Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Number 777

Welcome to us, every one.

Rest In Peace, Beautiful Betty.

For those of you in the State of Tennessee, I'd like to encourage you to check out the latest issue of Number: An Independent Journal of the Arts. In my ongoing role as cultural polymath and provocateur, I contribute my writing to a number of different print and online publications. Number is a Southeastern art journal, published quarterly by the University of Memphis.

I have been writing art reviews/interviews with Number for years. For this latest issue, I was asked to serve as guest editor. Having put together a team including some of Nashville's most well-known and respected cultural commentators, we assembled a version of the journal that was bold, brash and beautiful, while remaining warmly familiar.


Plese pick it up and check it out a gallery, museum, school or cafe near you. Just off the top of my head, Nashvillians can get it at Frist Center, Zeitgeist Gallery, Cheekwood, Watkins and the Vanderbilt Fine Art Gallery.

I will post a link to a .pdf file soon for the rest of ya.

In the meantime, here is the editorial I wrote for this issue.


9 for #62

Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes, and feel with their own hearts.

- Albert Einstein

Like many good things, this all started with a party...

In Nashville - about a year and a half ago - I was at a celebration for a friend coming home for a visit. Down the street from my apartment on Belmont Boulevard, another acquaintance hosted a generous gathering in her honor: a lovely night, a short walk, comrades, drinks, and an interesting proposition.

One such comrade - Gadsby Creson - had made the trip from Memphis. Her new husband - Memphis' own Dwayne Butcher - had come along as well. Dwayne and I had met before, but not often and never for long. We had been in contact mostly through our mutual association with Number.

Having a chance to get (re)acquainted, the subject of the Journal came up. It turned out that Dwayne had recently joined the board of directors at Number, and he and our fearless leader – Leslie Leubbers – had been conjuring a sea change.

The simple ideas we spoke of that night transformed, multiplied and grew over time. Magical beanstalks can lead to humiliation as surely as The Goose That Lays The Golden Egg, and one is wise to watch such verdant progress with ax in hand.

In this case, the gamble has paid off.

This is the first of four upcoming issues of Number:An Independent Journal of the Arts that will challenge familiar assumptions about this publication's range, depth, variety, and voice, while also serving as an undeniable reminder of Number's place in Tennessee as its most important regional, visual arts publication.

Each issue of the upcoming run will be curated by a guest editor: myself in Nashville, xxx in Knoxville, xxx in Chattanooga, xxx back in Memphis. By that time – a year from now – Dwayne Butcher will take the wheel as the new full-time editor of Number, replacing the unforgettable Leslie Leubbers.

I have been lucky to work with Leslie longer than I have worked with any other editor. Her encouragement of my writing has been invaluable, and she has given me many opportunities to contribute to this Journal and become invested in its ongoing legacy.

Thank you, Leslie.

Since that night at the party – when Dwayne first tested my interest in guest editing an issue of this Journal – I have been asking myself two questions: “What is Number?” and “What can it be?”. Heretofore, Number has been the only publication that has consistently brought an intelligent, insightful voice to the visual arts throughout the state. It is literally one-of-a-kind. Given the opportunity to re-imagine the Journal, I began to focus on the second question.

This issue of Number - primarily - covers the Nashville art scene in a way that has never been possible in the Journal. Traditionally, Number favors the goings-on in its own backyard of Memphis. This is due to logistics more than a lack of desire to fully-cover the rest of the state. It is likely that these next issues will favor – if not spotlight – the localities of each of the guest editors. This is the first time that Number will be able to deeply involve itself in these particular frontiers, and – one hopes – that the treasures uncovered will be revelatory. In addition, each editor will be in the enviable position of transforming the Journal to align it with their particular (peculiar?) understanding of the poetry, pathos, politics, and people that make up their own little corner of the visual arts scene in The Volunteer State.

The Journal you are holding in your hand is equally familiar and foreign, explicit and exotic. Here we have the expected critiques of contemporary art exhibitions, but from fresh voices, speaking strange ecstasies with rough tongues. In addition, the horizon recedes in this new landscape to include reportage, memoir, travelogue and essay, twisted into a tapestry of sensations that evokes morning prayers, feral bunnies, 7” records, and midnight movies watched with wanting eyes. Huge abstractions eat one commentator alive, while another is hard pressed to find the gallery he is parked directly in front of.

Both John Ford and John Wayne swagger through this newsprint prairie. In Ford's movie, The Quiet Man, Sean Thornton (Wayne) moves to Ireland, searching for himself in the land of his fathers after killing an opponent in the boxing ring. Number is facing a similar transformation: rediscovering itself among the people and places that have always defined it.

In the pages you are about to turn, birds take wing over the Giza Plateau as paint pours across a canvas to form a syn-aesthetic geography. And yet, we are at home, in our beds at night, the wind through the windows, the solemn footsteps in the other room, a head-full of dreams half-realized, but beckoning. A clean, well-lighted place full of images and inspiration may be subsumed by the dim revelations of The Spectacle, but the faithful still make their joyful noise in the night.

Seeing this city's art community through the eyes of the writers, artists, educators, photographers, grifters and stow-aways that have made this document possible, I'm reminded of something a young friend of mine recently wrote:

“...you get what you believe in.” *

Amen, little brother.

Don't forget the graffiti on the wall, around the way, down Belmont Boulevard - The Street of Dreams - where our holy quest first began:

“Be brave.” **

Joe Nolan is a poet, musician and freelance writer living in Nashville, TN. Find out more about his projects at www.joenolan.com

* http://thearmchairrevolutionary.blogspot.com/
** http://www.sslifer.net/propaganda/propaganda.html#

Ok, enough of that. Let's rock out!


While the world as you know it explodes into pure cosmic possibility, you may be thinking, "Hey? I wish I had some great jams to kick it to."

Never fear! Explore this treasure chest and listen to - and purchase - my new CD at your favorite online outlet. Also click the VIDEO button to watch the short film REvolution featuring yours truly on the soundtrack.


Be gentle in your sleepy hands on this world.
Be a killer in Heaven.

Joe Nolan

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