Review: First Saturday Art Crawl, August 2015

September 10th, 2015

Last month, my daughter and I went to the August First Saturday Art Crawl in Downtown Nashville. This marks 9 years of the First Saturday Art Crawl! I think I have been going for seven years now. Maybe eight.

I decided not to go in July because the first Saturday was the 4th of July. They did move it to Friday the 3rd but I figured it would be too hot and too crowded anyway. So we postponed it for a month.

I considered going to the Franklin First Friday Art Scene, but I don’t know enough about it to make an informed decision about going. (Where do I park? Where do I start? Etc.)

First Stop: The Peanut Shop

So, the first thing my daughter wanted to do was go to The Peanut Shop in The Arcade. As usual, that was her first priority before going to any galleries. I was thankful they were open for the art crawl because this is always the highlight of the evening for her. The Peanut Shop has an erratic track record when it comes to being open for the art crawl, so this can make or break her whole art crawl experience.

She got Mike & Ike candy, we got my wife orange slices to take home, and I had a soft serve ice cream cone. It was delicious. Not quite as sugary as Chick-fil-A’s soft serve, so it was perfect.

After our treat, we went to the second level of The Arcade to visit the galleries. There were two galleries that made an impression on me in the Arcade this month.


The first was 40AU — named after the estimated distance the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned 180° to take the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of the Earth. My friend Megan runs the gallery.

Since I had a fast-footed first-grader with me I didn’t get a real close look at anything but at a glance it looked like little sketches of places the artist slept for a number of months.

Apparently at some point in the series the artist broke up with her boyfriend. There was one where the caption was something like “The last night he slept in our bed. The next day he moved down to the basement.” And then another had a caption like “95 days before we broke up.”

There were something like 50 hotel keycards attached to the wall adjacent to the sketches of places she stayed. One interesting thing was she stayed at the same hotel chain twice in two different states, and her room was identical in both places. Which isn’t surprising. I wasn’t there long enough to put together the whole story.

Marleen De Wale-De Bock

The other gallery that was impressive in the Arcade was Bel Art, showing Marleen De Wale-De Bock‘s work. I had just into my friend Joe Smith and he said to check out Marleen’s work, and it turned out to be as nice as he said it was. It was mostly large, beautiful, abstract landscapes. She clearly has a good command of color.

The Rymer Gallery

The Rymer Gallery was nice as always and in the loft were some really nice abstract paintings that I loved by Femi Ojo. I had seen them before, but the last time I saw them they didn’t make a strong impression on me.

Somehow this time around Ojo’s paintings were more impressive. Maybe because I’ve been doing somewhat similar work lately. I loved the intensity of almost edible glossiness of the varnish on the yellow paint on one canvas. The holes in the canvas were fascinating. It seems to be a tension between creation and destruction.

The downstairs at Rymer was really impressive. It was wildlife/nature photography by Barrett Hedges. Annie loved it because it had animals. Of course.

Tinney Contemporary

Then in Tinney Contemporary, there was a body of work by José Betancourt that centered around Cuba. Everything was in blue shades. I didn’t really get a chance to look at it since it was getting late and Annie was getting antsy.

(Aside: We got to the art crawl late because I didn’t want to pay $20 to park for just 2 hours so I searched for a long time to find a free place to park. Eventually I parked someplace off close to where I used to work, where I just got laid off from due to massive restructuring and downsizing at my former day job as a graphic designer.Parking downtown is tough if you want to do it cheap or free. I had forgotten how hard it was. For nearly 4 years I was spoiled, parking for free in a downtown garage!)

The Arts Company

After Tinney and Rymer, Annie said, “Let’s go to the place with the pop-up books!” I told her it was getting late so we needed to hurry, but we went we went to The Arts Companyanyway.

The Arts Company sells these fancy pop-up books. You could say they are pop-up books for grown-ups, but kids love them, too. They’re very elaborate. Annie loves them. She always wants to go to The Arts Company just to look at the pop-up books.

Avant Garage

The Arts Company was having their annual Avant Garage sale. Their building has a garage in the back, which they partially open up to the public when they have their openings for the art crawl.

The Avant Garage Sale is exactly what it sounds like: a garage sale with old stuff that’s been discounted. The Arts Company opens up the garage in the back of their building. They often open part of it for the art crawl but once a year they open up a larger space and have stuff you might find at a garage sale: old stuff they had discounted, knicknacks, furniture, sheet music, and so on.

The pop-up books Annie loves were marked down to $10 each. I told her, “Pick one out, and you can take one home.” She was so excited. I told her she would have to keep it in a safe place where the dog or her brothers won’t find it and tear it up.

She picked out 600 Black Spots by David A. Carter. Here’s a YouTube video that shows what it’s like:

LaVon Williams: Rhythm in Relief (The Arts Company)

I didn’t get to look at LaVon Williams‘ work much, but it was impressive. Large relief wood carvings made by an equally large man. (He’s a former basketball player for the University of Kentucky. He also played professionally after that.) I’d say his work is a sort of African-American take on folk art with a strong Jazz influence.

9 Years of First Saturday Art Crawls

Congrats to the Art Crawl to making it to 9 years. I can’t wait to see what happens next year for the 10th.


I really want to make it to the Art Crawl on Wedgewood/Houston but that’s a logistical challenge especially with a small child in tow. I don’t want to spend all my time looking for parking.

I know there was a trolly running for the art crawl, but I don’t know if that was going to Wedgewood/Houston. Maybe the two art crawls are better connected now and can help each other out.

For More Information:

This article from The Nashville Scene is actually a bit more comprehensive. Check it out.

Header Image source via Tinney Contemporary: Art Crawl Celebrates Its 9th Birthday!

5 Painters You Should Watch

April 6th, 2015

From time to time I like to do a roundup of painters I’m interested in for one reason or another. Well, all of these artists are people I have either met in person or via some online channel, and have had some really great conversations with them. And they’re all doing something different. Despite all the differences I think I have something in common with each one.

You’ve heard of a man crush or a bromance or a girl crush. Consider these five fantastic artists to be artist crushes!

David Sandum

Source: David Sandum’s Instagram Feed

When you look at David’s work, a couple of famous artists come to mind. The Vincent Van Gogh influence is unmistakable, as well as the influence of another Post-Impressionist, Paul Gauguin. David’s brushwork and vivid colors tell such a powerful story regardless of subject matter. He paints a lot of landscapes with and without figures. He occasionally does cityscapes.

Not only does he paint, he does really nice etchings that carry over the same style very well. His #twitterartexhibit has been going for several years now and has raised thousands of dollars for education in various places around the world.

I’m really looking forward to his memoir on art & depression, I’ll Run Till the Sun Goes Down, where recounts his struggles with depression and how he chose art instead of self-destructive behavior. You can pre-order the book here and save 20% off between now and the end of April. It’s sure to be a great book. What David does is courageous and inspiring.

Mandy Thompson

My friend Mandy is married to a pastor. And as someone who grew up in a family with a lot of ministers I can safely say that one’s faith journey in that sort of situation is a little different from that of others. Mandy documents her faith journey in her art, making it uniquely personal yet relatable. She tends to paint smallish abstracts, though lately she’s been obsessed with drawing pears in ink on postcards, doing colorful washes over them.

Adam Hall

I actually discovered Adam’s art on Pinterest a few months ago. I fell in love with his landscapes with moody weather. His paintings are rather abstract when viewed far away but show a lot of polished realism up close. His scenes are of right before or after the weather has gotten really dangerous. And it was fun to discover that he is also based in Nashville!

Jeff Bertrand

Also based in Nashville, Jeff loves to paint pop-culture references both obscure and well-known. His work is often macabre and twisted. He rides the line between pop culture parody and an obsession with death. He admits it is weird to collect bird skulls and things like that. For his day job he’s a barber. From what I can tell, he’s fantastic. If anything happens to my barber I’m going to Jeff.

Nicholas Wilton

Source: and Instagram

Nicholas paints large, graphic abstracts. I discovered him when Mandy (mentioned above) shared one of his videos on Facebook. He had put a GoPro on his head and filmed himself in the studio. It was exciting watching him squirt colors onto his palette, mix them up just so, and make marks on a 60-inch canvas. I think he comes from a graphic design or illustration background, since his work has a particular characteristic that seems informed by a specific, bold color palette and series of shapes.

Who is inspiring your work these days? I want to know!

The Art of Work by @JeffGoins

March 23rd, 2015

If you’ve ever wondered what you’re supposed to do with your life, this is where to start.

My friend Jeff Goins wrote a book about not so much his own journey, but the journeys of other people finding their “calling,” as it were.

It’s a fantastic book and I’ve already got it on my iPad.

You need to read it. In fact, you can get it today. Go ahead and download a digital copy and you’ll get the paperback as soon as it ships, along with $250 worth of bonuses.

All you have to do is order the book and pay $6.99 for shipping.

But you have to do it today. By midnight, actually. If this sounds like something you’d love, then CLICK HERE to get your free book + bonuses!

(By the way, if you click that link, I don’t get anything for it. I’m just helping out a friend who has taught me a lot about living out his calling.)

So what are you waiting for?

CLICK HERE to get your free book + bonuses!

Let me know how you like the book! Remember, you have until midnight tonight, Central time! Trust me, you’ll be inspired!

Review: The God Who is There

July 1st, 2014

This review of Francis A. Shaeffer’s seminal book The God Who is There will show it to be largely relevant today even though it was published some 45 years ago.

Years ago I remember seeing it on one of my dad’s bookshelves. He’s a preacher, and he has had this book since college. It was evidently a big deal when he was a student in the early 1970s at David Lipscomb College. I think it is still pretty relevant today. (Aside: the old cover from 1968 is pretty rad. Too bad it doesn’t look like this anymore. It is probably too “artsy” for most evangelical audiences — ha!)

Crisis of the Modern Man

In a nutshell, the first half establishes the crises facing the Modern Man, and the second half is about how Christians should talk to said Modern Man, meeting him where he is with compassion.

I see far too many Christians alienating people and talking down to them simply because they themselves don’t know enough about the other person or even what Christianity is really about.

That compassion is a fundamental part of what Jesus was all about. Many Christians forget this.

Progression of the Line of Despair

An important premise of the first half is this: certain ways of thinking have moved through society in this way: starting with philosophy (university professors of philosophy and literature), to the visual arts, to music, to the general culture, and finally to theologians.

That’s the order in which ideas spread. I found a really great graphic that explains this in the article from Susan E. Isaacs, Miley Cyrus And The Line Of Despair:

Take a good look at the above diagram. Once upon a time we celebrated Aristotle and the Venus de Milo. Now we worship John Waters and Lady Gaga. Tell me we are not living Below the Line of Despair. Of course, I didn’t need Schaeffer to tell me this stuff; I knew it the moment twerking was added to the OED.
The graphic is kind of tongue-in-cheek and exaggerated, but you see where certain ideas start in the universities and work their way into popular culture and then theologians.

Theologians are always the last to catch on.

It’s not that churches should be early adopters of new ideas, but there is a definite tendency among the religious to ignore what is going on in the culture at large, sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “la la la la la” at whatever is different from what they know and believe.

This is why the evangelical church in America shrunk so much in the middle part of the 20th century: they missed 50 years of art and culture, unable to understand the widespread nihilism present in the Modern Man.

Had evangelicals paid better attention when the 1913 Armory Show came to America, they would have been better prepared and equipped to face the existentialism that was prevalent in society by the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Now we have hipsterism, which in my opinion is the newest iteration of postmodern despair, with a sort of cheerful nihilism.

People Aren’t Wearing Enough Hats

Related: this scene from Monty Python’s 1983 film “The Meaning of Life”:

(Can’t see the video? Click here instead.)

If there is no God…

The problem with modern thought is that it very quickly arrives at the conclusion that if there is no God, then moralism is moot.

If there is no God, it doesn’t matter what you do. Kindness and cruelty are equal and ultimately zero. Therefore, anything you do is zero, and if anything you do is zero, you are zero, too. You can see where this is going. It’s pretty hopeless.

The Call

Shaeffer calls Christians to understand this despair and compassionately expose it for what it is when ministering to people. Don’t shock and convulse people and then leave them hanging.

Show them love; show them what Christ is really about. God is knowable — a who: he is personal, and he is in fact there.

The Art

Of course what got me about this book in the first place was the attention given to the fine arts: how the work of the Modern masters has embodied the ideas present in 20th century thinking.

Refer again to the visual above and you’ll see how what happened in the arts a few years back is what is happening in mass culture now. And what’s happening in the arts now will spread to everything else in a few years.

Saving Leonardo

Yes, the book is almost half a century old. People call Schaeffer prophetic, but I see he was just follwing the line of Modernism into Postmodernism, which really started to take root in the 80s and 90s and now has entered the popular culture as hipsterism.

You already know what’s next: the churches are ready to adopt similar lines of thought.

Cue a Jon Acuff tweet about preachers in unnecessary scarves talking about metanarratives:Metanarrative is a huge part of postmodernism. Rather, postmodernism is skeptical of metanarratives.)

But if you want an updated version that doesn’t require a glossary and has a nifty appendix called “Morality at the Movies,” check out Nancy Pearcy’s Saving Leonardo. Pearcy was a student of Shaeffer’s, and she picks up where Shaeffer left off, making it more visual and relevant for today. I reviewed Saving Leonardo last year.

Things I have to ask myself

Reading this makes me ask myself what can I do as an artist to influence the world around me.

Better yet, how can I answer the world around me in such a way that gives hope in spite of the despair that’s all around?

How can I use the gifts I have to reverse that trend, not just mirror it?

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Required Reading for Artists

June 17th, 2014

Over at Dave Ramsey’s company, the Lampo Group, there are books that are required reading for every new Lampo employee. It’s important because these books crystalize some of the ideas that are a big part of their culture. On the EntreLeadership podcast, they spent an entire month reviewing the books on this required reading list, and it got me thinking about what books would be on such a list for anyone in the arts.

So I made my own list of four books that artists should read.

The Artist’s Way

Author: Julia Cameron

This one is pretty well-known even among non-artists. I think it is geared a little more toward women than men, and there are some parts that might seem a little “froo-froo” or “touchy-feely,” but the two most important tools it provides are

  1. Morning Pages
  2. Artist Dates
Morning Pages is a practice where you essentially do an emotional brain dump, jettisoning all the things that are bothering you. You just write by hand for half an hour or whatever, and don’t read it for six weeks.

And if the Morning Pages is where you ask “the universe” questions, Artist Dates is where you start to get answers by “refilling the well.” You go on a date with your inner artist-child, doing fun stuff that part of you enjoys. It might be silly or serious.

A lot of the book is about taking stock of where you are as a creative and realizing that it’s okay to fail, and finding the gumption to get moving. I wrote about it a lot on my old Mysterious Flame blog, especially in this post about why artists should journal and this one about Refilling the Well and Reigniting Creativity, until I discovered the next book on this list, The War of Art.

The War of Art

Author: Stephen Pressfield

In many ways this is the opposite of The Artist’s Way since it takes a much more aggressive approach to creativity. In a sense art is a war to be fought, so buck up and dig in.

It’s a real kick in the pants. I need to re-read this every few years. Probably the most important concept in this book is that of “The Resistance”, the thing that keeps you from making art because it threatens the status quo. Seth Godin expands on the Resistance concept in his book Linchpin.

The second most important concept is that of “showing up.” Put in your hours and do the work, even if it seems crappy. Sometimes that crappy work teaches you something you need to get better at. The chapters are very short, usually one or two pages. You could read it almost like a devotional, reading a chapter each morning before you get into your work.

(My original review is here: Worth Reading: The War of Art)

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author: Twyla Tharp

Making art is a discipline, and nobody knows that better than world-class dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp. Creativity is something you do every day. There are patterns that emerge, and if you recognize them, you can use them to your advantage. It’s like staying in shape. In many ways this book expands on the “showing up” concept, providing a practical framework for the artist’s lifestyle.

For me, the concept that stood out the most was the idea of “spine,” or overarching theme, even if it isn’t visible in the finished work. (I originally reviewed this here: Book Review: Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit)

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

Author: Michael Hyatt

While it doesn’t apply to artists per se, it is a great handbook for making yourself known in a world that has gotten increasingly noisy, especially on the internet. Michael Hyatt is good at taking seemingly complex ideas and making them understandable and practical.

Sure, you can glean a lot of the ideas in this book from his blog, but it is collected all in one place. There’s an audiobook version available, read by Michael himself, which makes it a lot like his podcast. The first part is pretty common-sense, but you know how uncommon common sense is. The latter part of the book is practical advice with actionable ideas regarding Twitter and blogging. There isn’t much advice on Facebook. He has since stated that Facebook evolves so much that as soon as anything is published it is out of date. So if you want to make a name for yourself especially in the social media space, this is the book for you.

What books have you read lately that you think artists should be reading? Email me or leave a comment. Thanks!

Photo Credit: jspad via Compfight cc

Book Review: Moment Maker by @LosWhit

June 10th, 2014

Carlos Whittaker is a friend of mine.

Sort of. I mean, we’ve met a few times. We know some of the same people.

Los (if you can’t roll the r in Carlos) is a worship minister and makes a living singing songs about Jesus. And he lives in Nashville.

So when his new book came out, I was pretty excited to read it.

Moment Maker is about living life intentionally in such a way that no moment goes to waste.

But it isn’t a how-to book.

Making it a how-to book would be too easy. Instead, it is a collection of short little stories about moments he has experienced, told through the lens of living like Jesus. Most of it centers around his family, but on some occasions Los talks about how he seized the opportunity to truly be a neighbor, whether it is to the freaked-out man on the airplane or the transgender person at the hipster coffee shop. It’s the way Jesus taught and lived. Stories with personal impact.

Some of the Los’ stories are hilarious, and others are touching.

Moment Maker is real and honest.

I know it might come across as somewhat arrogant. One might think Carlos is saying, “look how good a Christian I am since I take advantage of these moments God has given me to minster to people, and see how clever my wife and I are with our kids” but I don’t think that is it at all.

Carlos wants to show us how to be more aware of those moments and not be afraid to jump in with both feet. He freely confesses mistakes he made where he failed to seize the moment. For example, he chose to snub someone instead of be a friend to them. More than once. And he regrets that, 30-plus years later.

A 4th of July Thank-You

There are several stories that stand out for me, but right now the thing that really stands out is the time Carlos met some soldiers who had just done a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and he had an opportunity to thank them. (Here’s a version of this story on his blog.)

That day, he went from singing on a stage in front of thousands of people to buying drinks for 40 soldiers in a tiny hotel bar. Guess where he had the most impact?

It’s the small things that really count

The biggest lesson I got out of that story was sometimes the thing you think is going to be one of the Big Moments turns out to be less significant than the “unimportant” thing just around the corner. Sometimes being a friend to a soldier on an elevator and giving a heartfelt thank-you can have a greater impact than singing in front of thousands of people at a festival.

It is a very quick read; I finished it in a day and a half only because I had things to do (like making sure the kids didn’t destroy the house or each other). Highly recommended, though at times I wanted it to go a little deeper.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review on this blog.

Book Review: Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

June 3rd, 2014

I’ve read a few books on creativity over the years, from the self-help variety to the more analytic titles that explore how creativity works. Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of creativity. It’s very different, but I enjoyed it and was challenged to stretch myself in ways I hadn’t thought about before.

I think a lot of it stems from the fact that Twyla Tharp is a choreographer, but not like any dancer I’ve ever met. She has a true appreciation of all the arts, not just dance. Yet she sees everything through the lens of dance and theatre, and by extension, film.

Creativity is a habit.

This is the main premise of the book. Creativity is something you do day in and day out, like exercising. It’s a lifestyle, really. And there are ways to nourish that creativity and keep it going, so that it keeps you going as well.

I picked up The Creative Habit about 3 years ago, read a couple of chapters, and put it back in the ever-growing pile next to my nightstand. I wish I had finished it sooner. But I think I read it at the right time. You know how these things go.

The book is visual from the outset. First off, I noticed the entire book is set in Bodoni/Didot(I know it isn’t Didoni) and certain words are highlighted in red. The first page gives you a sense of the space Twyla Tharp works in, describing an empty white room. This is her canvas. This is where she will compose dances. She explores the creative process, introducing some concepts I haven’t thought of before, such as the idea of spine.


I’m not sure how that parlays to painting, but it makes total sense for literature and theatre. Spine in this sense refers to an overarching theme or structure. For example, she mentions a fiction book about a baseball team that has as its spine the theme of the Holy Grail, specifically the legend of the Fisher King. And in one of Tharp’s dances, she built the spine around the story of Dionysus/Bacchus, though it ultimately didn’t resemble that at all. Rather, with six dancers, she built a theme around pride, arrogance, defeat, and rebirth.

So that is something I want to explore in my own art: how can I incorporate spine into my paintings? I suppose it has a lot to do with being clearer about my goals as a painter, what I want the painting to say.

If you’re an artist, I highly recommend it. Or even if you’re not an artist and you want to know how the creative process works. Or if you’re a business person and you want to come up with better ideas.

The end focuses on getting out of ruts, building a “validation squad,” as it were, and putting in the time and dedication to become a master.

Now that you’ve read this, go see what Merlin has to say about it: Twyla’s Box: It’s Where Everything Goes

Header image source: Maria Doval Ballet

My Top 10 Posts of 2013

December 10th, 2013

It’s been quite a year here on my little blog. I’ve been mostly consistent for the past 9-10 months or so since I relaunched this blog early in the year. The site has been up for almost ten years and the blog has been up for about six, with this version being the fifth.

It’s been interesting since I wrote about my word of the year (Delete) and there are a few things I thought might generate more impact than they did, such as the post on using mystery to create compelling art and my take on the Orson Scott Card issue (Can you separate an artist from his art?). I am proud to say that my most personal piece so far made it into the top 10: God Wants You to Make Better Art: (or, Uncovering My Own Story Made Me Realize How Much Work I Have To Do).

1. Life After Art: An Interview with Matt Appling

I’ll never forget the night I interviewed Matt because that’s the night the kids and I came down with the stomach flu after I hung up on the Google Hangout. Family illness aside, I think it’s rather telling that this is number 1. Probably because so many people have lost touch with their creative side since elementary or middle school. We know we miss it but we’re afraid to admit it.

2. How Can You Tell if Art is Good or Bad?

The essential goodness or badness of a thing is the foundation of philosophy. This question is what makes us human.

3. God Wants You to Make Better Art: (or, Uncovering My Own Story Made Me Realize How Much Work I Have To Do)

My most personal piece ever dives into how we need to uncover our own stories to touch people’s lives.

4. Experimenting with the 500 Letters Artist Statement Generator

Heh, this was fun. It’s mostly gibberish but it’s gibberish that almost makes sense. What’s interesting is how close it actually is to my art, but the words don’t sound like me at all.

5. This Project Was a Failure: Nashville365 

It took some guts to write about a failed project, but the lessons I learned were valuable. It’s good to look at failure, take stock, and move on. And I think I have.

6. Quiet

Personal posts seem to resonate with people. This is no exception, as my hearing loss has created a lot of anxiety (and anger) in me. At the same time, I’ve learned how much I love quiet, and now I’m pursuing it in my art.

7. How to Look at Art

Art (and taste) seem to be arbitrary. But there are criteria for good art, and this list is a good place to start.

8. Art & Beauty: (Or, Why Modern Art is So Ugly)

Is there a connection between art and beauty? Why is modern art so ugly? The past 150 years have been difficult for planet Earth, and art has held up a mirror.

9. How to Behave at an Art Show

Don’t be Mater and think wasabi is pistachio ice cream.

10. Remix in Visual Art

This was another fun piece to write. There are so many themes in art that offer themselves up to be reworked and reinterpreted.

What was your favorite post this year?

Book Review: Saving Leonardo

September 3rd, 2013

The cover got me. It’s got the Mona Lisa and Pulp Fiction. Plus some Kandinsky-looking abstract and a Lichtenstein pop-art comic-book painting. And this is a Christian book? This has to be cool, right? I have to admit that’s what first got my attention. Things I’m really into: fine art and movie-junkie movies. And it’s about saving Leonardo. What’s wrong with Leo? He was a talented guy. So I picked this up and decided to give it a read.

Now, it took me the better part of a year to read Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning. The first part is a bit slow, but certain parts really stood out for me and got my attention. Like most good books, once I hit a certain point, I couldn’t put it down. Nancy Pearcey did a good job with this.

It’s 336 pages, so it’s not a quick read. But it’s aimed at the “student of culture” and Pearcey’s goal is is to expose “secularism’s destructive and dehumanizing forces.” What this means is that what you see and hear in the arts and the media is not necessarily innocent (the buzzword to use is “value free”) but deliberately set against Judeo/Christian thought.

The Fact-Value Split

It starts off with a look at the fact-value split in today’s society and how that has affected many Christians. This refers to the idea that facts are essentially empirical data, but values are personal opinions and thus inferior to facts. This leads to the whole mentality that says “you can have your opinion, I’ll have mine, but that doesn’t make either one true”:
“Values are not considered matters of truth but only personal perspectives and preferences.”
The problem is that many Christians slide into this same line of thinking: “If someone wants to do something immoral, that’s their prerogative. In fact, I’ll even support them because it’s bigoted to do otherwise.”

This is where secular thought becomes destructive, because it slowly unravels one’s conviction in the Christian faith, which is based on certain absolutes.

The Threat of Global Secularism

The first section, The Threat of Global Secularism, is about the need for tools for detecting the underlying philosophies present in culture today, in movies, the arts, media, schools, even Saturday morning cartoons. Pearcey goes to great lengths to caution against the “fortress mentality” that is so prevalent in Christianity, which ends up isolating us from the world instead of helping us become familiar with the very world we are trying to bring to Christ.

Two Paths to Secularism

The second section, Two Paths to Secularism explores the root of the fact-value split and the two main ways our society has taken to arrive where we are today. So how did we get here?

This split occurred when The Enlightenment, or Analytic Tradition, began. Enlightenment is based in fact, scientific method, and above all, reason. The other route is the Romantic path, or Continental Tradition. It is rooted in story, myth, and imagination. Eventually, either stream becomes reductionistic and destructive.

The final two chapters are the most practical. The most entertaining is Chapter 9, Morality at the Movies. It reveals the agendas behind some popular films. Many are most definitely not “value free,” no matter how much they pretend to be.

The epilogue gives a great example of how art can reach the world for Christ by demonstrating the effects of Bach’s music on Japanese fans today, and how his music, more than 200 years after his death, can lead people to Christ.

What I think

It’s a bit academic, but it isn’t dry. It does require some foundation in art history. It might help to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance first, which is all about the Classic-Romantic split (Pirsig’s term for the same split).

There were times reading Saving Leonardo where I felt it would have been a good textbook for the “Christian in the Visual Arts” class I took my senior year at Harding University, but the tone is engaging and well-informed. Reading it, I felt like I was having coffee with a smart professor who is truly interested in helping me understand the way our culture operates.

It’s very sympathetic to the arts and artists. Pearcey herself is a trained violinist coming from a family of musicians, and she studied under Francis Shaeffer, so she has a firm grasp of the art world and today’s socio-political landscape.

The fact that it is filled with full-color images of artworks relevant to the topic at hand keeps visual types engaged.

It’s a must-read for anyone wanting to make a difference in the world with their art, because understanding the culture your art “lives” in is important to keeping it relevant.

Review: Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl, June 2013

June 7th, 2013

Last Saturday, I took my four-and-a-half-year-old, Annie, to the First Saturday Art Crawl in downtown Nashville. Every first Saturday of the month, a bunch of art galleries and co-ops open up for the evening so art lovers can wander from one gallery to another. It started in the famous Arcade between Fourth and Fifth avenue, but has expanded to the rest of Fifth Avenue.

Since this is Nashville, the weather is usually too hot or too cold to take a toddler (I guess she’s a kid now!) to a bunch of art galleries that open up on the street.

But this time, the weather was perfect. We almost didn’t go, since there had been severe thunderstorms an hour or so before we left, but it cleared out just in time for us to head downtown.

The first thing we saw as we turned onto 5th Avenue from Church Street was a wedding party being photographed in the middle of the street. They had rented out Puckett’s Grocery for their dinner.

Fifth Avenue of the Arts

Fifth Avenue of the Arts has been renovated to be more pedestrian-friendly, with new lighting over the street. Between light posts, icicle-style lights (only much nicer than the Christmas lights you can buy at Walgreen’s) hang from a wire over the street with a large lamp suspended over the center of the street. We missed the lighting ceremony where Mayor Karl Dean threw the switch to turn on the lights.

With 5th Avenue blocked off to traffic, the yellow art crawl buses weren’t running anywhere that I could see. I only saw one as we were making our way to 5th, and never saw where to get on.

The new work on 5th Avenue includes little platforms where performers of all stripes can do their thing for pedestrian audiences. It’s really nice, and lots of fun. Blue Coast Burrito was giving out delicious samples of chips and pineapple salsa!

There was a giant two-story styrofoam head right in the middle of the street right in front of Blue Coast Burrito. The sculpture was made of giant styrofoam blocks, jagged at the bottom and refined at the top so you can see all the facial features. It looked like some character from Greek mythology. Triton, perhaps? I don’t know who the artist was.

The Arts Company

This was our first stop. Annie didn’t recognize the place, but in her defense it has been six months to a year since we last went. She didn’t seem all that impressed with the art. I’m not sure what she was expecting, though. I didn’t get much chance to really look at it since Annie asked almost immediately: “Can we go to another gallery?” I tried to get her to look at the large pieces in the Five From Memphis exhibit, but I don’t guess it was very interesting to a four-year-old.

However, we noticed lots of people going to the back. I thought they might be going upstairs, but nope, they were going to the garage in back of the gallery.

That’s where we discovered the Nashville Public Library puppeteers demonstrating their marionette puppets! Annie had a blast interacting with the puppets.

Remember the platforms I mentioned earlier? Apparently the plan was for the puppeteers to perform with their puppets there and in the street. Unfortunately the inclement weather drove them inside. I don’t guess lots of rain and wind are too good for marionettes.

Annie loved the puppets. She asked typical four-year-old questions, and claimed she can do the same things, too. So when Annie saw a backdrop artist working in chalk/pastel on a large board, creating a scene of the Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland,” she asked if she could help. Of course, she wrote her name in pink, her favorite color.

We made our way to several other galleries, including the Rymer Gallery and the Tinney Contemporary Gallery across from the Arcade.

The Rymer Gallery

At the Rymer Gallery, Annie was fascinated with Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures of a guitar and a bunny. I think it’s because these things are so accessible to her, and the idea of using crayons (“crowns,” as she pronounces it) to make something like that was such a neat idea. It probably didn’t hurt that it was pink.

In the loft part of the Rymer were some interesting dimensional sculpture-paintings by Will Penny. They hang flat on the wall, but have angled planes that protrude a few inches into the room. These planes appear to be spray-painted in two tones, with varying concentrations of color. It’s not unlike two-color printing where different ink percentages create new colors.

There were some nice abstract pieces by Carly Witmer that I liked. The canvases were unusually shaped, with transparent lines that dripped off the edges.

These two sets were so cool and very different from anything I’ve seen, but they seem relatively easy to recreate. It’s unique and novel, but it lacks that thing that could make it really hard for someone else to do. That’s really my only criticism. What’s the thing that could push it into something really new?

I think that’s where Herb Williams’ crayon sculptures really shine: the concept is simple: three-dimensional sculptures made of Crayolas. Anybody could do it, but no one could pull it off quite like he does, with the same attention to detail.

Tinney Contemporary

The first thing we saw as we came to Tinney was a floor-to-cieling installation of cut paper. Black and white crescent-shaped pieces of cut paper comprised a tornado that went from the ceiling to the floor, threatening some small houses. I explained that several tornadoes, big storms, had last night been in the area where her “Auntie” Kelly lives, and these storms can knock over and tear up houses.

Then of course, Annie spit all this information back out to some ladies who were looking at the art right after us. Silly girl, haven’t I told you to not talk to strangers!

The Arcade

As we entered the Arcade, we were blasted by a very loud band. Annie hated the noise. It made her really unhappy. I tolerated it.

But of course, we went to The Peanut Shop, which for Annie is THE HIGHLIGHT of the Art Crawl. She got some jelly beans, I got an ice cream cone, and we got some orange slices to take home to Mama.

The galleries in the upstairs of the Arcade had moved around a bit as they tend to do when old tenants leave and current ones take up their spots. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything really remarkable upstairs, and my friends at Blend Studio weren’t showing anything this time.

The Tennessee Art League / Chestnut Group

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was finding that the Tennessee Art League had moved to Fifth Avenue. It makes sense, given that it is now closer to the Art Crawl and the rest of the “Arts District,” but after months of thinking it had closed altogether I was glad to see they had simply moved. This was special to me since my grandfather was a member for years.

The space is somewhat claustrophobic with odd bottlenecks, but the location is an old downtown building which was never intended to be an art gallery. It’s in one of the spaces between The Arts Company and the Rymer Gallery.

There at the new TAL gallery, The Chestnut Group had a showing of lots of plein aire pieces of Nashville scenes, and reminded me of the Nashville365 series I did a while back, as well as some of the pieces my friend Pete Sullivan paints.

Summing Up

Annie and I had a great time. The weather was perfect. I keep hoping to see some really unique, breakthrough art show up in Nashville, but I’ve never seen anything that really pushes the idea of what art can be.

Annie is already talking about going again next month.