SCULPTOR WILLIAM EDMONDSON’S LEGACY CELEBRATED IN NEW CHEEKWOOD EXHIBITION
NASHVILLE, TN. – Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art will host a special collective sculpture exhibition entitled William Edmondson and Friends: Breaking the Mold beginning September 27, 2014 (through January 3, 2015). The exhibition will showcase the sculptures of celebrated stone carver and Nashville native William Edmondson (1874-1951) along with more than twenty works by sculptors and painters who have been influenced by Edmondson’s style, inspiration and technique.
As the first African-American artist to receive a solo exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art (1937), Edmondson claims a national place in the history of American Art among the most important self-taught artists of the past century. William Edmondson and Friends is a tribute to his incredible legacy in Nashville and beyond. Not only is Edmondson honored with street signs, parks, civic buildings and historical markers around the city, his unlikely career as a sculptor and influence on future artists has carried his name far outside Nashville’s city limits. Sculptors including Sylvia Hyman, Red Grooms, Olen Bryant, Puryear Mims, Alan Lequire, Greg Ridley, Tim Lewis, and Meyer Wolfe will be represented in this exhibition, displayed alongside some of Edmondson’s best known work.
Each member of this diverse community of sculptors has been touched by Edmondson’s love of stone carving and has interpreted it in his or her own distinctive way. Some actually met the artist during his lifetime; some were considered his contemporaries; others were introduced to his work after his death. Each artist’s connection to Edmondson is unique, whether it comes in the form of a borrowed technique, a common medium, divine inspiration or even a shared sense of humor.
“William Edmondson is very special to us here at Cheekwood, and not just because he’s a hometown hero in the art world,” said Jochen Wierich, Curator of Art. “His skill and imagination as a sculptor and his incredible story as a self-taught artist connect deeply with our mission to make art experiences accessible to – and enjoyable for – everyone. Showing his work together with some of the brilliant artists he’s inspired is an honor, and we’re thrilled to demonstrate to our community just how contagious and important one creative spark can be.”
The William Edmondson and Friends exhibition coincides with the City of Nashville’s recent renovation of a small park on Charlotte Avenue already named for the artist. Incorporating community-inspired design by local landscape architect Kim Hawkins, the park’s new look incorporates limestone and rounded forms in tribute to Edmondson’s aesthetic and style. Sculptures by Lonnie Holley and Thornton Dial, both self-taught contemporary artists like Edmondson, were recently commissioned by the Metro Arts Commission and are now featured prominently in the park.
The son of freed slaves, William Edmondson spent most of his life in Nashville. Working first on the railroad and then as a janitor at the Nashville Women’s Hospital, he was a part of the vibrant community in what is now known as the Edgehill neighborhood in the early 20th Century. At the age of 57, Edmondson began working with limestone using a hammer and a railroad spike. "I was out in the driveway with some old pieces of stone when I heard a voice telling me to pick up my tools and start to work on a tombstone. I looked up in the sky and right there in the noon day light He hung a tombstone out for me to make," he described.
Edmondson carved for 17 years, explaining, "I am just doing the Lord's work. I ain't got much style; God don't want much style, but He gives wisdom and sends you along." Edmondson drew his subjects from his world, both real and imagined. Rabbits and bears from folktales, Adam and Eve from the Bible, and nurses from the Woman's Hospital joined neighbors on porch swings and preachers with Bibles in a cast of characters that inhabited his yard. Crafted by a skilled hand, Edmondson's sculptures are a testament to one man's ability to transform observation and imagination into objects that continue to inspire us today. William Edmonson and Friends: Breaking the Mold opens at Cheekwood’s Museum of Art on September 27, 2014 and will close on January 3, 2015.
Cheekwood will offer several public programs as a part of the exhibition:
Drawing Room Concert Series
in partnership with The National Museum of African American Music
Sundays, 2:00 pm*
Cheekwood is honored to partner with the National Museum of African American Music this fall to offer a fall concert series in the Museum’s intimate Drawing Room. Enjoy live music by some of Nashville’s most talented musicians. All concerts take place at 2:00pm.
Sunday, October 5: Sonja Hopkins, Jazz
Sunday, October 12: Dr. Philip Autry, Ragtime
Sunday, October 19: “Mississippi Millie” McLaine, Delta Blues
Sunday, October 26: Dr. Darryl Glenn Nettles, Jazz Stride Piano
Sunday, November 2: Inversion, Traditional Gospel
*There will be no concert on 9/28. Cheekwood will close at 2 pm on that day.
Musical Miracles: The Music of William Edmondson’s LifeThursday, October 16,
$15 Members/$25 Non-Members (includes lunch)
Inspired by our William Edmondson and Friends: Breaking the Mold exhibition this fall, Dr. Anthony Williams, Associate Professor of Music at Fisk University, will explore the formation and history of the musical traditions that likely influenced the Nashville sculptor during his career. Gospel, jazz, and rhythm & blues were a big part of Nashville’s African American culture during Edmondson’s time; this is the music he would have heard on the radio, in church, and on the streets of the city.
Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Visit cheekwood.org/education.
An Evening of Experts and Art
Thursday, October 2
Free to the public
Join us for an expert panel discussion exploring William Edmondson and Friends: Breaking the Mold, featuring experts on African American art, sculpture and culture. Jennifer Marshall of the University of Minnesota, Victor Simmons of Fisk University, Cynthia Gadsden of Tennessee State University, and Mark Schlicher, Independent Film Maker will discuss Edmonson’s work and career. This one-of-a-kind event is made possible with support from the Entrekin Lectureship Fund and will be moderated by Jochen Wierich, Chief Curator at Cheekwood.
RSVP to 615-353-6990.
Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Our mission is to preserve Cheekwood as an historical landmark where beauty and excellence in art and horticulture stimulate the mind and nurture the spirit.
Cheekwood presents world-class art exhibitions, showcases breathtaking gardens, and offers education programs and seasonal festivals to school children and families as well as to the citizens of Nashville and its visitors. Its attendance and membership have dramatically increased in recent years, and the institution has become an increasingly accessible and relevant place in the Nashville community. In 2013, Cheekwood welcomed over 300,000 visitors, making us one of the city’s top cultural attractions, with approximately 12,000 member households.
Cheekwood is located at 1200 Forrest Park Drive in Nashville, 8 miles southwest of downtown Nashville. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Friday nights through August, open until 8:30 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, seniors $12 and children 3-17 are $7. Parking is $3 per car. For further information call 615-356-8000 or visit www.cheekwood.org.