This is a tale of a pristine, precise mural and architecture gone awry. Nathan Brown has produced a number of works in Nashville and elsewhere. Many of his works use what I have sometimes called his “colorful geometry problems” style, though the geometry for this piece at the Stay Alfred Sobro is fairly simple. (I used the Yelp link for that hotel because their own website is quite useless.) There was of course the complication of getting the stripes on the two layered walls to line up, which is a testament to Brown’s skill.
The picture above captures almost all of the mural. As you can see from some of the pictures of it on his website, to really capture all of it you need to be up a few floors in the building across the street, which I didn’t have access to. The other thing that is clear in those pictures – the lower wall is undamaged. Sometime since this mural went up in June, 2016, water leaks severally damaged the wall and the mural. If you look close, you’ll see a series of holes along the wall which are presumably for water draining. Nashville sits on a bed of ancient limestone that is often very close to the surface, and water can move around in strange ways. Obviously, the engineers didn’t get it right here.
The crack creates an illusion. It really looks like the damaged area is a deeper layer, like a few layers of plaster have been peeled off the wall, but that’s not the case. The damage, dirt, repair, and weathering create a trick of the eye. It’s a shame the mural is damaged, but a lot of the great masterworks are damaged, and people still trek to museums and archaeological sites to see them.
Located at 310 Peabody Street. That’s the address of the hotel. The mural faces the 400 block of Fourth Avenue South, right at the corner with Peabody. This is downtown. Lots of parking, almost none of it free.
Apparently, the Berry Hill Square shopping center has been having some trouble in its parking lot. The entrance off Thompson Lane is a little oddly designed, so it wouldn’t be surprising if traffic flow weren’t some kind of issue. So what’s the answer? Build a fence right at the entrance, and get a muralist to paint it. Or how about two, or even three? This mural is signed by Tarabella Aversa, and it features large images of lush flowers found in some of her other work, such as the murals featured in Flowers of Walden. But she must have gotten help from WHAT.Creative Group (Jake and Hana Elliot), as their signature is on the bottom as well. This went in back in February, and if you compare an image from back then to the mural now, it’s obvious it’s taken a little damage. One of the hazards of being in the middle of a parking lot, no doubt. Somebody probably backed into it.
Located at 718 Thompson Lane, right in front of the Applebee’s, and across the street from Guitar Center. It’s in a parking lot, so of course parking nearby is available.
Mesmerizing waves riot into the parking lot, drawing the viewer out into the sublime sea. The arches provide a comforting shelter from the vastness on the horizon. Their ruined state invite the imagination to contemplate what was, what could have been, and what is. Trees on either side facilitate a transition between the ancient, man made structure and the reclaiming elements of nature. They merge with the purpose of the pillars, possessing the ambition to hold up the sky. Although the cathedral walls are no more,the grandness behind the arches now is so much greater than what could have been before.
The figures in the columns are the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, St. Peter (identifiable by his keys), adult Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi (identifiable by dress and the bird in his hand).
This mural is located at 635 Third Avenue South. The mural faces north, towards downtown and towards the church. As long as the church parking lot is not taken up by parishoners, there is parking there. Otherwise, there is street parking on Third.
This one is obviously temporary, as it is painted on boards covering a window blown out by the March 3rd tornado. Of course, my last post was about another mural on Jerry’s Artarama, but I feel this one is timely, and as construction is already getting started next door and a large disposal unit you see at construction sites has appeared just to the side of this mural, I thought it important to document it now. I also try really hard to credit artists, but this one is unsigned, and I suspect it is anonymous for a reason.
The happy-style letters belie the seriousness of the topic at hand. In my main work, I am a history professor, not an art blogger. I do not know why this particular incident has generated the enormous energy and the wave of protests that it has, while others like it before did not. My future colleagues will spend a lot of time sorting that out. Some reasons seem obvious, but one thing you learn in history, the obvious answers aren’t always right, or they may not be as important as they look. What history-minded people like me can do is document everything, so the full story can eventually be told. Already, the Smithsonian is collecting signs plastered to the fence around the White House so they will be available to researchers and the public in the future.
Located at 713 Main Street. For now, the parking lot in front of Jerry’s Artarama is available, but once this becomes a construction site, that’s unlikely. The nearest street parking is towards downtown on Seventh Street North.
If you stand at the bottom of the west (Downtown) side of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and turn towards Lower Broad, you should be able to see this faded sign off to your left. It’s at the back end of a gray-green brick building that lies at 127 Third Avenue South, across the street from the Nashville branch of Big Machine Vodka. As of this posting, the building is empty with a big “Available” sign. I’ve known of the faded sign above for some time, but it has frustrated me. The red lettering is so faded, I could only confidently read “Salvage” in the middle, maybe “Company” to the right. But what salvage company? There are of course old city directories at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, but by the time I thought to do that, COVID has closed everything.
But then I stumbled on this blog post from Brentwood Interiors, which used to be called “The Salvage Store” and was located not in Brentwood, but a couple doors down from the gray-green brick building with the mysterious sign. In it, they mention a collection of salvage and interior goods stores that used to line both sides of this stretch of Third Avenue, from the 1950s into the 1990s. One name they mentioned was “Williams Salvage Company.” Now, while it doesn’t look much like “Williams” would quite fit in front of “Salvage” on this sign (maybe it was abbreviated), it doesn’t take much internet sleuthing to find that yes, Williams Salvage Company was long at 127 Third Avenue South. In this picture, you can see it used to say “Williams Salvage Co.” in bold letters on the front of the building. That sign got painted over, but you can still barely make it out.
I’m not sure when Williams Salvage closed. I do know that when Hastings Architecture bought the building in 2002, it was referred to by the Nashville Business Journal as “the old Williams Salvage building.” (Hastings has long since moved on.) These old sings are disappearing. Relics of a different era, they remind of us of a Nashville long gone. I hope whoever moves in leaves the faded Williams Salvage Company sign in place.
Located at, you guessed it, 127 Third Avenue South. The sign is on the south side of the building, overlooking a parking lot. This is downtown, so lots of parking, almost none of it free. Hint: On the other side of the pedestrian bridge, there’s still some free parking for Cumberland Park.
The best view of the We Are Nashville installation at 916 Main Street is where the Holleman Transmission building used to stand. It was taken down by bulldozers, in preparation for new development. But the photographic mural features the staff of the local fashion line Molly Green, whose Main Street branch once stood next door to Holleman, and which was almost completely destroyed by the March 3 tornado. We Are Nashville is an anonymous collaborative that for the last two years has been documenting who Nashville is today. They have begun to put up wheat-paste installations of the resulting photographs, with QR codes that lead to their website where you can learn the stories behind the images. The start of their campaign to present these photos and stories to the city coincided with the tornado and its aftermath, so it makes sense that some of the early installations are about the people and stories of the storm.
In the center and the far left, we see the people of Molly Green, standing in the ruins of their Main Street store.
If you were to stand where the photographer stood now, you would see the mural to your direct right, as the Molly Green building has been leveled.
The left side of the mural includes a closeup portrait of Molly Green staffer Heather Johns, but it’s mostly is a portrait of ten-year-old London outside her great-grandfather’s home, David Young Sr. Parts of the home date back to 1870, and if you click on the Donelson story above you’ll see it was more damaged than it appears in this photo.
A little ways away, about where I stood when I took the photo at the bottom of this post, there are three smaller portraits of Molly Green staffers. They are on the backside of Attaboy. The only deaths recorded in Davidson County from the March 3 storm were of two people who left Attaboy just as the tornado was approaching.
These are obviously all temporary. Wheat-paste murals don’t tend to have a long shelf life. Like the recent also temporary installation at Jerry’s Artarama a few blocks away, they both memorialize the damage suffered from the storm as well as highlight the strength of Nashville as a community. There is something else about them that speaks to the temporary nature of all art. Just below the four portraits above stands the only remaining fragment of the largest work of art destroyed by the March 3 storm, the wrap-around mural by Eastside Murals that once covered all of Molly Green.