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Photos, Gardens, Birds, Trees: What’s Happening in the Great Outdoors

There’s a good deal of world’s-end whimpering in the air these days. May I suggest that we begin with a bang — even if it’s merely to journey into the great outdoors? “Bang!” went my heart when I opened the photographer Jack Spencer’s powerful THIS LAND: An American Portrait (University of Texas Press, $45). There isn’t a garden in it — only the vestige of one, vines creeping up the side of a boarded-up cottage in Xenia, Ill., a sign of irrepressible life.

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Abstract art is beautifully alive at Memphis in two galleries...

Two exhibitions on display at local commercial galleries indicate that the concept of abstract art is vibrant and alluring in Memphis. “Bluff Poem,” a show by Don Estes at David Lusk Gallery, closing May 19, and “Ephemera,” a large group of works by Lisa Weiss at L Ross Gallery, through May 27, share a monochromatic stone-and-earth colored palette while differing in intent and execution. As the titles of their exhibitions imply, Estes’ mixed media on panel paintings partake of the solidity and temporal power of the river bluffs that were their inspiration, while Weiss’ acrylic and mixed media works, on panel or paper, embody the mutability of thought and materiality, the impermanence of the shapes of things. We could say that Estes deals with the emphatically seen, while Weiss plays with the dramatically unseen.

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Southern Exposure: Hitting the Road with Jack Spencer

Great art of any kind—written, photographed, painted, sung—is great not least because it is at once temporal and transcendent. When something particular (a page, an image, a song) suggests something universal, then we know that we are in the presence not of the ephemeral or of the manufactured but of true art—the work of a master’s hands that not only engages us in the moment (though it does that) but also alters everything else we see, for the honest artist does not merely entertain. He informs and ultimately transforms. Such is the art of Mississippi native Jack Spencer.

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America Through the Lens of Jack Spencer

In these images from his new book, This Land: An American Portrait, Jack Spencer has given us a great gift. Like Steinbeck or Kerouac—or Huck Finn, which is perhaps the closer analogy—Spencer decided to “light out for the territory” in 2003 to create a series of images of an America in search of its footing in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11 (the bloodiest day on American soil since Antietam) and on the cusp of the Iraq War.

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Emily Leonard

What My Mother Taught Me

“In terms of style, my mother taught me about effortless originality,” says Leonard. “She’s never given a moment’s thought to trends, which of course annoyed me as a teenager. She’s always known just what she likes, which is usually anything that offers loveliness or beauty to the world. One of my favorite stories is about when she made a dress for her home economics class in the 1950s. It was a stunning dress, but she got an F on it because she made up the design and didn’t use a pattern! That pretty much sums her up.”

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Nashville artist Emily Leonard on inspiration, motherhood and nature's creative forces

Known for her expressive paintings of the Middle Tennessee landscape, Nashville artist Emily Leonard tightens her focus and makes new the classic subject of flowers in a new series of paintings, “Unfold,” on view at David Lusk Gallery. In pale hues and unrestrained fluid gestures, Leonard has created sleek, sumptuous portraits of peonies and other garden flowers that meld abstraction and representation, capturing each flower’s strength and fragility and bringing forth the ineffable sensation of beholding its beauty.

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TO DO LIST: Opening: Outsider Artists: Bridging Communities

This June David Lusk Gallery Nashville presents Outsider Artists: Bridging Communities, artworks by self-taught artists. The exhibition is guest-curated by John Jerit, a renowned collector of works by self-taught artists. The exhibition is a survey of the genre, with a wide mix of imagery and materials. Outsider Artists: Bridging Communities presents a comprehensive view into this important subset of contemporary American artwork.

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Good Habits Maximize Creativity, with Emily Leonard

No one has a perfect story. Light and dark, day and night, there seems to be a constant opposite element to contrast our experiences in life. We all have our moments of glory and times of difficulty. On this episode of Savvy Painter, I have the privilege to sit down with artist Emily Leonard. Emily’s journey is a fascinating one. We discuss her successes, her battle with depression, the creative process, the benefits of good habits, and much more! If you love to hear how artists have navigated their creative journey as much as I do, you don’t want to miss this episode!

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Robert Rector, "Five Decades of Abstraction"

Robert Rector has spent the last fifty years of his artistic career exploring abstract and nonrepresentational work through painting. Being deeply influenced by the natural world, Rector's work illustrates the relationship between the environment and our human experience.

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