Quantcast

Abstract Boundaries and Big Black Birds at Tinney Contemporary

"Ceiling of Blackbirds" by Dorothy O'Connor

“Ceiling of Blackbirds” by Dorothy O’Connor

The 5th Avenue galleries are the centerpiece of the First Saturday Art Crawl and Tinney Contemporary consistently sets the pace for the busy block when it comes to smart art. The space is closing the year with a bang, hosting a show that reintroduces a new Nashville favorite alongside an exhibition that finds an art scene veteran at her best.

Dorothy O’Connor builds elaborate, life-sized rooms filled with a fantastical array of animals, vegetation, furniture, baubles, trinkets and junk. O’Connor then inhabits these spaces with models and photographs the scene, producing a finished piece of work, and gallerygoers will remember the Atlanta-based artist’s work from her artist-in-residence tenure at Cheekwood this past spring. At Tinney Contemporary, O’Connor’s latest installation “Ceiling of Blackbirds” shows with a selection of photographs from earlier projects, providing an overview of O’Connor’s recent production.

O’Connor’s installations are dominated by bold colors, reflecting straightforward themes – “Earth” is clay-colored while the “Shelter” installation at Cheekwood featured a very vivid red. “Blackbirds” is black and blue, evoking moonlight and shadows, creating a Gothic atmosphere that would make the incubus and the blind horse in Fuseli’s “The Nightmare” feel right at home in.

Both Poe and Hitchcock come to mind in the swarm of paper birds thundering above the two beds that furnish the room. In the photograph, a white woman wearing black and a black woman wearing white sit on either bed folding and painting the birds before allowing them to fly away. The birds are dichotomous and chaotic, but also graceful, feminine and wild, and neither woman seems threatened by the frenzied display.

In the Nashville Scene I compared O’Connor to a movie director and wrote that “I think of her finished works as outrageously short films unwinding at a rate of one frame per forever.” And while “Blackbirds” looks like a horror flick at first glance, it reads more like a magical drama that’s not afraid to wink at itself.

Nashville art scene veteran Jodi Hays has a collection of new paintings in Tinney’s rear gallery. In Super Scraps Hays folds abstracted landscapes and architecture into colorful, geometric studies of space, time, and the borders that define them. These themes have been Hays’ stock-in-trade for years, but the painter proves that she’s still finding gold in those veins, turning-in one of the best painting shows of the year.

Hays’ last series was far more realistic than this one – recognizable forms were everywhere to be found. Before that, she did a series of images of orange safety fencing cordoning-off abstracted spaces. This time, the work is nearly completely broken down into form, texture and color and Hays’ themes are stronger for the ambiguity. The titular elements in “Fence and Wall” are about as close as Hays’ comes to showing her cards, and pieces like “Crunkest Jesus” and “Lawnmower and Sunflower” feature forms that merely imply walls and fences and flowers – or do they?

“Trend” may be my favorite piece in the show. The upper portion is defined by an angular yellow field and a peppermint-striped arrow shape. The center is filled with a gorgeous, painterly white stripe above the bottom of the painting which recalls a gray beach where an intense, blue wave laps at the lower right corner of the panel. “Trend” evokes all of the descriptors an out-of-season waterfront might inspire: lovely, sad, lonely, dangerous. For all its bright colors it’s ultimately a melancholy piece and a reminder that our days, months, seasons and years all must come to an end. That’s the reason why some of us celebrate on New Year’s Eve. And it’s the same reason why some of us do not.

Print Friendly
About Joe Nolan

Joe Nolan is the visual arts editor. He is a poet, musician, artist and critic who distills the city's gallery scene from Nashville's east side. Find out more about his projects at joenolan.com. (Photo of Joe Nolan by John Rogers)