Report from Nashville

Adrienne Outlaw, the wonderfully creative director of Nashville Cultural Arts Project and Seed Space, a non-profit exhibition and project initiative, invited me to Nashville last week to speak at the “Insight? Outta Site!” lecture series and to visit artists’ studios. Funded by a Tennessee Arts Commission”s Arts Build Communities
grant, the conversation took place at Zeitgeist Fine Art, a good-sized gallery located in an architectural firm, and the studio visits took place all over the city.

A Chicago transplant, Outlaw (pictured above in her studio) creates installations, sculptures and performances referencing bio-chemical processes. More likely than not, her projects involve human transactions, viewer participation, and plenty of things to give away. Her current project, Too Much, addresses obesity and excess.

Painter Lain York, Zeigeist’s co-director with Janice Zeitlin, had an elegant but playful series hanging in the back room at the gallery. Hung in grid formations, the paintings are made of opaque white tape and rough pencil lines on large raw birch panels.

Jodi Hays works in a studio on the third floor in an old mission church. The dark, spooky hallways are filled with old furniture (and probably ghosts), but her workspace is warm and sunny—and the  rent is only fifty bucks(!)
I loved Hays’s paintings, particularly the surfaces, the degree of abstraction, her choice of imagery, and her sense of color. We talked a little about her artist statement, too. Here’s my edit: Depicting construction fences, festoons,
caution tape, and traffic cones that mark transitional sites, Hays’s paintings use visual metaphor to explore personal circumstance.


Jodi Hays, Untitled, 2011, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches (grabbed from her web site)

Here’s an installation of small work at Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel’s studio. She belongs to a print collective and much of the work is by the other members.

Engel’s own work involves painting large pieces of heavy paper, cutting it in strips, and reconfiguring it in three-dimensional form. Here’s one hanging from the duct work.

Former Williamsburg, Brooklyn, resident Richard Heinsohn makes lurid abstractions that challenge our notion of good taste. Interested in ecstasy, heartbreak, madness, sanity, the hideous and the sublime, Heinsohn works on the outskirts of town in a garage studio that’s jammed with eye-popping paintings.

We shared a bagel and talked about his process, which involves acrylic paint, sand, gallons of gel medium, and lots of miscellaneous objects embedded in the surface.

Here’s an empty paint tube stuck in a painting.

In an earlier series, around 2008, Heinsohn used darker colors and a Richter-like squeegee technique.

Using old frames and clothing that she finds at flea markets and thrift shops, Janet DeckerYanez creates small-scale constructions and narrative collages that reference a devastating house fire, fertility, personal geography, and family relationships. In the piece above, Yanez has used a scrap of her grandmother’s lingerie and a suit she found hanging in her grandmother’s closet.

A former hosiery factory houses several artists’ studios and Outlaw’s Seed Space.

Drawn to sewing, Sher Fick obsessively covers her old pill bottles with vintage fabrics and uses them in installations. The one pictured above rests uncomfortably in a balsa wood dollhouse bed. For another piece, she crafted straightjackets from vintage materials and baby blankets.
Aletha Carr works intuitively, making small constructions with found objects that reference Joseph Cornell’s boxes. 

After visiting with Fick and Carr at the hosiery factory, I headed out to painter Mary Addison Hackett‘s compound, which I had only read about on her excellent blog. The derelict pool, aka the “concrete pond,” in the backyard of her childhood home figures prominently in her writing and painting, and I finally got a chance to see it. Bigger than it looks in this photograph, the pool hosts some murky water in the deep end that a couple of bullfrogs and a snapping turtle call home. In this picture, Hackett is pointing them out to me while the dog barks loudly. Her house is built on the site of a Civil War battlefield, and sometimes people come to the door with metal detectors looking for spent ammunition.
Here is a little still life in her studio. The orange button naggingly reads “Be Happy!” (Click to enlarge.)

Hackett gave me a preview of new work that she plans to include in her upcoming show at John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY. The show opens on Memorial Day weekend, and this beauty (above) will be there. 

In conclusion, I’m happy to report that there’s more to see in Nashville than Al Gore and country music. Thanks to all the artists who shared their work and showed me around town, and special thanks to NYC artist Sharon Louden, who has been a visiting professor at Vanderbilt this semester. Louden is a dynamo who has a way of bringing people together, and without her enthusiasm, I may not have made it down to Nashville.

Related posts:
Sharon Butler in town as part of NCAP’s Insight? Outta Site! forum
Insight? Outta Site! Lecture at Zeitgeist With Sharon Butler of Two Coats of Paint


to Two Coats of Paint by email.


  1. Great update, thank you!

  2. I know this is terribly late. I so loved meeting Sharon and hosting her in the studio. But in term of "rent" paid at the above mentioned space, while it is incredible affordable, the space is run more as a collaboration. Artists are expected, and generally more than happy to contribute to some social programs in an exchange, if not monetary, for space to make work. I wanted to clear up any misguided assumptions that "fifty bucks" is common.

    Thanks again, Sharon, for seeing the work. Apologies for only now commenting!

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