by David Sprouse
For his latest body of work, The New Nashville, artist Brett Weaver set out to capture the palpable yet elusive something that animates and sustains this dynamic city. While Nashville has long been celebrated as a center of creativity and commerce, its latest iteration as the “It” city is no simple subject to translate into an exhibition of fifteen paintings. Yet Weaver’s insightful combination of street scenes and public interiors avoids the traps of nostalgia and cliché by emphasizing a vitality of place over simple recognition.
The Frothy Monkey, Oil on canvas, 24” x 36”
Weaver portrays a city in the midst of rapid growth and near perpetual change. He is attentive also to the counterbalance provided by the more ordinary rhythms that ultimately shape a city’s character. Frothy Monkey, for example, casts the warmly lit coffeehouse as an inviting refuge from the morning bustle gathering just outside its plate-glass windows. In contrast, Downtown Man hits the viewer with all the sun-washed brightness of an automobile dominated streetscape—a glaring scene of crosswalks and traffic signals familiar to any Nashvillian as the West End and Broadway split. Whether candlelit or blown out, Weaver’s adept use of the transient quality of light depicts a Nashville seen in its fleeting best, impressionistic yet down to earth.
5 Points, Oil on canvas, 24” x 36”
To be sure, intersections and cafés are merely the peripheral vision of a city. In deciding what to paint for the series, Weaver explains that “the new Nashville is more about arts and culture and community and essentially not being nostalgic. However, I did want to capture certain intrinsic qualities that describe the heart and soul of Nashville. I felt like the Ryman had to be included in some way.” He counts The Core as one of the most important works in the show. Casting his gaze from Broadway northward along 5th Avenue of the Arts, the historic Ryman Auditorium stands to the right in the painting’s foreground. He paints it not as some exalted shrine, but grounded—a permanent anchor in limestone and brick bounded by the movement of traffic and pedestrians.
5th Ave. of the Arts, Oil on canvas, 36” x 36”
Weaver worked as a civil engineer before shifting to art full time in his late twenties. Over a decade later, he finds that his formal training as an engineer is never too far from hand: “I use a lot of the design skills I developed as an engineer in designing my paintings and giving strength to the structures and industrial settings. Art should have the right amount of mathematics and creativity, and then, hopefully, the strength of your creativity will hide all of your calculations.” Brett Weaver maintains studios in both Chattanooga and Nashville, and his work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Tennessee State Museum.
4th Ave., Oil on canvas, 24” x 24”