, time, and space. Photographically, it doesn't get more fun than that.

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

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Most of the time, I'm waiting for the human element to make its appearance. You must be quick though. In the blink of an eye the moment is gone.

Street photography is an exploration of the human condition. This scene sums it all up . . . from stroller to wheelchair. 48 | March 2O12

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58 | March 2O12

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“It’s in me to paint,” says Barnes, as he sits in his living room surrounded by art books and paintings. The light slants onto the floor from the windows of his adjoining studio, which seems to be filled, floor to ceiling, with half-finished canvases and folders of photos with ideas for paintings. Barnes came to oil painting in recent years as a break from the rigid requirements of his other professional artwork. Unlike design, painting offered him room for gesture and expression. “In that environment you had to be perfect,” he claims. Barnes, who discovered his love of art as a child in kindergarten, has been a lifelong student of its methods. He sought out plein-air painters, like local artist Dawn Whitelaw, to learn the ropes of gestural, intuitive paint application. Barnes’ instinct for pairing objects fuels his love for the surrealist style. He graduated from the rigorous program at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1963. It was there that he was first introduced to the style that has defined his long career. As former Art Director of CBS Records (now Sony), his use of surrealist-inspired imagery became a trademark of his graphic design style. He relates, “I was introduced to the surrealists in history class in California. My teacher set up a still life with objects and said to paint them as if they were glass.” At first perplexed by the concept, Barnes soon realized that the imagination and intensity of surrealism was a natural choice for him. A poet and avid reader of poetry, he loved the brilliant absurdity of writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “He is a visual poet,” Barnes enthuses. The famous interplay of words and image in surrealist paintings fed Barnes’ graphic design endeavors. “In advertising concepts, I’ve always done visual twists or played with words.”

Chiquita's Taxi, Oil on board, 31" x 22 3/4" 64 | March 2O12

Head of Cabbage, Oil on board, 31" x 24"

Corot's Nymph on a Windy Beach, Oil on canvas, 24" x 30" NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


beach attire, they seem oddly out of place as they appear to await a distant call across the waters. The finish of the painting is highly reflective, with layers of varnish to add a sleek, smooth character to the image. Other works situate human, animal, and vegetal forms in suspended states above peaceful landscapes or stormy oceans.

Big Boy and the Queen of Hearts, Oil on board, 13 1/2" x 20"

Throughout his many album covers and photo shoots, Barnes employed the fresh, unique perspective of surrealist art. Using distorted images for props and innovative techniques with mirrors and reflective surfaces, Barnes threaded surrealist references and artistic quotations in his work long before he began his oil paintings. After a decades-long break from fine art, surrealist motifs provided the perfect starting point for his canvases. An image like If You Play Ball With Us offers an example of Barnes’ intellectually and visually stimulating paintings. A group of identical male figures line up on an otherwise-deserted beach. Their anonymous gazes look seaward. Their matching trench coats and hats lend an air of mystery to the painting. Without swimming trunks or

In Corot’s Nymph on a Windy Beach, Barnes paints an abandoned circus tent in a stormy seaside scene. Tattered pink ribbons flutter in a breeze that does not disturb the still tent itself. Its yellow pinstripes suggest an air of whimsy that contradicts the somber, desolate nature of the image. In the blackened sky, Barnes adds a torn page from an art book. He adeptly copies Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s 1837 painting The Nymph of the Seine into a weathered, dog-eared scrap of paper. The grassy landscape on which the nymph reclines contrasts against the crashing waves of the ocean below. The illusion of a realistic seascape and figure painting is disrupted by the torn page smacked against the horizon, asking the viewer to reconsider the painting itself. The juxtaposition of figures and objects that do not belong together invites the viewer to spend time with each image, trying to work out the puzzle of forms. The style allows Barnes to match a study of local fruits and vegetables with quotations from classical history paintings. “I’ll see images that I combine. I use photography, and, in the final analysis, I draw things. You can’t just copy photographs. You have to interpret them.” Barnes’ interpretation of the world around him offers viewers a glimpse into his delightfully engaged mind. He is a student of art and history, and his lifelong fascination with surrealist art has been the ideal training for a new chapter as a painter. www.jwbarnes.com

If You Play Ball With Us, Oil on board, 32" x 48"

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photo : anthony scarl ati

James A. Willis

Gibson Custom Artist in Residence by Joe Pagetta

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elcome to the amazing mind of James A. Willis, whose drive to create is boundless and who is sure to inspire and ignite the craftsmen of the Gibson Guitar Custom Shop, where he currently maintains studio space as the first Gibson Custom’s Artist in Residence. Meant to “advance the

arts through the support of both established and up-and-coming fine artists,” according to Gibson, and “offer an opportunity for an artist to reside in Nashville and receive financial support as well as studio space in the storied Custom Shop,” the program is finding its feet at the same time that Willis is finding his place in Nashville. In addition to his Gulch residency and Custom Shop space, Willis is also occupying the Gibson Artist in Residence private studio in Marathon Village. Impressionistic Nashville cityscapes can’t be far behind. Or motorcycles, which he also makes. Or surfboards. Or, conveniently, guitars. There’s really no telling what he might make next—or what might come out of his mouth. “While I’d be painting, I’d be building a couple of surfboards a year,” he says, seemingly out of nowhere. “I do these crazy things. I’d spend a month learning how to make powder horns. I’m currently building three guitars to go with a bike that I built called Edgar Allan Poe.” Edgar Allan Poe? “I name things,” he clarifies. “And it’s just like with the guitars. Instead of pasting someone’s face on a guitar, which I might do, I want it to seem like Edgar Allan Poe owned the guitar for a year. What would happen to it? Or like a New York City-themed guitar if it sat in Times Square for a year. What would happen to it? What patina would it take?” Born in Southern Georgia, Willis attended both the University of Georgia and the Art Institute of Atlanta for awhile, but it was the two years at the Art Students League of New York studying under notable chiaroscuro painters David Lefelle and Gregg Kreutz that had the biggest influence on his work. From there, though, he forgot about painting for awhile and went into commercial work, honing his craft as a cartoonist and animator. It wasn’t until an aspiring artist in Willis’s office, some twelve years later, spied one of Willis’s old paintings and asked him to teach her how to stretch a canvas that he painted again. And he never looked back. He’s been an artist ever since, notable for his impressionist New York cityscapes, with representation by George


“When I met with Henry,” says Willis, “I told him, ‘I don’t want a job, and I don’t think you’re offering me a job, but I want to keep doing this. How can we keep doing this?’ And that’s when the residency idea camp up.” Willis recommended that his studio in the Custom Shop in Nashville be placed at the back door, where everyone, when they get off work, has to pass by him and see what he’s doing. “Because I’m one of them,” he says, “and I’ve told them, ‘what you’re doing when you’re sanding this guitar, doing stuff by hand, is amazing, and I wish everyone could see this.’ “My job is to be there and remind the people in the back that what they’re doing is art, and it’s no different than the art that I’m doing, and if we had all lived a few hundred years ago we’d be in the same room.” It’s unclear at this point how long the residency will last or who will replace Willis, but he isn’t thinking about any of that right now. There is work to do. What kind? If the excitement with which he talks about his new city is any indication, or the wonderment with which he leads our eyes to the way the spire of the Union Station Hotel looks at dusk on this unseasonably warm January evening, we kind of have an idea. And we’re excited, too. James Willis lives in Nashville and New York City with his wife, two daughters, and Winnie the Schnoodle. gibsoncustom.com

Water Tower painting accompanies the Water Tower Gibson Guitar

Billis in New York City and Kim Icovozzi in Savannah, Georgia, and an Art & Antiques magazine cover to his credit. How Willis came to the attention of Gibson involves a bit of serendipity. When the Custom Shop was interested in creating a special New York City-themed guitar, they first approached legendary custom guitar-maker and owner of Rudy’s Music in New York, Rudy Pensa. Twenty years earlier, Willis had traded a painting to Pensa for a $300 Gibson Epiphone guitar. “I had always wanted a Gibson and I traded him a painting, and Rudy still had the painting in his shop,” recalls Willis. “The Custom Shop saw it and called to ask if I’d paint one of my scenes on a guitar, a Les Paul, and I said no, because I love the Les Paul. But we talked more, and I asked him to send me a guitar. I opened up the case, and it’s all blond wood, and I thought, wow, that looks like a musket, and that’s when I built the musket guitar [now known as War Horse]. So I called and said I think I’d like to do this guitar thing, but you’re going to have to send me another one!” The Gibson Custom Shop, and soon Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, loved the War Horse guitar. The 1957 reissue Les Paul includes a face hand carved to resemble a traditional Revolutionary War musket; hand-stained, and scrimshaw faux bone tone and volume controls; gun metal, blued hardware; a custom leather strap, and a handmade powder horn with a historically accurate silk strap. The New York guitar came next, with inlaid copper, a water-tower scene carved out of wood, and an accompanying painting. “So if you want a painting, there’s your painting,” says Willis, “and if you want a guitar, play the hell out of it, please. It’s a real guitar. I don’t want to make a toy.

Water Tower and War Horse

A custom leather strap and powder horn accompany War Horse

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com

March 2O12 | 69


appraise it with linda dyer

Gisella Loeffler (b. Austria 1902, d. Taos 1977) This desirable watercolor appears to depict a portion of a Northern New Mexican curio shop, the shelves filled with dolls, Hispanic tinwork, and in the foreground a carving of San Isidoro, the patron saint of farmers. A painting of this complexity and subject matter would have a retail value of $4,000.

Years ago while working through the sizable estate of a New England Mayflower descendant, I remember being “up attic” and finding a small, gaily decorated wood crate addressed to the deceased with a Taos return address. I pried off the cover to find an Austro-Hungarian folk art-style decorated red tray. I can still see the signature “Gisella” boldly scrolled in black against that bright red ground. Not understanding the significance, I did not receipt the piece to go to auction. It was left for a residual sale or donation to a charitable organization. Sometimes I guiltily wonder where it is today, cherished or in a landfill. The women artists of early Taos were often the wives or daughters of their more-prominent male counterparts. Not Gisella Loeffler. In the late ’30s, this Austrian-born, divorced mother of two moved to the Northern New Mexican artist colony after experiencing an exhibition of Taos painter Ernest Blumenschein. From the Austrian Alps, Loeffler came with her parents to America in 1908, settling in St. Louis. She studied art at Washington University. Among her first jobs as an artist was creating posters for the St. Louis Dispatch. Even as a child of five years old, she had expressed disappointment in the drab appearance of her Missouri surroundings. Loeffler missed the bright color palette of her homeland.  In Taos, with its brilliant sunlight, expansive 80 | March 2O12

mountainous landscape, and stimulating color, she found the valley a place conducive to her work. Gisella applied an Austro-Hungarian folk-art style to the Indian and Hispanic subjects that she found in New Mexico. From her hand-painted furniture and decor to whimsical paintings and book illustrations, joyful color defined this artist.  Her paintings were primarily images of children, who inhabited a simple but brightly colored world that exuded merriment. Her murals grace the walls of the children’s wings of many American hospitals. A mural at an Albuquerque hospital had to be covered with protective Plexiglas “because the children always wanted to touch it.”  The naïve execution of Gisella Loeffler’s work has frequently excluded her from academic discussions of the Taos Art Colony. Mabel Dodge Luhan, the renowned salon hostess and art patroness of Taos, may have best summed up Gisella’s contributions in her 1947 book Taos and Its Artists: “Gisella Loeffler! How people are attracted to your funny little painted children and the reassuring life you surround them with! This is a real folklore you give us . . . These children you paint are very simple and have the sweet peasant charm. Where do you find it? In a faraway Hungarian gypsy grandmother? Or is it really right here beside us all the time, and we too dull and preoccupied with the inconvenience of a mechanical world to be aware of it?” 

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


Photo: anthony scarlati

my favorite painting

Teri Alea Executive Director, Tennessee Association of Craft Artists

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hen I first walked into LeBaron's exhibit at the University of the South, I was immediately enthralled. The room was smallish with a high ceiling, cathedral-

like, which somehow added to the reverential feeling I was having. Colorful and luminous rectangles teeming with organic forms draped the walls. Although I did not know this artist, I decided right then I loved the work, all of it, and wanted a piece to take home. That was 2003. The rich, warm tones of this work I found particularly appealing, balanced by the brilliance of the blue. I loved how it physically affected me! Each of her textiles combined wool panels that she described as having been folded and clamped between two shaped woodblocks, then dyed using an ancient shibori-like technique. I was intrigued by how she must have experimented to come up with these particular shapes, which made me appreciate the work even more. Nine years later, I finally have this! ABOUT THE ARTIST Textile artist Carol LeBaron is influenced by another ancient Japanese technique: shibori, in which folded fabric is clamped between two shaped woodblocks and only the edges are dipped into the dye. LeBaron goes beyond traditional shibori by bathing the entire folded piece in a vat of acid dye. Her clamped images between the woodblocks “resist” certain colors, while the rest of the exposed fabric absorbs the dye, yielding rich saturated color—resonant reds, luminescent greens. Her wall hangings quietly fuse, like stained glass melting in brilliant sunlight. Mark Rothko would have profoundly understood them. Sometimes LeBaron’s colors originate from viewing satellite photography, showing hues not normally found in nature because they are tainted by environmental irresponsibility, such as acid rain, warfare, unsound irrigation. She creates synthetic dyes, as opposed to organic color from natural sources, just as the earth has produced unnatural yet mesmerizing chromatic aberrations seen only from an aerial perspective. For LeBaron, the simplicity of a leaf’s imprint can be transformed into a political icon of spiritual healing. An outlined leaf of larkspur woven into a fabric panel of veiled Iraqi women melds into our consciousness of war and our hope for salvation. Whether she uses woodblock imprinting dyed into thick, dense wool or random digitized imaging, LeBaron is always producing new themes in her textiles. She proves to us that textile art goes way beyond weaving. www.carollebaron.com Carol LeBaron, After Blossfeldt II, 2002, Clamp-resist dyed wool, 56” x 72” 86 | March 2O12

NashvilleArts.com | ArtNowNashville.com


2012 March Nashville Arts Magazine  
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