Annual Juried Sculpture Competition
Through August 2000
Outdoor Sculpture Garden at Finer Things Gallery
1898 Nolensville Rd.
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
Opening reception 6-9 p.m. Sept. 25
For more information, call 244-3003
There’s just something about taking an indoor experience outdoors that appeals to human nature. Witness the number of restaurants that boast outdoor dining. Look at the crowds at the summer Shakespeare shows in Centennial Park. Recall how refreshing that afternoon nap in a hammock was last weekend. Small wonder, then, that people who get excited at the mere mention of modern art inside a museum are happy to troop outside to see contemporary sculptures nestled along a wooded trail or scattered about on a lawn.
Earlier this summer, sculpture in the great outdoors got a huge boost when Cheekwood opened a multimillion-dollar sculpture trail amidst the lush acreage of that venerable art and garden institution. This fall, Nashville gets another outdoor art space, courtesy of an outdoor sculpture garden at Finer Things Gallery, located just across the street from the fairgrounds. If Cheekwood offers a pastoral escape through outdoor art, Finer Things urges the viewer to consider such art as an essential part of the urban environment.
The sculpture garden is designed as a permanent installation, but the works will change annually. Forty sculptures by 17 artists from around the country were selected earlier this summer and are now installed on the one-acre grounds surrounding the gallery. Ranging in size from a few feet to 25 feet tall, the works reflect a wide variety of media and styles. “It is a juried exhibition,” says Kim Brooks, gallery co-owner. “We received submissions from as far away as California, as well as from many area artists.” Anne Brown, owner of The Arts Company gallery, helped Brooks cull through the submissions to choose the works on display. Three winning works will be purchased by Finer Things Gallery, and those purchase awards will be announced at the opening reception on Saturday.
Among the area artists with works in the show are Sherri Warner Hunter, Doug Schatz, Alan LeQuire, and Rusty Wolfe. LeQuire, known for his 42-foot sculpture of Athena in the Parthenon in Centennial Park, contributes a three-dimensional portrait of Pablo Picasso in sealed plaster, while Hunter offers a totem pole-inspired piece fashioned in her signature mosaic style. Schatz suspends a hefty chunk of dolomite in the midst of three tall arcs of painted steel to create a work called “Weight.” Another Schatz work is “Trap,” a 7-foot-tall metal stem that tapers and fans out into a lacy Venus flytrap-like shape.
Wolfe, Brooks’ husband and partner in the gallery, has created the largest pieces in the show. His “Trees” is a grouping of three 20-foot-tall stylized, geometric trees, while “Honorable Discharge” is an arrangement of 25 narrow cedar posts, each reaching 25 feet into the sky. The beveled edges of the posts create a castle tower effect. “Rusty’s works are very large in scale on purpose,” explains Brooks. “We needed works that would add diversity [of size] to the show. Because he’s here on site, he could create the size works we needed.”
Works by artists outside Nashville, shipped to the gallery at the artist’s own expense, are on a smaller scalethough none are exactly skimpy. Oklahoman Robin Starke’s “Relationship III,” a trim tower of welded steel and stainless steel, stands 12 feet tall; her “Relationship/Family,” a triptych consisting of a sturdy painted steel pole flanked by two delicate branching metal pieces, is 13 feet tall. A third Starke work, “Moving Mountains,” is a triangular arrangement of stainless steel sheets and curving streamers that stands 10 feet tall. Nashville sculptor Steve Benneyworth’s “Axis,” a steel and copper variation on a cube, measures 9 feet talland weighs in at 2,500 pounds. Benneyworth’s sculpture also carries a hefty price tag of $25,000.
Not all works in the show are super-sized. Tennessee artist Elder Jones’ reclining concrete figure, while heavy, is low enough to serve as a coffee table when topped with glass. New Yorker Tatiana Mamaeva’s “Garden Dancer,” a delicate figure traced in relief in stone, is life-size in height but can be hung (with good support) on a wall.
The scale gets even smaller in the garden art section of the outdoor space, where Brooks has arranged decorative items like Patrick Storm’s ceramic lanterns and David Coddaire’s rusted steel dragonflies. “I wanted to make the sculpture garden accessible by having items that people could really see having in their own gardens or yards,” she says. Items in the garden art section range in size from 6 inches to 3 feet tall and are priced at $35-$500.
Arranging both tall and small works outdoors was much like hanging a show inside a gallery, according to Brooks. Pieces were placed so that their colors and materials would complement those of nearby works. Unlike an indoor gallery show, however, a variety of existing natural and man-made elementsa grassy lawn, a creek, a railroad track, a fencealso had to be taken into account. The unusual blend of industrial backdrops, traditional landscaping, and contemporary sculpture mirrors the quirky commercial and residential nature of the surrounding inner-city neighborhood. It also seems to say that if art can coexist with warehouses, train tracks, and trailer parks, then it can be at home anywhere.
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