Art and Social Commentary, Cumberland Gallery, April 14, 2018 at 11 am
Moderated by Paul Polycarpou Editor and CEO of Nashville Arts Magazine, panelists included, Mark Scala, Chief Curator at the Frist Art Museum, Bill Ivey, Former Chairman of the NEA, Brian Downey, Museum Manager at 21c Museum Hotel, and Sara Lee Burd of Art Consultant Nashville, the discussion focused on social commentary in art. One point of debate was the role of art and artists in society. As a group they explored how these definitions have changed over time recalling examples such as court paintings, Goya’s “Disasters of War,” the DADA movement, Adrian Piper’s Calling Card I and II, Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, Steve Mumford, Hank Willis Thomas, and Ken Gonzalez-Day. Part of this conversation of note was how many topics such as war, human rights, human atrocities, power, and environmentalism have been taken up by artists in one way or another over the centuries.
Set amongst the exhibition Discontent: Recent Photographic Work by Mike Smith and Leslie Tucker, the panel reflected on the veracity of photography, what photographers do and could do when telling stories of communities through their images, the line between exploration and exploitation, the power of photographing real people in real contexts. Many of the questions that arose were considered and left unresolved, and that was part of the pleasure of the talk.
The audience consisted of art professors, working artists, photographers, collectors, and members of the Nashville community. Their participation thrusted the discussion forward adding levels of clarity and complications to the topics at hand.