Jaime Aelavanthara’s ‘Where the Roots Rise’

What will never stop being fun is going to the smaller museums and seeing shows that should be in much larger venues because they’re just that good. It’s like a little surprise. You know for some museums, they’re busy putting together regional art photography, or remixing the permanent collection to look fresh, or they’re making a benefactor’s very particular interest (or gifted collection) be a thing.

But what’s going on at the University of Mississippi Museum right now with Jaime Aelavanthara‘s ‘Where the Roots Rise’ exhibit is special, and a big institution needs to pick this up and give it a larger audience. In the meantime, we can feel really smart about driving out to Oxford and seeing it now (through December 1). And we can fit in some football and some Square Books and some Four Corners chicken-on-a-stick while we’re at it, too. Win, win, win, win, y’all.

This short is great for context:

The exhibit is described at the museum site:

Where the Roots rise, a series of tea-stained cyanotypes, serves as a reminder that the gap between nature and ourselves is smaller than we acknowledge. Decay runs rampant—seasons change—nature lies in await to stake its claim. 


above: ‘She Rests in Camellias’

Jaime Aelavanthara’s work articulates humankind’s capacity to decay as a marker of our identity. Set in the swamps and woods of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, natural places where one encounters life and death, growth and decay, the series chronicles the intimate relationship of a feral woman and her surrounding nonhuman environment. The woman collects the bones, branches, and flora and treads with the animals, both dead and living. Recognizing the deaths of other creatures, this woman observes in death, she, too, will be repurposed and consumed by the earth.


‘Mississippi Night’

The cyanotype process shifts focus from potentially colorful landscapes and figures to patterns, textures, and the relationships of forms within the images. Tea-staining the prints dulls the blue and adds warmth. Printing on Japanese Kitakata paper, which is prone to ripping, tearing, and wrinkling, reflects the deterioration of nature and gives the prints a feeling of fragility. Untamed ultimately reflects upon the forms, the impermanence, and the interconnectedness of natural life.


‘Bones of My Bones’


‘Barney’


‘Spine’

The Kitakata paper used takes this especially rustic look (plus, it’s tea-stained) and as I was standing there, I was inspired: it might be interesting to do larger-scale prints on paper sacks from, say Piggly Wiggly, and not only use the blank portion of the paper, but overprint on the logo side. I may give that a try.


‘Out of Africa’

The artist’s works (btw here’s her IG) are also available as cyanotype prints on her Etsy.

 

Nick Cave: Feat. at the Frist

Unfortunately the Nick Cave: Feat. exhibit at the Frist is now over (I completely flaked on DFK earlier this year), but I got some great pics of it while it was up.

Loved seeing the soundsuits on what amounted to a walkway in a room studded with buttons. And just the whole thing was really well put together.

From the synopsis:

…A deeper look reveals that they speak to issues surrounding identity and social justice, specifically race, gun violence, and civic responsibility. His trademark human-shaped sculptures—called soundsuits because of the noise made when they move—began as a response to the beating of Rodney King by policemen in Los Angeles more than twenty-five years ago. As an African American man, Cave felt particularly vulnerable after the incident so he formed a type of armor that protected him from profiling by concealing race, gender, and class.

Along with broadcasting an increasingly urgent call for equity, Cave wants his art to spark viewers’ imaginations and aspirations. This exhibition’s title, Feat., refers to the exceedingly hard work that goes into attaining success (it takes, for example, roughly seven hours to hand-sew just one square foot of a button soundsuit). It also plays on how talent is often listed in promotional materials—an appropriate nod to Music City and its creative community. Through this immersive installation, Cave hopes to provide a transformative place where your narrative can be featured and your dreams can soar.

This was the 2011 ‘Architectural Forest’ made up of bamboo, wire, plastic beads, and acrylic paint. It seemed to change design as one walked around it.

Here, a multi-paneled wall relief

And my favorite piece, the ceramic dog on a chaise

Feat. opens September 14 at the Orlando Museum of Art.

Also: several Nick Cave beaded blankets are on exhibit through February 2019 in Concourse A of the Nashville airport.

Looking forward to the Do Ho Suh: Specimens exhibit at the Frist from October 12 – January 6, 2019 and the Diana Al-Hadid exhibit May 24, 2019 – September 2, 2019.

Cracking Art at Cheekwood

We got to see the Cracking Art exhibit at Cheekwood in Nashville and it was really fun! The show is closing September 2, so now’s definitely the time to go.

If you’re familiar with Cracking from the penguins at the 21C hotels, or you’ve just seen news about their other exhibits, Cheekwood made for a terrific setting because the sculptures were on view on the grounds of the garden setting, as well as in the mansion.

From Cheekwood’s site:
Cracking Art is a Milan, Italy-based artist collective born out of the intention to radically change the history of art by investigating the relationship between natural and artificial reality. By using 100% recyclable plastic materials, Cracking Art creates site-specific installations using large-scale, natural animal forms made of synthetic materials, playfully arranging meerkats, bears, crocodiles, birds, and other animals in surprising invasions of familiar landscapes.

We interacted with the giant bird and her eggs, and even rode the croc!

September 22 – October 21 is Cheekwood Harvest where, among other sights, is their famous 400+ gourd pumpkin house.

Punch Today in the Face, and Text Me at MODA

We visited the Museum of Design Atlanta first so that the boys could take an engineering class, and were thrilled to get to see the ‘Text Me: How We Live in Language’ exhibit which closes soon — February 4. Some of the exhibit is not for younger people, so while I did take the boys back to see much of it, there were parts we breezed over. It was easy to do as anything questionable is hung at a higher level.

Here, the boys are in the classroom area where they watched 3D printers work:

From the MODA website on the Text Me exhibit:

The individual component of language—text—is the prime vehicle used to express the experiences of our existence—from minor moments of daily life to the grand nature of the human condition. Our ancestors as far back as the cave man have been using symbols to document and record experiences.

Today, the visualization of our personal stories is an integral and essential part of nearly every moment of life, and we use text in all of its forms to define reality, emotions and even time itself. We are now living in a world wherein the condition of our visual communication reflects the condition of our culture. Conceived and curated by designer, podcaster, and brand strategist Debbie Millman, this exhibition is an attempt to organize, express, translate and reflect both how we live in language and how language now defines our lives.


The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna


Guns are Good for the Economy, Guns are Bad for the Economy by Brian Singer


Money is a Waste of Time by Christopher Simmons


Bottled Feelings by Adam J Kurtz


Oy / Yo by Deborah Kass


I Dismantle by Lesley Dill

 


Thoughts & Prayers by Christopher Simmons

…and in the giftshop area:

Jim Love Lib

The weather has been cold and yucky outside, but I was thinking today of our latest visit back in April to Jim Bird’s place in Forkland, Alabama.

I’ve photographed his installations there before and have many of them in my Flickr set here, but this time mostly concentrated on the 32′ Tin Man, with the bathtub feet:

Jim started making his creations when his wife was out of town, and she loved what he made. He kept it going, and there are dozens of hay creatures and metal assemblages now. With Jim’s age, he’s stopped making the art and his son is running things at the farm.

Jim Love Lib:

In Riverside Cemetery in Demopolis, we happened to notice Lib’s monument there. She passed away in 2015, and Jim had made this bird sculpture to go on top:

The Stunning Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper Exhibit at the Dixon

One of *the* most fun and fantastical exhibits closes this weekend at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis and it is a must see: Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper

It is just beyond. Every.single.everything is crafted from paper.

Excerpts from the press release:

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper is a mid-career examination of one of the most creative figures working in Europe today. Belgian contemporary artist Isabelle de Borchgrave is a painter by training, and she uses paper to recreate historic fashions to dazzling effect. De Borchgrave’s collections have been shown internationally  for two decades, and now they will be on view in North America with a U.S. début in Memphis, Tennessee.

This exhibition celebrates de Borchgrave’s most iconic bodies of work, including Les Ballets Russes, Papiers à la Mode, The World of Mariano Fortuny, The Kaftans, and Splendor of the Medici, all of which illuminate 500 years of fashion history:

• On view for the first time in the U.S., Les Ballets Russes features de Borchgrave’s interpretations of the costumes designed by Léon Bakst, Giorgio de Chirico, Pablo Picasso, and others.

• With Papiers à la Mode, de Borchgrave re-imagined iconic garments from world history, including dresses worn by Madame de Pompadour, Marie-Antoinette, Elizabeth I, and Empress Eugenie.

• The World of Mariano Fortuny includes interpretations of the great master painter and designer’s iconic Grecian-styled dresses and tunics from the early 20th century, while Kaftans highlights Silk Road textiles.

• The works in de Borchgrave’s Splendor of the Medici series capture the astounding luxuriousness that characterizes this extraordinary era of intellectual, scientific, literary, and artistic accomplishments. 

This special Elvis piece above will remain in the Dixon’s permanent collection after the exhibit closes.

It’s all just simply stunning and the museum has done a magnificent job.

Tiny excerpts from the artist’s biography:

The story begins in a little house in Sablon, which Isabelle turned into a studio. There, she gave drawing classes to her friends’ children and other neighbourhood children…

Following a visit to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1994, Isabelle dreamed up paper costumes…

The Dixon has its own exhibition catalogue available in its giftshop, and I also found these two books at Amazon that I’d love to see:

and


While at the Dixon, paper art by Justin Bowles is also on display, in another wing of the museum:


…and be sure not to miss the Rodin outside (how could you, it’s massive):

and the Jeff Koons Smooth Egg with Bow off to the side

Besides the current exhibitions, there’s a permanent collection of 18th C. German porcelain:

…and a remarkable, remarkable small collection of paintings by Pissarro, Monet, Cassatt, Gauguin, Matisse, Chagall, and other important artists

Monet’s ‘Village Street’


Additional images from the Isabelle de Borchgrave exhibit here in my Flickr set.

Downtown, Carousel, and Wanting The Brooks To Love Eggleston More

After visiting with Mr. Shankerman in his downtown department store in Clarksdale (he also sang Elvis songs for us as a sweet bonus) and he was so kind and generous with our boys, we kept on to Memphis, where it was Corky’s for supper just because we haven’t been to Corky’s in years and I think Shugie’s never been. Our top two there, I think, are still Germantown Commissary and Central.

We asked if it would be okay if we shared this platter (for one on the menu) and it was the perfect size for Av and me.

We stayed at the Memphis Marriott which is just the basic big city, vanilla Marriott. It was fine.
Memphis Marriott

Av was working in Memphis, so the boys and I decided to have a museum day. We Ubered over to the Children’s Museum of Memphis where they have just opened their gorgeous, restored 1909 Dentzel Grand Carousel.

From there, we took another Uber to the Brooks Museum

We played outside…

…and the little cafe has a nice place to read, snack, and play with building pieces


Thrilled to see these William Edmondson pieces. Above, ‘Courting Lady’


and here, ‘Ram’


Roger Brown ‘Clouds over Alabama’


David Bates ‘The Cat Man’

A selection of Carroll Cloar pieces (yesssss)

…but while there’s a large space for William Eggleston photographs, I really wished for a more immersive experience than just linear picture, picture, picture (the step/step/turn mode of display). It seems the Brooks should be Mecca for anyone with any interest in his work as Memphis is where he was born, and where he lives now. There should be features on everything from his Warhol-crowd years to the video work and the new synthesizer music. Places to sit with piles of his books. His place in the popularization of color photography as fine art. The ‘Elvis at Graceland’ project and how that turned out.

If you’re obsessed with ‘The Red Ceiling‘ and have all the feels from the inside of the freezer and the side of that gas station and, hey, The Tricycle, you’re wanting/expecting a love letter from the birthplace of the OG Colorist.

Some Eggleston love from the National Portrait Gallery:

Art of William Edmondson, New Documentary

One of the largest collections of William Edmondson‘s art is at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, and last month filmmaker Mark Schlicher spoke there about the artist and the fundraising he’s doing to finish his documentary entitled “Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” that he’s devoted work to over five years. (Trailer below)

William was born to Orange and Jane Brown Edmondson sometime in the 1870s — perhaps December 1874 — in Tennessee, and was born and died within a three-mile area. His parents were freed slaves who had been at the Compton Plantation (now Green Hills) in Davidson County, continuing to work there after emancipation as sharecroppers.

William moved into the city of Nashville when he got older, and suffered a leg injury from a railroad job. Unemployed, he started making tombstones for sale using old railroad spikes and hammers to make shapes.

Smithsonian Magazine August 1981 published a quote from him about the inspiration:

‘First He told me to make tombstones; then He told me to cut the figures. I do according to the wisdom of G-d. He gives me the mind and the hand, I suppose, and then I go ahead and carve these things.’ 


In 2011, I visited Mount Ararat cemetery in Nashville, though it’s known that very unfortunately all of Edmondson’s work is no longer extant there. Further, it’s no longer known where in the cemetery he is buried. Nashville dedicated a park in Edmondson’s honor a few years ago and commissioned Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley for sculptures.

In 1935, Sidney Hirsch, an art faculty member at George Peabody College for Teachers found Edmondson’s place and was intrigued, telling his friend Louise Dahl-Wolfe about it. She worked for Harper’s Bazaar and thought it worthy of a feature, but William Randolph Hearst did not want to feature it in the magazine. She showed pictures of the work to Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of MoMA, and William Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show there, in 1937.

Besides angels and animals (one of his lions was sold by Christie’s in January 2017 at $511,500), he began to sculpt famous people like Eleanor Roosevelt. He even sculpted Sidney Hirsch at one point, and that piece is in the collection at Cheekwood. Note: though Cheekwood has many pieces of Edmondson’s art, they don’t keep it on permanent exhibit. Their current exhibit calendar is here.


Above, one of Edmondson’s eagles I photographed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The last time I visited the Edmondson exhibit at Cheekwood — which was a few years ago — they did not allow photography. 

As an aside, Sidney Hirsch himself was a renaissance man in his own right: he was a  model for Auguste Rodin (!) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. He served in the Navy. He studied ancient languages. He was a member of Vanderbilt’s Fugitives group of poets and other creatives (Robert Penn Warren was one member), and he was a playwright with varying degrees of success.

Edmondson achieved a certain amount of celebrity after the MoMA show, but had little interest in it, and cared less about the positive or negative criticism of his work. During his lifetime, the art never commanded appropriate market prices.


His ‘Boxer’ c. 1936 set a new world record for his work and for Outsider art when it sold for $785k in 2016 at Christie’s.

“Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” is slated for a Spring 2018 release, fundraising to complete it here:

This Year’s (so far) Best Exhibit: Christenberry

Last year was an *amazing* year for exhibits, and my top two were Hunt Slonem Antebellum Pop! at the LSU Museum of Art and Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors at the Frist. This year, I’m thinking the Mobile Museum of Art’s Christenberry: In Alabama might be tops:

The signs, the sculptures, the woodwork, the ephemera, the furniture, the paintings, the photography…just this incredible all-encompassing (or as all-encompassing as one can wish for) look at Christenberry’s world…

“The Palmist Building is in my consciousness, has been most of my life as far as I can remember. It was on the way in the forks of the road, literally between grandparents’ houses — grandparents Smith and Christenberry — so we’d have to pass it. Especially when we lived in Tuscaloosa, we’d make that trek almost, if not every, weekend to visit one or both of these families. It was a general store run by my great-uncle, Sydney Duncan, my father’s mother’s brother — she was a Duncan… Then my next recollection was it becoming the Palmist Building.” — Bill Christenberry, cited in catalogue ‘William Christenberry ART & Family’ at the Ogden, 2000

Tornado Table, 2016

Providence Church, 1976

Southern Tree, November 20, 2004 — German ink on laid paper

Alabama Box, 1980

Entrance to B.F. Perkins’ place near Bankston, Alabama 1988