One art student is getting the exciting chance to display her work in a monument celebrating a culture which greatly inspires her.
The Nashville Parthenon is currently exhibiting art created by Tasha Lewis, a sculptor and first year MFA student at UT. The exhibit is called “Flood Lines” and has been on display since Friday, Jan. 24.
Lewis is a contemporary feminist artist whose work is inspired by Greek sculpture, and the exhibit is timed with the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote.
It all started back in 2016 when the curator of the Parthenon reached out to Lewis asking if she was interested in showing her work in the museum's gallery. Over the years, they were able to work together to bring this to a reality.
Due to its deeply-rooted connection with Greek culture, the Parthenon pairs well with Lewis’ Greek inspired art. It also stands out from the more modern environments that Lewis has displayed her work at in the past.
Since the process took multiple years, Lewis did not know where she would be when the exhibit was held.
“It is not unusual for a museum to schedule their shows two, three years in advance, but it meant I had no idea that I would be in graduate school in Tennessee at the time of the opening. It has been great to end up here and to really feel like I am able to put out roots into this arts community,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ exhibit features pieces inspired by a mix of body and ocean. There are multiple color schemes of whites, blues and pinks, as well as several designs.
The exhibit includes humanlike vessels which are actually cast from Lewis’s own body. Lewis stitched through the objects, often with wire or cord, to create the effect of human hair and to add to the pieces’ realistic qualities.
Lewis explained that, aside from ancient Greece, her artistic inspiration derives from many other sources as well, including Shakespeare and the natural beauty of outdoor areas in Maine, Cape Code and the Mediterranean.
She added that because of the extensive period of time spent arranging this particular exhibit, her work has morphed and changed in many ways.
“As it is the culmination of three years of work, there has been a certain evolution and shift between each stage — sometimes it is the materials that change, sometimes the color or surface treatment. I am always evolving the way I make my sculptures, and so I am constantly honing the way I talk about and conceive of the work.” Lewis said.
William Rerick, a fellow art student at UT, explained his take on Lewis’ exhibit and its female empowerment.
“Tasha Lewis’ work draws the viewer in through its alluring tactility, gentle gradients of color referencing regenerative waters and its display of the natural body,” Rerick said. “Her sculptures simultaneously stand strong against the degradation of the male gaze and they affirm the sensual power of the female form.”
Rerick added that the pieces can also be interpreted as a commentary on climate change.
“The work focuses on our roots as creatures who exist in bodies that are inextricably connected to water. Within the global issues of the rising waters due to climate change and the advancement of feminist concerns her work feels personal and intimate,” Rerick said.
Gary White, Lewis’ peer, greatly praised “Flood Lines” for its attention to artistic detail.
“Tasha is a very creatively driven person with the ability to present her audience with visual and intellectual stimulation through her work. The level of detail and attention given to the surfaces of her pieces is stunning! There could have been no better artist to be shown at the Parthenon,” White said.
The exhibit is funded through a National Endowment for the Arts grant, as well as through a Humanities Tennessee grant.
A symposium called “Gender in Ancient Greece and Today” will be held on Feb. 6 at the Parthenon from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will discuss the key themes in Lewis’ exhibit.
“Flood Lines” runs through Sunday, May 10.