Since the death of Kobe Bryant, at least three memorial murals have appeared in Nashville honoring him. I’ve already written about one by JamersonSGC, which I featured in Strength and mourning. Another, which I’ll feature soon, is found on 51st Ave North at This Red Bicycle Coffee. It is interesting that of all the icons that have been lost of late, Bryant has gotten this much artistic attention.
The one above is on Nolensville Pike at the building that houses La Sierra Western Wear. It is by José Fernando Vargas, who has been on this blog many times before. He’s one of the principal muralists who decorates Latino-owned businesses in town. Unlike Jamerson’s mural, which features a young Bryant alone, this mural also includes Bryant’s daughter Gianna, as well as the names of all the victims of the helicopter crash that killed them. As well, the mural includes the jerseys Bryant had in his career, an action shot of Bryant dunking, and one his quotes. A golden basketball rim stands in as a halo over Bryant’s head.
Long ago, this wall had a mural of graffiti art I featured in The Vape USA Gallery, which was painted over some time ago.
Located at 3807 Nolensville Pike, a few hundred yards south of the entrance to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. This mural faces north towards downtown. Parking is available.
El Valiente (“The Brave”) on Nolensville says it’s a western wear place, and it certainly used to be, but it’s also now clearly labeled as a taqueria as well. The website for the western wear version is dead, but the taqueria seems to be up and running, and the food looks good! When it started as a western wear place, the desert mural was done by The Rebel at Large, and the parking sign appeared at the same time, so I think he may have done that as well. Since the taqueria opened, a cactus, a torta, and a bowl of soup have been added to the facade, and I’m not sure who did those. It’s a little brave, so to speak, putting in a taqueria almost across the street from the venerable La Hacienda, but Nashville’s appetite for tacos and all things Mexican food seems boundless, so there’s probably always room for more.
Located at 2630 Nolensville Pike, right at the corner with Whitsett Road. As the sign says, there’s parking in back.
If Americans are familiar with any Mexican artist, it’s likely to be Frida Kahlo. Her surreal self-portraits that often depicted her physical and psychological suffering appear all over the place, and Salma Hayek even played her in a movie. So it’s no surprise to find her on the side of Plaza Mariachi, a Latin–themed shopping and entertainment center on Nolelesiville Pike. There was actually a festival celebrating Kahlo last July on the 112th anniversary of her birth, in which the mural was unveiled, and which included a city resolution honoring Kahlo.
The work itself is by José G. Vera-González. Vera’s done a lot of work in Nashville, though most of it has been indoors, with at least one exception, the mural featured in La Mexicana Market. It appears to be based on this photograph of Kahlo done by Nikolas Muray in 1939. It includes themes that Kahlo used in her own images. Both butterflies and hummingbirds for instance are found in “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” (1940), while flowers are all over her work, though the cala lillies seen here are more a feature of the work of her husband, Diego Rivera. And of course, she has a unibrow. Kahlo put it in all her self-portraits, and it would be disrespectful to leave it out. Pottery, on the other hand, seems to be a signature of Vera’s work.
Located at 3955 Nolensville Pike. The mural is hard to see until you are right upon it. It’s on the south side of the buidling, where Madera Coffee Roasting Company is. There is extensive parking available.
Some months ago I wrote about a mural on the back of the then not-yet-open Bar 1281, a “pop-up” backyard bar with Hawaiian and Japanese style food. It’s part of a larger development developed by Bento Box that’s largely finished. Of course, like most bars, Bar 1281 is currently closed, but they also have another mural, this one visible from the street. It appeared last June and was created by Wooden Wave, the Hawaiian-based husband and wife team of Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz. Given the Hawaiian theme of the bar and its Hawaiian roots, it makes sense that the artists are from Hawaii. Scroll through their Instagram page and you’ll soon see that camper vans and treehouses are themes they use a lot. I actually first photographed this last October but wasn’t happy with my pictures. One thing that has changed since then is the appearance of a metal Bigfoot, with a small headstone behind it that reads “Roo Nov 1977 – Mar 31, 1991.” I have found no explanation, but rest in peace, Roo.
Located at 1281 Third Avenue South. There is some limited street parking on Third.
Facing the front parking lot of La Hacienda Taqueria, one of the original Mexican restaurants on Nolensville Road, is a mural that has been seen by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people by now. But it’s unsigned, and most people would have no idea who might have made it. Even the staff just points to the signature on the main mural inside, which was clearly done by the same artist. It reads “M. Torok ’99.” Well, there is a painter and muralist named “M. Torok” with a deep connection to Nashville, Mitchell Torok. Torok, who now resides in Texas, had a long career in country music as a performer and, in partnership with his late wife, Gail “Ramona” Redd, a songwriter. He is best known for the songs “Mexican Joe,” (which was an even bigger hit for Jim Reeves) and “Caribbean,” and he and Redd wrote successful songs for a number of other artists. But before he became a recording star, he got a dual degree in Art and Journalism from Stephen F. Austin University. He must have had a reputation as a visual artist in Nashville because he “was commissioned to paint a 110-foot, five-panel mural titled “The History of the Grand Ol’ Opry”, which was on display in the Ryman Auditorium until it was remodeled for live performances.” (Wikipedia) (That remodeling happened in 1994.) He also painted an 85-foot long mural called “Elvis-A-Rama” detailing the life of Elvis Presley, which was last seen in a museum owned by Jimmy Velvet that closed in 2006. It’s unclear what happened to that mural. The La Hacienda murals, including the ones inside, are a little worse for wear, but still going strong. The outdoor one featured here has been broken up by the construction of an outdoor seating area, but you can see that hidden part below in the slideshow. And being from 1999, it is definitely one of the oldest outdoor murals in town. That I know of only the Chromatics mural (1993) and the renovated painter mural at the Hard Rock Cafe are older (date unknown, but it was hidden for decades by an adjoining building that was torn down in or just before 1994, when Hard Rock opened). The Angels Will Rise/Seventh Letter mural came just after La Hacienda, in 2001. As of this writing, Torok at 90 years old is apparently still alive and painting and writing in Texas, making him perhaps the oldest and certainly one of the oldest artists I’ve featured on this blog. UPDATE: I have since discovered the mural on the side of Nudie’s on Lower Broad is dated 1993.
Located at 2615 Nolensville Pike. The mural actually sits on the north wall (facing downtown) of La Hacienda Supermercado next door at 2617. There is parking in front and in the rear of the restaurant (the rear parking is reached from Grandview Avenue). If you want any chance to see it without cars parked in front, arrive before 10:00 a.m., which is when the restaurant opens each day.
If you follow the art on Hispanic businesses, the art on Caniceria y Taqueria Don Juán fits the general model well. We see a street scene of Old Mexico, along with a brightly painted menu. It’s a little unusual for the menu to be up against a fake wall with trompe l’oeil elements, but what really makes this stand out is the signature. Underneath the flowers on the white house (see slideshow below), instead of a signature, it says “artist contact,” followed by a phone number. Well, I dug through my archives, and the phone number corresponds to RubenTorres. I have no idea why he did not sign this piece directly. There is also a painted menu and some other work on the other side of the building. See the slideshow below.
Located at 2910 Nolensville Pike. The main mural is on the south side of the building. There is some parking at Don Juán, as well a street parking on Collier Avenue.
The new dawn – that’s what El Nuevo Amanecer means. An interesting name for a bar, particularly since it’s not clear it’s even a going concern. Their Facebook page shows that they had a couple of shows last year, but nothing since September. The only review is from someone complaining about the noise. And this site that keeps track of business licenses lists Nuevo Amanecer as “Inactive Dissolved.” The artist is also mysterious. While I would guess whoever did this is likely one of the artists who specialize in decorating Latino businesses, those artists not only usually sign their work but add their phone number as well, in case you want to hire them. There’s nothing on this one. Given this is just a few blocks from the future soccer stadium, I imagine some developer will snatch it up soon enough. Get your selfies soon.
Located at 398 Rosedale Avenue. This is at the corner of Nolensville Road, along the 2200 block behind Restaurante El Paraiso. There is plenty of parking.
In the battle of the selfies (see my previous post), an up-and-comer is the “nashville looks good on you.TN” mural found behind Frothy Monkey’s 12 South outpost. There’s also one on the Anderson Group Real Estate building on 21st South. This one, on the side of the BW Gallery, seems to be the newest one. The artist, who bills himself online as NASH.TN, posted on his Instagram account last October 28 that he had just started working on this one, so it’s just a few months old. This is also much larger than the others, which allowed the artist to suggest the shape of the state of Tennesee, and to fade out the mural into a barely visible graffiti tag. And while this version is seen by thousands of Nashville commuters every day, I doubt you’ll find much of a line here for your portrait. Perusing the #nashvillelooksgoodonyou tag on Instagram, I found only one portrait with the Nolensville Pike edition.
Welcome to Old Nashville. That’s an interesting greeting for Tin Dog Tavern to make. On the one hand, it’s relatively new, having opened in 2014. But it’s also true that there’s been a dive bar on this corner of 4th Avenue South for a while. Before it was Tin Dog, it was Purple Heys, and before that, it was TC’s Triangle (the building is triangle shaped). Tin Dog sits in an interesting place. It lies on the border between Wedgewood-Houston and Chestnut Hill, two rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods that still have significant chunks of their older versions. Warehouses, factories, auto repair places and low-income housing sit side-by-side with art galleries and some of the newest high-end housing in town. Just south, the Fairgrounds are poised to become home to Nashville’s major league soccer stadium. Compared to all that, Tin Dog is very much Old Nashville. It’s anyone’s guess how long it, or some succeeding dive bar, will stick it out. The sign is an Eastside Murals creation. On the other side of the building is a graffiti installation that bears tags from the UH crew. (See below).
UPDATE: This building has been renovated and all of this work has been painted over.
Located at 1401 4th Avenue South, at the corner with Rains Avenue. The Welcome to Nashville mural faces Rains Ave. The graffiti mural is on the south side of the building, facing an alleyway. Tin Dog has parking, much of it right in front of the mural. If you want to find the mural car-free, try early in the morning.