Nathaniel Donnett & Vadis Turner
October 5 – December 1, 2018
Nathaniel Donnett and Vadis Turner are Southern artists, residing in Houston, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee, respectively. Without getting too broad or clichéd with the association, the South is nonetheless a great place to begin an examination of the work being done by these artists.
The South has long held an identity separate from the rest of the nation, and it celebrates that separation. For better or worse, much of the South’s mythos is built on pieces extracted from its history, and many Southerners hold a particular affinity of reminiscing on its antebellum heyday. Whether social laws of engagement have been officially written down, or just remain “unspoken rules,” order and place for communities remain clearly defined. Cultural traditions and customs for how a Southerner is expected to live, or survive, are passed down through generations like genetic heirlooms.
Donnett and Turner deal with contemporary experiences, but bring historical markers into the conversations, to act as kind of flood gauge marking the changes (or lack thereof) over time. While they may create work to challenge Southern norms, they still speak within a Southern language of spiritual histories, mythology, poetry and storytelling. There is an undeniable lyrical rhythm to their work.
The work of both of these artists utilize non-traditional art materials that hold specific associations to the narratives, while still being able to address the formal visual elements of a work. Every aspect related to the work is involved in the discussion, with no opportunity wasted.
The work holds a physical presence that invites deeper investigation. With each moment spent with the work, the viewer will be able to develop a more encompassing experience of what the artist is addressing and how it may relate to the viewer’s own life experiences. Maybe it’s recognition and validation, or maybe it’s discovery and empathy.
Conceptual and visual, appealing and challenging, historical and contemporary, how much a viewer gets out of the work is only limited by how much they are willing to put into the conversation.
[Pictured above: Detail of A Rather Violent Merger of a Wedding Dress and a Swamp by Vadis Turner; 68in x63in x 5in; ribbon, clothing, antique textiles, mixed media; 2011]