South Arts announces 2018 State Fellows

South Arts mission is Advancing Southern Vitality Through the Arts. The South Arts Southern Prize and State Fellowships acknowledge, support and celebrate the highest quality artistic work being created in the American South. The program is open to individual artists living in the South Arts region: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Many congratulations to all the State Fellowship awardees, especially to Zeitgeist artists Vesna Pavlović and Jeremiah Ariaz!

More info here.

Jeremiah Ariaz, Louisiana Trail Riders, installation view

 Vesna Pavlovic, Fototeka (Projection Still V)

Vesna Pavlovic, Fototeka (Projection Still V)

Megan Lightell in The Tennessean newspaper

Nashville artist Megan Lightell paints protected Tennessee lands

by Melinda Baker

The landscape paintings of Nashville artist Megan Lightell seem to whisper.  Imparting a singular intimacy and stillness, her soft, open canvases urge you to come closer, to look and listen intently, just as you would for someone you hold dear.  

Rendering the beauty of the land is fundamental to Lightell’s work, but she is perhaps more passionate about exploring and nurturing humanity’s vital connection to it.  For her new series, “Saving Space,” on view at Zeitgeist Gallery, she partnered with The Land Trust for Tennessee (LTTN), a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of public and private land, including wildlife habitat, working farms, parks and historic land.  From large-scale scenes to small studies, the exhibition captures protected sites throughout Middle Tennessee and helps raise awareness of the invaluable reasons why land conservation is important now and for generations to come. 

 Megan Lightell, "Happily Ever After Farm, Lower Meadow," oil on canvas over panel, 48x72x2.5. (Photo: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Gallery)

Megan Lightell, "Happily Ever After Farm, Lower Meadow," oil on canvas over panel, 48x72x2.5. (Photo: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Gallery)

Lightell spoke with the Tennessean about her work and current exhibition, on view at Zeitgeist through Dec. 16.  

What inspired “Saving Space”?  

For years, I have wanted to partner with the LTTN for a project, both to learn more about their work and to support it in whatever way I could.  I wonder what is lost when we think of land in terms of grids on a map, earth to be flattened by large machines and replaced with concrete and asphalt. What has drawn me to certain places is something deeper than profit, a way of seeing land that accounts for living things and more complex systems.

What did you hope to capture about these protected lands?

I was looking for a sense of scale, and a sense of why these places feel important to set aside. One of the things that most interests me about the idea of conservation easements is that people who make these decisions about land use are choosing to view the land through a different lens than most; rather than seeing the land as a commodity or source of profit, many of these people see value in other things: personal or historical ties to a particular piece of land, wildlife habitat, the value of land to sustain food production. They see the sacred in the landscape and hold space for natural processes and ecosystems to exist.

 Megan Lightell, "Cornelia Fort Evening," oil on canvas over panel, 48x48x2.5. (Photo: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Gallery)

Megan Lightell, "Cornelia Fort Evening," oil on canvas over panel, 48x48x2.5. (Photo: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Gallery)

You work on pieces both en plein air and in the studio.  Tell me about this technique.  

Painting en plein air allows me to record qualities of a scene that are impossible any other way; the color experienced through the light changing and entering the eye, the feeling of the air moving, the warmth or chill, the sounds of the animals and leaves, the smell of the air and the earth. These elements find their way into the paint during that experience. What I am often more interested in, though, is how to convey the memory of that in the studio work. 

How do you decide the scale of each scene?    

Some places feel best encountered on a larger scale, while others call for a more intimate presentation.  In this show, one notable site in terms of scale was Berdelle Campbell’s garden. In contrast to the other sites that were anywhere from dozens to hundreds of acres with wide views, Berdelle’s garden in Germantown is about ¼ acre with close, dense vegetation. It felt appropriate that the piece be smaller and more intimate than the rest of the show.  

What role can art play in conservation?  

Historically, groups like the Hudson River School influenced U.S. culture to value conservation and were an important factor in the creation of our national parks system.  Artists have a way of seeing the world and reflecting it back to us that can challenge our culture and spur us to question our values. We may not be making policy or have control of financial decisions related to land, but through our work we can call on the deeper relationship that humans have with the landscape and invite people to consider the value of these places.

If you go

What: “Saving Space: Megan Lightell”
Where:  516 Hagan St. #100
When: Through Dec. 16 with a reception 6-8 p.m. Dec. 2.
Admission: Free.  Ten percent of proceeds from art sales will be donated to The Land Trust for Tennessee.  

Paul Collins - 14 Days on St Cloud Hill

On October 7, at Fort Negley Visitors Center, Paul Collins will present a series of 18" x 24" ink on paper drawings done on site at St Cloud Hill.

 From Gabby's Overpass, Sept 18, Day 8

From Gabby's Overpass, Sept 18, Day 8

"St Cloud Hill is a landscape that embodies the dynamics of nature, history, and commerce that seem to define Nashville as I know it. It's almost as if Ft Negley's elevation is testament to the depth of competing claims to its site. By daylight, rung by highways and train lines, the old Sounds stadium might more aptly be called Ft Neglect, but by night the hill and surrounding lots offer a rare wide darkness and quietness to the nashville’s cloying irradiant skyline. I pass the hill everyday commuting to work. I’ve visited occasionally but mostly driven by."

 Edgehill Developments, Sept 22, Day 12

Edgehill Developments, Sept 22, Day 12

"Fast forward to now. It’s 2017. After 30 years as a studio artist I’m trying to work in a way that is visible and that matters. It's time for me to look at the world with more urgency, with more openness, and outside of my comfort zone. It is amazing how wonderfully uncontrollable it is to make an on-site drawing by comparison to working in the crucible of the studio. The unpredictability shakes me up in a positive way and let’s me slowly see things that had become routinely unseen. This process is about paying attention and being paid back in moments of awareness. I am grateful for everything I learn in just a simple hour spent looking at the world while drawing. I am lucky for the days I have spent looking at and across this beautiful complicated hillock."

 Sheep on the Walls, Sept 20, Day 10

Sheep on the Walls, Sept 20, Day 10

 Fossil Hunting with Charlie Blau, Sept 24, Day 14

Fossil Hunting with Charlie Blau, Sept 24, Day 14

More here:

Watch for Paul Collins' next Zeitgeist show in 2018.

Nashville Artspaces I Miss

Artist and gallery director, Lain York, whose show, Ghostopens September 2 at Zeitgeist, shares memories of his favorite bygone Nashville artspaces.


Of course I miss the Fugitive Art Center (having been a member).

Ruby Green


I also miss Ruby Green that closed about the time Fugitive did in 2005. Chris Campbell’s operation branched off from the untitled artist group in 1998 and originally hosted artist studios and informal critiques/art shows/performances at 514 5th Avenue South. Her outfit became a 501c not for profit that networked regionally, nationally, and internationally, moving the conversation of contemporary art forward at a critical time in the development of the scene here. Ruby Green went on to effectively fund raise and receive grants from the Warhol foundation. Named after one of Chris’ parrots (she lived with several including African Greys) the space’s presence continues to be felt in the shadow of the Music City Convention and SoBro Biz Centers.

ruby green.png

Rule of Thirds


Another space operating around that time was Rule of Thirds. Founded in 2000 by Watkins College of Art students Ally Reeves and Shaun Slifer in a house adjacent to Belmont University, this artist-run space featured edgy work, performance, and a half-pipe skate ramp. It was a harbinger of a trend we are currently seeing today with galleries opening in residential neighborhoods where artists live and work. Both Shaun and Ally went on to become principals in the Pittsburgh contemporary art scene and beyond.


Secret Show

Secret Show never occupied a space for more than one night. Of course that was contingent on whether the show was shut down as it was a total guerrilla operation that you only heard about the day it happened. The brain-trust was an extremely focused group of younger artists that laid the foundation for many of the brick and mortar spaces we see today like Mild Climate. Interestingly, Secret Show picked up on preceding independent groups that severed as training ground for artists to learn how to organize and put their own shows on. This particular group spawned several other independent groups that hit and run in the Nashville area for years afterwards.


Q+A with Douglas Degges

 untitled (props for pictures)

untitled (props for pictures)

Zeitgeist: Your current Zeitgeist show, Split Ends, represents two bodies of work. Are you still working on both of them? Which came first?

Douglas Degges: I am still working on both bodies of work. The props for pictures work came first, but both projects share overlapping conceptual concerns. Both groups of paintings explore the relationship between the painted image and the painted object. The image, the immaterial thing we can hold in our mind, is both separate from and part of the physical material that contains or supports it. It is this complicated relationship between the skin of a painting and its bones that I am most interested in. The monochrome paintings, the making stuff like pictures works, approach this idea, as well as the nature of depiction in painting, from a more sculptural place. These works attempt to both depict some thing, object, or surface while, at the same time, being that object or surface. With the props for pictures works I’m interested in how the physicality of the support can be set at odds with the painted image. These works are highly textured and the top layers of paint rarely and only incidentally acknowledge the surface they sit on. 

 Houghton College (making stuff like pictures)

Houghton College (making stuff like pictures)

Where did the idea to work with gypsum come from? What do you like about it as a medium?

The gypsum material is really just Durham's Water Putty, a water mixable powder that has a number of different applications. Mostly it's used as a casting material and wall patch. I enjoy working with this material because it allows me to build up the surface of my paintings quickly while suggesting the opposite. With the props for pictures paintings in particular, it is my hope that the physicality of the surface is mistakenly read as the accumulation of many layers of paint. I'm interested in how this causes the paintings to look heavily worked, both in terms of time spent and accumulation of material.

What is your process like? What time of day do you work best?

I work best during the day but I don’t really have a schedule. I try to get at least a few hours in every day while there’s plenty of daylight and then I often return to the studio a second time late in the evening. I enjoy having my studio at home because it allows for this to happen. I can work in fits and spurts and pop into the studio at any moment. I can begin something, walk away from it, and return again later in the same day and all without needing to commute from home or work to the studio.

What are the benefits of an arts education? How do you use what you learned in school?

There are so many benefits to an arts education. An arts education helps us find value in things that challenge us or exist outside of our own interests and known conventions. Of course, skills and tools are taught too. These are important and help us learn to give physical form to our ideas and interests with an increasingly aware and complex understanding of the context within which we make. An arts education opens up so many possibilities and connects an active studio practice with a much larger community.

 Douglas Degges installation at Zeitgeist

Douglas Degges installation at Zeitgeist

Are there any ways that your students have inspired you?

I am inspired by my students all of the time. So many of them are hardworking, open, and eager to more fully and thoughtfully engage with the world around them. I’ve been teaching Foundations courses for the past year and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with first year college students. It’s so rewarding to guide them into the world of art and art making. I enjoy helping them discern what they want to say about the things they care most about.

Who are your favorite artists? Recent influences?

 Amy Sillman

Amy Sillman

I look at a lot of different artists’ work but a few have consistently loomed large. The varied work of Amy Sillman and Michael Krebber have been major influences on my studio practice. I also worked as an artist assistant for Catherine Murphy and Thomas Nozkowski for a short time after finishing school. They have both greatly affected my work and taught me the importance of protecting your studio practice as so much of life conspires to keep you away from it. Recently, I’ve been looking at the work of Jutta Koether, Albert Oehlen, and R. H. Quaytman. I appreciate the way these three artists move seamlessly from figuration to abstraction and back.

Douglas Degges' show Split Ends will be on view at Zeitgeist through June 24. 

Mural Painting Project

Artist: Paul Collins

Title: Boomtown Beaver

Location: Elephant Gallery; 1411 Buchanan St. Nashville


"Sunrise breaks upon an ever more populated clearing in the woods. An industrious beaver is carving people from trees in the woods, while nearby an ancient tree watches and waits its turn in horror. Is the beaver carving friends because he has none? Perhaps he is an artist. Perhaps he is an intrigued copycat inspired by the funny humans and their endlessly busy constructing. His hunger is insatiable and work goes on and on..."

Public welcome: Saturday 4/22 12-4

Update: Project finished!! Thanks to all who helped!

Annalyse Clark on collaborating with Alex Lockwood

For his exhibition, Awful Things, Alex Lockwood collaborated with young composer Annalyse Clark on a soundtrack for the show. You can see the show at Zeitgeist through February 25th, and hear the soundtrack again at the reception February 4, 6-9pm.

 Sad Shoe Tree by Paul Collins from Soft Bark

Sad Shoe Tree by Paul Collins from Soft Bark

Zeitgeist: How did you connect with Alex Lockwood for this collaboration?

Annalyse: I connected with Alex because I had worked with Paul Collins on a string quartet for his “Soft Bark” collection back in spring 2016. Alex knows Paul and that’s how Alex ended up getting in touch with me.

What themes in his work did you respond to?

As far as themes go, one of the biggest things that Alex and I talked about (and one of the main things I wanted to connect to with this) was the juxtaposition in his work of these incredibly friendly, commercial, and colorful characters that are just having awful, violent things done to them. I tried to reflect this in the soundtrack by juxtaposing really bright, child-like, commercial, and whimsical sounds (children laughing, cartoon/TV commercial samples, etc.) with really harsh and uneasy sounds. I also tried to connect with different emotional angles on the whole scene Alex created with every piece, so there’s one that goes into the wrath and anger of the tormentor, one centered around the general sense of unease and horror that pervades the collection, one that reflects the anxiety and fear of the tortured, and one that reflects on the human sadness of the fact that these types of these types of atrocities actually have happened and continue to happen to so many people.

 What was the process like for this collaboration?

Alex originally approached me in August to see if I would be interested, which of course I was. We met up and talked about some of his ideas about the show and how he was approaching it. Around that time I started working on the soundtrack, but the first pieces were almost more of an imitation of the types of timbres and musical structures one would expect to hear in a classic horror soundtrack – big John Carpenter-esque synths, bells, and the like. Then I started talking about the project with one of my professors and I quickly realized that the work I was doing at that time was really just signifying horror to the listener rather than actually generating horror and discomfort with the music itself, and that realization changed the way I approached the rest of the project. With the idea of trying to create a sense of fear and unease with the music itself, I scrapped what I had and started again and Alex and I kept in touch over text and email. Closer to the show, Alex and I met up a couple of times to talk about the project as it was starting to take shape and I started shooting him demos over email, which we discussed and I tweaked according to our ideas. Just about a week before the opening night I finished the soundtrack.

 Awful Things by Alex Lockwood

Awful Things by Alex Lockwood

 Do you usually try to find things outside music to be inspired by?

I really love to look at things outside of music for inspiration in pretty much any project. Working with visual art is something I really like to do, which I guess is apparent since I’ve collaborated with two visual artists in one year, but I also really love literature in particular. I’m actually a Music Composition and English Literature double major because those are my two biggest passions. I love to set texts from literary works or even to just find other ways of incorporating inspiration from literature into what I do.

 Red Assistant 1 by Alex Lockwood

Red Assistant 1 by Alex Lockwood

You collaborated with an artist at Zeitgeist before, how was this time different?

I would say the biggest difference this time around was the emotions and feelings of the works with which I was working. With “Soft Bark,” the work was quite a bit more playful for the most part, certainly more playful than the gruesome violence of “Awful Things.” Also, the intent of my participation in each of these projects was different. For “Soft Bark” my work was meant as a response to the work, but my participation in “Awful Things” was more of a true soundtrack; it was meant to go along with the visual art and to really color the perception of the pieces themselves when viewed alongside my music playing. On a purely technical level, though, the process was very different in that with “Soft Bark” I was working with a string quartet and had to think of the limitations of what players could and could not physically achieve, which is not something I really had to worry about at all in a mostly electronic, pre-recorded medium.

What is your musical background?

I started playing guitar at 11, and started playing in rock bands at around 12 or 13. Also, when I was about 12, I got involved in my school’s band program on bass. I just stuck with playing in bands and playing in school band all throughout high school. In the middle of high school, though, I took a music theory course with one of my favorite teachers and kind of started to figure out that I had a knack for, and a real enjoyment of, music theory and composition/arranging. I started staying around after school to work on the composition software we had at school and then just kept writing more music and eventually applied to Vanderbilt, where I currently study composition.

 "Earthling" David Bowie by Frank Ockenfels 3 who last showed at Zeitgeist in 2009

"Earthling" David Bowie by Frank Ockenfels 3 who last showed at Zeitgeist in 2009

What are your main musical influences?

My biggest musical influence is David Bowie. I’ve loved Bowie since I was in middle school and his music has probably made the biggest impact on me of anything. In terms of stuff in the pop idiom I also really love and am influenced pretty heavily by Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth, Swans, The National, Sufjan Stevens, The Smiths, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Bjork, Oneohtrix Point Never, FKA twigs, MF DOOM, The Stooges, Sleep, Sunn O))), William Basinski, The Body, and more than I can really list here. I actually try to take as much influence as a composer from popular music as I do from the types of stuff we learn about in school (the serious, “composer-types”).  In terms of “classical”/art music, my biggest influences are Philip Glass, Erik Satie, Franz Schubert, John Adams, Steve Reich, Claude Debussy, and Arnold Schoenberg.

What are the benefits as a student of getting involved in projects outside your school?

I think getting involved in projects outside of school is pretty beneficial for a number of reasons. One is that it just helps me to get outside of the “Vandy Bubble” and participate in the Nashville art scene in general. Another important thing is that it really helps as far as getting hands-on, non-structured experience in my field goes. It’s also really important in terms of networking and trying to get yourself out there as a young artist, because there are a lot of opportunities at Vanderbilt, sure, but there’s also so much more out there.

Alicia Henry wins 1858 Prize!

Society 1858's Prize for Contemporary Southern Art went to Alicia Henry this year. We offer many congratulations!

Alicia Henry’s artistic practice includes painting, textile, and mixed-media installation work. She explores social relationships through depictions of the human figure shown in isolation and also figures interacting with one another. Henry lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she serves as an Associate Professor of Art at Fisk University.

Interview with Susan Bridges of whitespace

This July, we have handed over the reins of Zeitgeist to whitespace gallery in Atlanta for an exchange show called Ineffable Domains. Gallery owner/director Susan Bridges took the time to talk to us about the difference between the Nashville and Atlanta art scenes and what we can learn from each other.

 Bojana Ginn, Pete Schulte, Susan Bridges and Eric Mack in front of "As Above So Below" by Pete Schulte at Zeitgeist

Bojana Ginn, Pete Schulte, Susan Bridges and Eric Mack in front of "As Above So Below" by Pete Schulte at Zeitgeist

What makes the Atlanta art scene special?

The scene is in ATL is special because we have a tremendous number of very talented artists living within our city.  We have several schools that support the scene; Georgia State, SCAD, Kennesaw and UGA, the students and faculty are energetic and supportive. We also have the High Museum, Atlanta Contemporary, MOCA GA and Art Papers.  That said, Atlanta is much larger than Nashville but I feel you have the same vibe, just on a slightly smaller scale.

What could Nashville learn from Atlanta about how it supports art or vice versa?

I think Atlanta could learn a lot from Nashville by providing an art bus like the one you have.  Our galleries are spread out in much the same way as yours which makes it a lot less fun to attend openings when you have to navigate traffic, worry about parking, etc.  I love the idea of a bus!

What would you like to see more of in Atlanta?

Atlanta needs more serious collectors who buy locally, not in LA or NYC.  Our artists are amazing and they need support.

How has the art scene changed over the years?

The energy here vacillates from year to year but, thankfully, we have an infusion of young people at this moment who are trying to create a district in downtown Atlanta. I think they will be successful because they are creative and have youth and energy on their side.  After all these years, I thought we would have an arts district but the price of real estate gets in the way and artists don’t have the funds to pursue their dreams.  I congratulate you in Nashville for your burgeoning district and scene at Zeitgeist, David Lusk and Packing Plant….it’s exciting!

What could the community/city be doing better to support arts?                  

Our city could do a better job of providing excellent public art and I mean art on an international scale.  How do you educate the public?  You give them something to think about.  Take Chicago for example, the Anish Kapoor Cloudgate (or bean) is something everyone can relate to and enjoy.  Cabbies, businessmen, students etc. everyone can find something they like about the bean.  That’s a conversation!  A positive thing that’s taking place here this year is the re-establishment of the Atlanta Biennial at the Atlanta Contemporary.  By showing Atlanta artists alongside those in other cities, it allows ours to receive the recognition they so deserve, to know they are GOOD!

What is your favorite part of running a gallery?

Two things; I love the artists I work with, they’re just the best.  They make me laugh and they make me cry but they always give me something to ponder. I love to see a client make a breakthrough when looking at work. When the “bulb” comes on, it’s exciting. It means they have connected to something deeper than they realize and then they’re hooked.  I love it!

Other thoughts?

One last thought, I think it’s important to do exactly what you are doing at Zeitgeist, by taking local artists into different cities.  If you do fairs that’s one thing but this is a more organic concept and I’m thrilled we at whitespace could be part of it.  We are looking forward to hosting Zeitgeist/Nashville next August in Atlanta.

Learn more about the show here.

Studio Visit with Paul Collins

Paul Collins

Paul Collins' studio is located in the 100 Taylor St artists collective in Germantown. He shares the space with his wife, Alex Blau. When Collins is not teaching at Austin Peay, or off doing a cool residency somewhere, he is painting in his studio. His new show, on display at Zeitgeist this month is called "Soft Bark."

What do the trees in “Soft Bark” mean to you?
The trees are all trees from my neighborhood. they’re all pictured as tree trunks in line with the parade of trees lost over the last few years. Some are pictured as cut, and some are drifting away under their own power.

When did you begin painting trees?
I’ve been painting trees since I’ve been painting (c.a. 1987). Like real trees they are sort of always around but infrequently appear as a focus.

How do you feel about trees?
I’m a tree hugger, but i’m a gardener so I’ve cut my fair share (it was for their own good!). Honestly, I am sincerely reverent and sadly passive for/about trees. The title is self-critical. I can look all day long and paint their forms but there’s a treemageddon going on and I’m just fiddling away.

How does the theme of suburbia tie into this work?
Well it’s where I live, and the setting for these images. I grew up in suburban new jersey and I love the sometimes uneven visual transitions that abound.

Where does all this yellow come from?
My connection started with the sunrise and the yellow world of dawn while walking around the neighborhood. I made my first yellow on yellow piece 3 years back for a show at Dane Carder’s studio and the silliness of it haunted me. Yellow is its own challenge- such a weird complicated color. In these tree paintings yellow comes in as journeyman actor with a lot of changing roles: demonic headlights, a flashbulb, dawn or the apocalypse, the golden background of a gilded icon, urine or tree sap.

How did the elements of collage come into this work?
I wanted to bring trees into the images with great detail but without the weight of a rendered or crafted mark. I wanted them to be entities that could variably participate in the picture or be aloof to my process of picture making. Collaging them in as photos was perfect. It excited my brain to drag the photograph’s reality and its perfect factual alienness into the warm soup of painting’s plastic image manipulation. Another reason collage took hold is that it established a practical link to my everyday iPhone photos and that’s a connection I don’t use enough. Lastly it’s been great because collage has offered a lot of opportunities to explore different ways to paint. In the latest pieces the collage elements are all painted but are still recognizable as composite realities. Those recognizable samples and seams are all from collage.

Peter Saul

Which artists do you see a connection to with this work?
Serial works toward a personal narrative of complicity: HC Westermann, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol and Llyn Faulkes. 

Polyvocal paintings contributing to a narrative of complicity: Kippenberger, Polke, David Humphrey, and Nicole Eisenman

Love of energetic picturemaking emerging from personal experience: Robert Colescott, Peter Saul and Momma Anderson Ardent

Nature lovers: Charles Ray, Jay Defeo, Charles Long, Charles Burchfield, Lynda Benglis, Roy Deforrest, Forrest Bess and Naomi Fisher

Color fairy light lovers: Maxfield Parrish and Alex Katz.

Soft Bark by Paul Collins is on display at Zeitgeist March 5 - April 30, 2016

Indeterminacies Founder Lesley Beeman Reveals How It All Started

Architect Lesley Beeman has filled a music niche in Nashville, bringing together great thinkers with composers for a night of unforgettable performances and discussions since 2010.

 Lesley Beeman

Lesley Beeman

How did the idea for Indeterminacies come about?

I was organizing a program I called Oblique Strategies, after an idea by Brian Eno, for the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.  The thought was to talk about design and architecture obliquely from a viewpoint such as archaeology or cooking or physics or medicine. 

One program featured a discussion of criticism featuring philosopher, Jonathan Neufeld, using music played by members of the Alias Ensemble.  During that program I had a kind of epiphany watching the cellist play more easily recognizable music against some very new music.  The nature of the discussion changed from “How did he play this tune we all know?” to a deeper dive into the nature of the music itself.  From there we started the Indeterminacies program as a way to dig into new music and find a foothold for understanding it.

 Stan Link, 2015

Stan Link, 2015

What does Indeterminacies mean? 

An indeterminate structure as defined by composer John Cage is, "the ability of a piece [of music] to be performed in substantially different ways."  I’ve always seen it as a structure that has a bit of chance built into it.  For instance, you can precisely design a series of occurrences to behave a certain way, turn them all loose at the same time in the same space, then watch/listen for new and unexpected patterns to emerge in the intersections.  So Indeterminacies was designed to allow space for the un-predicted and for wonder.  We told our artists Indeterminacies was the place where you could do that thing you never thought you could do anywhere.

What types of musicians do you showcase? 

We sought out performers and composers who were operating at a high level in the frontiers of music.  We featured music from sound manipulation using electronics,  a’la  Joo Won Park, to tightly written string quartets performed by the Blakemore Trio, to the  completely improvised music of LaDonna Smith and Davey Williams, to solo tuba from Mark Snyder.  I always wanted to find a rock band that would fit into the program. 

What has been your most memorable performance? 

 Rodger Coleman

Rodger Coleman

Everyone who participated has been amazing. But if I have to choose, perhaps it’s the one in which I was most involved in the program’s birth.  Portara New Music Quartet’s performance of David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion.”  John Pitcher’s discussion got right to the heart of the music and what Indeterminacies was all about.

The performance where I felt we most effected a paradigm shift for an audience member was the Rodger Coleman and Sam Byrd program with dancers from what would later become New Dialect.  One member of the audience clearly had no idea what to expect (not that we did either) and didn’t understand what was happening.  Sam and Rodger played a huge mass of improvised sound on piano and percussion while the dancers improvised their movement.  During the discussion you could see a light click on as the audience member tried to come to grips with what she’d heard and seen.  I hope it changed the way she listens.  Again, this was a program where the discussion, led by Stan Link, was illuminating and struck right at the center of the performance when Stan asked, “How do I know this music was improvised?”

 Mark Snyder, 2011

Mark Snyder, 2011

Stan Link, Associate Professor of the Philosophy and Analysis of Music at Vanderbilt’s Blair School, has been a guiding light for the series. In addition to being an outstanding and extremely relevant composer/performer, Stan provided us with the perspective of a contemporary music community that was looking to break out of the performance hall, find new audiences, and new platforms for critical discussion.

Rodger and Sam’s Indeterminacies performance was documented on their CD release “Indeterminate” available at CD Baby.  The liner notes have a great discussion of the program.

 Joo Wan Park, 2013

Joo Wan Park, 2013

Who makes up the audience? 

A lot of musicians, people who live with musicians, and people whose brains operate differently than most other people’s brains.  The works we offered were often unfamiliar to most people, so the best audiences were those who had to work to let the music into their psyche and then left thinking about music a little differently than they did when they arrived.

What has Indeterminacies done that nobody else in Nashville is doing? 

At the time we were not the only program featuring the kind of music we were doing, but we were one of very few.  Tony Youngblood, Chris Davis, Alias Ensemble and other pioneers were out there long before us.   Our “hook” was the way we used the music as a catalyst for directly engaging our audience in discussion and criticism.

 Tristan Perich, MoMA, via NYTimes

Tristan Perich, MoMA, via NYTimes

What are some of the things Indeterminacies artists have gone on to do? 

Most are still performing and innovating and teaching. OZ Arts Nashville invited Ethel String Quartet to perform for the venue’s debut season. Tristan Perich got solo shows at MoMA and MASS MoCA. Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Rainey will be performing with Anthony Braxton at this Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival this year. Banning Bouldin started the New Dialect dance troupe, Rodger Coleman (who had not performed live since 1995 at his Indeterminaces debut) has gone on to record at least two albums and performs fairly often around Nashville.

The next Indeterminacies will take place on Sunday, February 28th at 7pm at Zeitgeist and feature Mark Snyder playing songs from his new record. Dr. Snyder is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Mary Washington teaching courses in electronic music, composition and audio production. More info here.

Studio Corner - a visit with Alex Blau

Alex Blau let us peak inside the industrial studio space she shares with her husband in Germantown, and see a bit of her process as an artist.

How did you end up at 100 Taylor St, and how has the community changed since you’ve been there?

Craigslist!! It went from being completely messy and under construction to filled with businesses. There are still a couple holdouts from the first year but many people have left including some really good friends.

How do you find the arts community in Nashville?

Love it! It has been such a welcoming and supportive community. We have been really fortunate to pick a place sight unseen and find so many great people to connect with.

Blau at work in her studio

How do you balance being an artist with being a teacher and a mom?

works on curved edge canvas

Uhhhh, it's interesting!! Now that the kids are in school full time I just head to the studio as early as I can. It does take some time to clear my head from the morning rush of getting the kids dressed, fed, and out the door. I usually arrive at the studio with coffee and do a little check of the newspapers, catch up on emails and get to work.

The pressure to make a few decisions before pick up has lead to some unexpected discoveries in my work.

How did you originally come up with the curved edge canvas?

I was intrigued by a stretcher bar that someone had discarded because they put the molding on backwards and it really suited me. I had always favored surfaces that were more like objects such as plexiglass or chunks of wood so it caught my eye. The slight curved edge allowed me paint on the sides which I really liked. From there, I started making them fully round and lozenge like. I really loved the object-like quality and being able to paint around to the wall.

How has your work changed recently?

Funny you should ask! It is always changing and right now I am smack in the middle of change. Don't ask me to explain it, I'm just trying to work my way through. Everything is looking strange and possible.

What inspires you? Other artists, travel, books?

Yes, all of it. Art, garbage, toys, and trips to the grocery store are some highlights. Traveling is great to see things without the familiarity, but I try to have that sense of newness throughout my day. I am always looking around trying to find unexpected connections.

What is the most important thing you get from doing residencies?

Precious time without distraction

What was the best advice you’ve gotten from a teacher?

Collect what you love in any way possible and dissect it.

What resource do you wish Nashville had for artists?

Affordable studio space and housing.

Any advice for recent art school grads?

Keep on making work and support your friends, they will help you.

What shows do you have coming up?

I am having a show at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen this March titled "Rainbow Head"

Are there any challenges in sharing a studio with your husband?

Hah! No, not at all, it's great!

What are you working on that you are most excited about?

James Rosenquist

I have started a new series of paintings building on my last show at Zeitgeist. That show felt like a departure from my smaller more tightly controlled paintings. I am having fun making big moves and using my body more. The result is a wild bunch of paintings and drawings that are a bit confounding to me.

Who are your biggest influences?

At different times I have been excited by different artists … parts of their practice usually. Some recurring artists I adore include Agnes Martin, Andy Warhol, Eva Hesse, James Rosenquist, Vija Celmins, Sigmar Polke, Mark Rothko, Forrest Bess, Rosemarie Trockel. Too many to name, those are just some favorites, there are lots of contemporary artists as well.

Studio Corner - a Visit with Brady Haston

Brady Haston

We had a chance to visit with artist, Brady Haston at his home studio in East Nashville this October, and see the new paintings and drawings he's working on.

Haston's studio mate approaches the chicken coop visible from his studio (upper left)

Where is your studio, and what do you like about it?

My studio is behind our house on the western edge of East Nashville just off Dickerson Pike. The studio feels like a creative space whenever I enter. The paintings and drawings are scattered around and it becomes easy to pick up where I left off during the last work session. Having a studio so close to the house compliments my teaching career and makes for easy access during the work week when time is limited. 

How do you find the time to work on your art while also being a teacher at Watkins?

Teaching allows me to have large blocks of time during the summer and other times of the year to spend focusing on my painting. During the work week, the studio's close proximity allows for time to make drawings and keep up with my ideas in the sketchbook and on paper.

Is there anything about being a teacher that influences your work?

Teaching is rewarding because I am exposed to young artists and the energy they bring to their work. 

How did you start making work about Nashville?

Local narrative/images/flavor have influenced my work for many years and when I moved to Nashville, it seemed only natural to let the place and history settle into my paintings and drawings. 

Station, 2015

How does your newest work differ from your last show at Zeitgeist?

Dickerson, 2013

In many ways, the recent work is a continuation of the content being explored in my last show,"A Brief History of Nashville". However, the recent work is beginning to go beyond the Nashville area and the painting,"Plateau" is inspired by a panorama of the Cumberland Plateau east of Nashville. "Traveler" also references the idea of a person walking through time and was inspired by stories of early immigrants walking from North Carolina westward. Both groups of work jump back and forth on the time line and play with the idea of sampling history. "Dickerson" from 2013 and "Station" from 2015 are references to architectural structures I pass in my East Nashville neighborhood. I would feel comfortable combing any of the paintings from the last show in with this recent body of work.

New work featuring black box imagery

Where did the symbolism of the black box come from?

New work featuring Bigfoot Spencer's tree

On one of our hikes by the Tennessee River I saw an abandoned duck blind and did drawings based on its simple box like construction. A few days later, I read an article by Marc Scala in the "Nashville Arts" magazine describing the Kaaba in Mecca and decided to combine both of these primitive cube like  structures. This seemed like an interesting way to incorporate the local into a painting.

Where did the symbolism of the tree come from?

The tree form entered my work several times over the past few years and for me it symbolizes nature fighting to coexist in an environment overwhelmed by the Anthropocene. Now, I am researching the legend of an early Tennessee explorer, Bigfoot Spencer, who lived in a large hollow tree and am curious to see where this will lead.

What books and experiences have inspired you recently?

My wife and I recently completed a 27 mile canoe and camp trip to the Big South Fork and just got back from a long weekend in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. The float trip helped to think about the temporal aspect of travel and history while the Chicago trip provided a chance to experience the dynamics of contemporary art making. 

Paul Clement's book "The Chronicles of the Cumberland" still has a few stories that I am considering basing paintings on.

Detail from work in progress

How long before you feel like a piece is done? Do you have to force yourself to quit?

Typically, my paintings evolve over several months and at times, I can spend a couple years fighting to discover the image and then turning that into a finished piece.Usually, a painting begins to feel finished when I come up with a title and start to rationalize that with the evolving image.

What was the most important thing you learned in art school?

The importance of a strong work ethic and studio practice is essential .

What resource does Nashville need for artists?

Nashville seems to have a good number of places for artist to show now and I wish there was regular biennial or other type of strong curated show that could be inclusive and show the best of what is happening now. This might help develop a stronger critical dialogue between the artist and public which currently seems to be lacking.

Studio Corner - a Visit with Megan Lightell

Megan Lightell in her studio

Megan Lightell's studio is nestled in the attic of her East Nashville home. Downstairs is decorated with beautiful antique furniture and gorgeous art, while upstairs is packed with everything a painter might need (including some skulls and curiosities pictured below.) Zeitgeist's Anna Zeitlin  dropped by recently for a studio visit and got the lowdown on what it's like to be a full-time artist and how to keep artists in Nashville.

What is your daily routine? Do you spend a lot of time painting?

Since I have a school-age daughter, most of my painting time is during school hours. I walk her to school in the morning and work in the studio until about 3 pm.  Sometimes if I'm not quite finished working, she joins me in the studio after school. She has her own easel and work area in the studio, so it can be fun for us to work together. 

How do you balance work and family?

This is an issue that every parent struggles with, but it is especially challenging for artists, I think. Since my family relies a great deal on income from sales of my work, it has always been a family priority to protect my studio time. I've always been grateful for that and known how much more difficult it would be to prioritize it otherwise. I took off three weeks after the birth of my daughter, but started painting again as soon as possible. My studio has been at my house since before she was born, allowing me to be at home with her in her infancy and early years, and she attended some half-day preschool programs starting at age two, which gave me some larger blocks of time to work.

I was certainly apprehensive about juggling studio time and motherhood, but a mentor told me that in her experience many people become even more disciplined in their creative lives after becoming parents because time management skills are a necessity, and looking at it through that lens helped. She was right-- you have so little time for yourself in the early years that you must make the most of the time you do have and learn to adapt. I have always been very disciplined about showing up in the studio whether I felt like painting or not, so it was a fairly easy transition. The biggest difference now is that I have more balance in my life. In my twenties I would easily spend 12-15 hour days in the studio, which in retrospect is not the most healthy way to live. It is a great thing to have more of a rhythm in my day that includes taking a break in the evening to cook or spend time outside with my family.

What is your background as an artist?

I studied at the School of Visual Arts in NYC (BFA 2000). 

What inspired you in high school? In college?

I wasn't one of those kids who knew from early childhood what they wanted to do. I was always vaguely interested in drawing and painting, but I wouldn't say I was especially talented. Around age sixteen I had a series of experiences that led me in the direction of applying to art school, and I began to seek out teachers and mentors to help me build a portfolio. I studied with Christine Misencik-Bunn, who was a legendary art mentor in the region where I grew up, and she is responsible for many art careers today, including mine, as I never would have received a scholarship without her advice. At art school, it was clear that since I was from a rural area with fewer arts resources than my peers from bigger cities who had arts magnet options and many more years of immersion in their work, I had a great deal of catching up to do in technique. I spent 6-8 hours a day painting from life, more hours in the evenings, and Saturdays taking extra classes at the Art Students League. Living in New York, you can breathe art all day long. I think I really did live on paintings, both making them all day and into the night, and spending all of my spare time going to museums. I had so little money the whole time I lived there, and I existed on cheap carbs and coffee and spent most of my money on the best paint and materials I could buy. I was obsessed with learning to paint from the masters, current and past, and didn't care about much else.

What was it like the first time you visited The Met?

Arques-la-Bataille by John Henry Twachtman

My first trip to the Met was also the first time I learned to use the subway-- my art school buddy Michael Panicello, who was a native of Queens, realized I was a country girl from Ohio and took me under his wing to show me how to navigate it. From then on, I was at the Met at least every week or two. It was like a second home. Eventually I would find myself visiting the same few pieces every time, like Vermeer's A Maid Asleep, Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage, and the piece that probably most influenced my current work, Arques-la-Bataille by Twachtman. One of my teachers, Sal Catalano, used to say that you could tell the art students at the Met because they were the ones with their noses almost touching the canvases. That was me. My favorite game was to try to guess the pigments that the painters had used and try to bring back some trick or technique to my own work each time. There is just no substitute for looking at masterful paintings with your own eyes, and it's the thing I miss most about New York, being able to see such a huge variety of work in person anytime.

How did your experience after college shape your work today?

As wonderful as it was to be immersed in learning to paint in New York, there was a huge part of me that felt disconnected there. I had grown up among rolling hills, fields, forests, and rivers in a foothills farming community, and had no idea how much I would miss that landscape when I was surrounded by manmade structures and concrete. The community artist Anne Cornell had just taken the director position at the Pomerene Center for the Arts at the time I was graduating, and she offered me a show and long-term residency there, which afforded me the time and space to let my work develop beyond the school environment. It was a key turning point for me, being able to return to a rural landscape with new eyes, and also having my first experience of working in community and teaching as an artist. Having time and space to work was so important in the beginning. The first landscapes came out of that time, since I was still searching for a direction, and a group of artists in that community had formed, and we were doing figure drawing together and working out in the landscape on site every week. We were all working with different media and different approaches, but we enjoyed the way that each of us could take the same experience and come away with completely different work. Before I knew it, my studio was filled with large-scale landscapes. I started realizing that there were similarities in the sites I was choosing, and there was something I couldn't quite describe that was drawing me to a certain kind of image. Anne and I would take turns choosing sites, and we talked quite a bit about why we each liked certain things that the other didn't.

Because I didn't know what to do with all of the canvases I was painting, I entered some into a juried exhibit and was picked up for representation by Michael Orr at his gallery in Columbus, which was the beginning of my path as a gallery artist. He was so supportive and great to work with, and helped me navigate the process of doing exhibits and working with other galleries.

How do you discover new landscapes to paint?

It still feels more like they discover me. It's very intuitive, and I know an image when I see it. The time of day and the season are important, and I often find myself revisiting a spot many times if it's especially compelling. Some places are close by, and others we discover while driving out in the country. Sometimes my husband will drive, and I will just look, and over the years, he has come to just know when a place feels right and he will pull over without me asking. We love to take long drives, and that was one of our favorite things to do when we first met, but in the beginning he couldn't understand why some landscapes would require turning around on a country road and going back, and others we would pass right by. I don't understand it completely either, but somehow now we both often have the same gut reaction to a place.

What personal ties do you have to different landscapes?

Since I spent over half of my life in Ohio, the foothills landscape there is most intimate and familiar, and I will probably always be painting it. I have lived in Tennessee for almost a decade and a half, though, and it feels like home too. Painting the familiar brings a certain power and connection that only comes with knowing a place for a long time. When I did a series a few years ago from a trip out west, those images were all from unfamiliar places that were brand new to me. Those images can have a freshness and a new set of problems, so I've come to prefer working back and forth between familiar and unfamiliar places.

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were starting?

I asked for advice constantly when I was younger, and still do. The thing I've learned the hard way is to manage the studio objectively as a business. I'm not the worst businessperson/artist, but I have a great deal to learn in that area. Choose your business partners very carefully and listen to your intuition. Expect to be paid, on time, and don't be afraid to walk away from people who are taking advantage of you. Be assertive and be professional. Preserve your best energy for the studio.

The best advice I got as a student was from the illustrator Stephen Kroninger, who told me to just keep doing the work, so matter what. He said that eventually, everyone else would drop away and you would still be left sounds so simple but it really is the hardest thing to do when family, bills, and life are calling you away. 

What resources do you wish Nashville had for artists?

Aside from wishing for a great visual arts MFA option here, my biggest concerns for the visual arts community are affordable housing and studio space. When I first moved here, it was a very reasonable cost of living and possible to live simply and have space to develop work. I've had some creative and cheap or free studio spaces in the past, but I fear that our rising cost of housing will prevent the next generation of young artists from relocating here. Continued investment in affordable housing for artists would be great public policy to keep the vibrant nature of the community from disappearing.

What do you like about being an artist in Nashville?

Nashville has always felt like a small town that just happens to have the perks of a larger city. I've always loved the kindness of people here, the openness of the arts community, the diverse cultures that merge here, and being surrounded by talented, creative people who are following their passions. The Nashville I fell in love with years ago still had a strong connection to the rural, almost as if we were all in a city by accident, but we would go canoeing on the weekends, and play music that sounded like a front porch in the mountains. I hope we will hold on to those roots in the years to come as we grow as a city.                                                    

Studio Corner - a Visit with Richard Feaster

Richard Feaster in his studio

Where is your studio?

I have a studio at the Downtown Presbyterian Church through their artists residency program. It's so generous and I'm lucky to share the space with some really fine artists. 

What are the positives and negatives of having a studio separate from your home?

My working process can be really messy, given the wide array of materials I use - spray paint, pigments, oil paint, adhesives - so I know I wouldn't want to use those things in a shared living space. In general, I think I like the separation of studio-time and home-time, but who knows, I might really enjoy being able to wander into my studio at 3am to ponder something in-progress.

What are your work habits? Do you set hours for yourself or go when inspiration strikes? Do you find it hard to be disciplined? 

Like so many artists, I have a full time job during the weekdays, so my studio time is on off-hours, mostly early mornings, lunch breaks, evenings and sometimes weekends.  I am a big believer in getting the work done whenever you can, even if some days that means only having 1 or 2 hours in the studio. Entire novels have been written this way! Fortunately, the processes I use allow me to work this way. So if I'm doing, say, a big pour of paint early one morning, it might need a day of dry-time before I can continue with it. Sometimes I think I have adapted my work to accommodate this schedule, and I think that's OK.

What’s inspiring you right now?

Right now I'm reading about the events of the late-sixties/early-seventies, and viewing media related to that, so I'm thinking about the popular imagery of that time. This was the period of my childhood, so anything from that time has so many personal connotations and memories, and I enjoy considering how media acts as an anchor or a lens through which we must view historical documentation. Of course I'm obsessed with the music of that period, and I've become especially interested in the sorts of early video effects that were being used to try and appear psychedelic and compliment the music. Think of the video for Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

What is your process for the new art you’re working on?

My newest work is all made on Mylar, which has a surface I value for its near-perfect smoothness. I'm collecting different types of marks, stains, drips, brush strokes, all on Mylar. I make the final work by collaging all of these elements together onto a new sheet. It's a way of controlling and ordering actions that are at their core spontaneous. To me it feels analogous to working with recorded sound, in that you are capturing performative actions and editing them together in a non-linear way. The final product can be deceptive unless you know what clues to look for, which for me is part of the challenge of looking at a painting, particularly if it is abstract. 

What would you change about the Nashville art scene?

It seems like we are in an exciting place where the art-scene is still small enough to know most everybody, but at the same time is starting to feel important in a way that resonates to other places, especially with the rise of social media in the last 10 years. One thing I think everybody would like would like to see is the emergence of a strong collector base within Nashville, and I think we are starting to see a bit more of that.

What resources do you wish there were more of for artists?

I'd like to see more opportunity and assistance for Nashville artists to exhibit their work in other cities and countries. Groups like COOP are taking this on themselves, which is great for everybody, and I think any help that the state or city could provide for traveling exhibitions would be a very welcome development.

What advice do you wish you’d been given when you were starting your career?

I wish that I'd have had more of a chance to visit working artists' studios when I was growing up. Often you aren't given much practical advice as a student and have to figure things out as you go along. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it would have been helpful to have known how to build a decent stretcher when I was just 15 or 16 and really starting to think about being an artist!

Whose art still fills you with awe?

Picasso will always do that for me. Degas. Matisse. Miro. The Post-Impressionists. So many artists of the 20th Century. de Kooning. Michaux. Polke still holds up for me. The Polke retrospective at MoMA was just incredible, and it was a real pleasure seeing it with my son, who was just 8 at the time. In the early 90's I was really inspired the painters Mary Heilmann and Moira Dryer. There are many emerging artists that I follow. There are far too many to name!

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky Booksigning and Reading

Zeitgeist and University Art Gallery, Sewanee are pleased to host internationally recognized composer, multi-media artist, and writer Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky for a reception presenting his most recent written anthology, 
THE IMAGINARY APP, about Apps and the way they have changed everything.

Featuring essays and articles by writers, artists, and theoreticians, anthology Edited By Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky and Svitlana Matviyenko

Purchase copies of the book here

Zeitgeist Gallery - Thursday, September 10, 6pm

Intern Corner - Q&A with David Onri Anderson

Happiness, oil and moon paint on panel

How would you describe your work as an artist? Your process?

I consider every experience and thought as a process to an action, so each work made, to me is an image of the present, or a present moment. My art attempts to still the motion of mental and physical encounters in one frame as something in between a mental image and a physical action. I think sometimes it can look very psychedelic or subdued, either way I want a verbal quality to my work. As if a being is conjured up from inanimate materials.

My process is simple, I respond to any complex feeling I get from an experience and then work it out with material, usually paint. The work is never an answer or reaction, but a question or proposal for an alternative view.

Who are your main influences?

Shunryu Suzuki, Agnes Martin, Hamlett Dobbins, Robert Gober, Richard Aldrich, Burzum

 David at Zeitgeist

David at Zeitgeist

How do you discover the Nashville arts community?

I try to always participate at the monthly Art Crawls, I look into different local artists websites if they’re work interests me, and I look through different gallery and collective rosters online and browse through their portfolios. Some artists really stick out to me and I’ll then try to arrange a studio visit or just hang out with them. I can handle one on one conversation way better than trying to have an in depth conversation in a crowded gallery. New artists move in all the time too, so I keep my eye out for them.

What is the Nashville arts scene missing?
There seems to be a shortage of critical writing as well as art collecting/buying.

What classes have you grown the most from at Watkins?
Terry Thacker’s painting classes definitely helped me discover my voice as a painter, and Patrick DeGuira and Kristi Hargrove’s seminar classes have helped me develop more of a multidisciplinary approach to my practice. All these mentioned professors offer great readings, one on one time, and thorough and constructive criticism. They are now good friends of mine.

What does Watkins need to be doing differently?
I think they should provide more opportunities to use new media tools and devices, and attach a nice grad program to the whole deal (high hopes).

What part of putting on an art show do you most enjoy?
The best part to me is arranging the work in a way that signifies relationships between different pieces while simultaneously activating the space and rhythm of the room in which they are situated. It’s always so different so I can’t have a formula for it, and that to me is what is special about doing it yourself.

What nugget of wisdom have you gleaned from working with Lain York?

Lain has always emphasized the importance of having a conversation. That to me means that whenever a perspective becomes one sided or overly subjective, the work or idea can begin to suffer and close up. To have a conversation or to allow a work to have a dialogue is to open up to new possibilities while still maintaining an initial integrity.

Take Me Out (Veil of Maya), oil, moon paint, and spray paint on linen 11″x14″

What areas of art would you like to explore more?

I have recently been interested in the debris from all the development in different neighborhoods all over town. I think there is something that can be done creatively with the detritus that used to be a neighborhood’s identity or someone’s home.

What’s the best burger in Nashville?

I usually don’t eat out, but one time I had a killer bison burger at Burger Up. I hear Gabby’s is amazing too.

see David's work here

Q&A with John Tallman, artist and co-curator of Therely Bare

John Tallman, Ambrosia

How did you get together this group of artists from all over the globe? And is the group still growing or is it an established selection of artists?

I made contact with Guido and Iemke about 10 years ago. Through early diy blogs and artist run spaces. It's grown over time organically. I came across Kwangyup's work about 20 years ago but have just been in direct contact with him for the past couple of years. The line up isn't written in stone but there is a core group of engaged people. We would like to add some younger artists for future projects, but of course they'd need to be a good fit.

What criteria do you look at when choosing participating artists?

Well of course it has to be non-objective. Beyond that, it's all about what the work looks like and whether it's interesting or not. The work has to be smart. We know what we like when we see it. We’re not interested in art that has too much of a narrative to it or that employs too much “illusionistic” space. What we don't look at is nationality, resume, age, gender, whether you are an established artist etc.

Guido Winkler, Even, Uneven

Therely Bare has been an ongoing, traveling exhibition. Where did it first start and who was a part of its genesis?

Our first show was in Chattanooga in 2011, then it went to Zeitgeist and then Kent State U. That time I co-curated with Ron Buffington. Most of the artists that time were people I had been in contact with previous to that. It seemed to me there were these artists making paintings that were subverting the notion of painting from the inside. Not taking any of the standard practices for granted.

What is the significance of making non-objective art in a culture that tends to objectify and commodify?

Very significant. Just doing or making any kind of art is a political statement and making non-objective art is saying something radical, I think. For exactly that reason, how do you commodify something that many people approach and say “what is it”? It’s an object but people don’t know how to “put it to use”. Art that makes an overt “statement” people can handle, “oh he makes paintings of trees, he wants to save the environment”. But with non-objective art, unless you’re at the really high end, it resists commodification to a large degree. Which is neither good nor bad, it just is.

What are the connections with Robert Ryman that you most feel connected to?

Ryman’s whole program is investigating the materiality of paint on a support. Early on in his career he decided that he wasn’t making a “picture”, so it was like, anything goes within certain limitations. All his logic followed after that. People get caught up in the white painting, thinking it’s a kind of negation when it really is not. Using white freed him to endlessly explore other areas of painting. I feel connected to Ryman’s focus on a practical level and on an emotional level I love the beauty of his work.

Kate Beck, Uptick

How has living in Tennessee effected your practice?

The beauty of this type of non-objective work is, you can make it anywhere. It’s an international style. You can’t tell by looking at Gudio’s work that it was made in the Netherlands or that Mel Prest lived in San Francisco. That doesn’t mean any artist’s environment isn’t somehow in there, it just doesn’t proclaim itself to the viewer directly. (the exception to this might be Kate Beck). So I could say living in Tennessee hasn’t affected my practice at all. I’m surrounded by nice trees and lawns, etc along the Appalachian Mountains so from Maine to Georgia it all looks pretty much the same. Perhaps if my studio was in Iceland where the light and landscape were quite different it would affect my practice.

What are some differing receptions to your collective as you exhibit from region to region?

We’ve gotten great reactions wherever we’ve gone. I think when people see the work in person, they get it. It’s harder to react to the work in photographs because it really is experiential and how the work exists within the exhibition space is crucial. People in Greece at Art Athina where great, coming up and asking questions about it, very curious because we were so different from anything else there. About 35,000 people came through for that Art Fair. We matched what people were wearing to the work on view and took their picture. We’re not snobs about it, and we talk to everybody. We want the work to be accessible. Nashville has been great too, we’ve loved the write ups we’ve had.

Would you say the approach to make non-objective, minimal art is universal?

John Tallman, Player

Every artist has their own approach to making. However they arrived at approach exactly is probably a mystery and involved many factors, like their education, philosophy, upbringing, environment, temperament, sensibility and on and on. What’s interesting to me is how artists of these different backgrounds and histories have arrived at approaches that address similar concerns about this thing we call Art, or Painting or Minimal Art. There are similar roots like an interest in Ryman or Donald Judd. It’s a universal language that has certain vocabulary and certain grammar rules, but we say something different with it (sometimes it can be very subtle). That might be an over simplification but there you go.

How did the idea come about to start a traveling group exhibition?

It’s art I want to see exhibited. It’s art I want to promote and put out there. It’s a great way to make connections with people, the artists themselves, the exhibitors and the general public. These days, and this has been going on for awhile, you can’t just sit back and wait for things to happen as an artist. I was influenced and inspired by different projects around the globe—Sydney Non Objective (run by Billy Gruner), IS Projects in the Netherlands (run by Guido & Imeke), and Jeffrey Cortland Jones too has done a lot of curating. We all feed off each other and support each other. 

see Therely Bare Redux, on view at Zeitgeist through August

Q&A with Paul Collins - June 2015

Where did the imagery in this exhibit come from? Whose cars are these? What made you want to paint them? The trees? The interiors?

The imagery comes from daily life. That’s the way things usually work for me. My viewable daily life through a filter blend of mood, concern, fantasy, space-out and cultivated bias. The images organize themselves into narratives that reflect how I perceive their identities. I am most strongly drawn to images whose identities are not settled and flip-flop between positive and negative, or knowable and unknowable. I am strongly drawn to obvious things whose omnipresence belie the texture of their identity. That apparent obviousness and ubiquity is something shared by the cars, trees, windows, stone animals etc. The MOST ubiquitous element in these works is the scouring yellow light. I have become obsessed with yellow as both the strongest and the most conflicted color in the world.

In your last show at Zeitgeist, the work was on a much larger scale. How did it differ working in this smaller scale?

It’s been interesting and fun. More than the scale the switch in medium from ink and sculptural materials to canvas, oil paint and photographs has been exciting and challenging. I think I have been able to increase the complexity and intensity of the color experience and that was the goal. The process requires more patience but working small I can have SO many more pieces going, there gets to be a chorus of discussion between them and that is providing me with a lot of options. They are continuing to grow in scale in my studio, and I hope to have a ton of them for my show this march.

Your last show dealt with themes of fatherhood and loss of control, are you dealing with any larger themes/feelings with this work?

I think the themes in the work are consistent but wider than the personal experiences that served as a foil for my last show. In both I am interested in the foolishness of man, of ME as a man, of dreams of permanence and conquest and building a forever future. In these works I’m speaking with the egotism and arrogance of a tree hugger and real estate developer rolled up into the same dude. We usually think of the naturalist or the gardener as a sympathetic cultivator of nature, but do you think nature gives a hoot, ha! I am talking about myself here. I really do believe that there are beautiful trees and therefore ugly trees and that's a pile of horsepucky. On one cushy abstract level I’m playing aesthetic games with these symbols to poke fun at uncontested recipes of beauty in my own mind, but at the same time I can look out my window and see this city remade in front of us based on the same phony calculations and romanticisms.

Were some of these done at an artist retreat? How was that?

All the cars were made at Gallery Protocol in Gainesville during a 2 week residency. It was awesome. I made 50 drawings in 10 days- a real binge. I drew one 2 years ago from photograph I took driving of a tailgating truck. That truck was going so fast and was so close plowing up route 24 towards Clarksville where I work. My reaction was to take a phone snap (brilliant, right?) But I actually drew it because I thought my then 4 year old son would love it as he does all cars. So there it is again: a simple image that looks one way to one person and another to another. I am an early riser and walk for an hour usually before the sun comes up. I have thought of those cars as middle-aged exercise nightmares. They are not my cars. I just come across them and if I see the face first I try to get real low and close so you’re going to get bumped into.

How do the elements of collage effect the work?

Making things fun. I take photos every day and collage has allowed me to plug that stream of images and image capture into my studio work.

What books and music are you digging right now?

“Going Clear” on scientology, “Chromophobia” by David Batchelor and “6 years” by Lucy Lippard is making my head spin,

My colleague Billy Renkl lent me Sufjan Steven’s Carey and Lowell and I have been listening to it on loop for 6 weeks now. Haunting, transcendental and grounded. I think it’s changing my brain.

Paul Collins' exhibit Studio Profile is on view in the Zeitgeist project space through June 27, 2015