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Alicia Henry: Fine Art and Teaching

Posted: April 13th, 2011 | Filed under: artist, dog, painter | 4 Comments »

I was nervous driving to Alicia Henry’s home this past week. She was the first real art celebrity that I’d be photographing for this project. I’d seen her show at Zeitgeist Gallery a few months ago and was really moved by it. One piece in particular literally brought me to tears.

My friend Lain York had put me in contact with her, but was concerned that she might not get back to me — said she was very committed to her work and kept a low profile, when she wasn’t teaching at Fisk University. (That scored points with me. Respect points). So when my phone rang a couple of weeks ago, and it was Alicia on the line, (sounding hesitant and reluctant to be photographed), I got very excited that she’d even called me back.

When I arrived at her home, near the Fisk campus, she greeted me at the door with a warm smile, and even helped me drag my gear into the house. In the kitchen, she was making homemade granola. It was a beautiful old southern home — the residence downstairs, and a studio on the second floor. The feeling in her home was like turning back to the clock to 1945 or so. She asked if I had dogs, and I told her my long story about losing Dottie and Clyde. She went to the basement door and let her three sweet dogs into the house to meet me. Madden, a large German shepherd was ten years old, which seemed very old for a large dog. Her hips were going, but she was still full of spunk. Tango was a little Chihuahua mix, and Missy appeared to be a beagle mix.

We shot some portraits downstairs, and then she took me upstairs to the studio where she did her work. Every room upstairs was filled with works in progress. Faces; full length figures that were life size; all painted on fabric. Either starting with felt, or burlap. Some were stitched. All of them with multiple layers of depth. I wanted to shoot some video of her, explaining the work, but she declined and smiled. Shown below are some of the pieces that were on her walls.

Here is the description of her work from the Zeitgeist site. I’m not much on art talk; I’d just advise seeing the work in person. Walk up very close and really feel it.

Isolation and interaction is a common recurring idea in my work. I am interested in the complexities and the contradictions surrounding familial relationships as well as societal differences and how these variations affect individual and group responses to themes of Beauty, the Body, and Identity. My current work explores these ideas, addressing the process through which groups (specifically female) navigate these issues. This installation will investigate this in five parts. Through a depiction of the roles that age, class, gender, nationality, and race, have in the idea of Households.

I know I’m posting a lot of similar portraits of Alicia, but I just loved her face and her spirit. She’s an Old Soul, but also funny and warm and sweet. I kept asking her about herself, and her history and her work, but she always deflected it back toward me — asking about my work and my motivation. It was like a fun game of Mental Chess. Very enjoyable.

(Above image): Beautiful light pouring into the front foyer area of Alicia’s home. With Madden and Tango.

(Above image): Second-floor workroom/studio area, with works in progress.

(Above image): Front porch, with Tango, Madden, and Missy.

(Above image): Second-floor workroom/studio area.

(Above image): Second-floor workroom/studio area.

(Above image): Second-floor workroom/studio area.

(Above image): Two classic Beware Of Dog signs that she used to keep in her back yard area. But they began to wear with weather, and she liked them well enough to bring them inside to preserve them. I agree.

(Above image): Classic southern front porch.


Lain York: Artist & Zeitgeist Gallery

Posted: March 4th, 2011 | Filed under: artist, feature, great face, painter | 1 Comment »

It seems to me that, most everything in the arts world in Nashville sooner or later goes through Lain York. He’s the center of the cog. All roads lead to Lain. He and Janice Zeitlin manage Zeitgeist Art, in Hillsboro Village.

I first came across Lain, years ago, when I began to participate in the Untitled Group. Untitled is a group of artists that come together to host one-night art shows in various venues around town. We’d generally meet around 3pm, begin to empty out a restaurant or an empty space, begin to assemble wall units, and then rig up some temporary lighting, hang a complete show, and then people would begin to flow into the space around 6pm. By 10pm, the show would close, and we’d completely tear down the space, and return it to its previous condition by about midnight.

Lain simply cares about the arts scene, and he cares about people. Pure and simple. Great guy. He wants the best for Nashville, and does the hard work to make it happen. Selfishly, I also always thought he had a great face, and I always was looking for an excuse to photograph him. He reminds me of some football player, or rugby player, from the 1930′s, back when football helmets didn’t have face guards.