In the past five years I have had the pleasure of working on a collaboration for a highly regarded Tennessee real estate firm developing an integrated commercial-retail complex. The phased project expanded an existing retail space bringing a neighborhood feel to an upscale berg south of Nashville. I was originally tapped to create multiple large scale works of art in each of the commercial lobby areas of what would be a five-building configuration.
Joining the project as the first office building was close to finish allowed me to experience the scale of indoor to outdoor space. Wide sidewalks with tasteful outdoor seating were designed to accommodate retail shoppers as well as professionals working on upper floors of the new buildings. Well executed landscaping and clean, neutral modern finishes on the buildings themselves included many interesting textures. This considered combination allowed for the introduction of a wide palette on the artwork installations.
The parameters concerning subject matter were generous. The location for this development rose from a rich history which was of great interest to those directing the project. Fox hunting, horse breeding, racing and polo were all equestrian activities that occurred in the beautiful valley surrounded by velvety blue hills. From this history grew the inspiration that evolved into the overall plan for the art to be displayed.
After the initial conceptual meeting, I was pleased to be connected with the granddaughters of the original owners of the farm that stretched across the valley. During a long lunch they delighted me with stories of growing up on their grandparents farm, describing afternoons riding bicycles down long tree lined lanes and days playing in Grandaddy’s barn. They remembered pastures full of young horses noting a particularly feisty palomino that caught their attention.
They also shared a DVD converted from an old film to digital media. The original film was damaged in places but still fascinating to watch. It was made by Grandaddy, an amateur film maker himself who was slightly star struck often hosting celebrities at the breeding farm.
The farm focused primarily on cultivating American Saddlebred horses. The American Saddlebred was the Lexus of travel before automobiles. These steads were sought after as a smooth gated breed preferred by single riders traveling hither and yon. “Grandaddy” acquired a trophied champion stud that attracted many mare owners to their operation. The breed had a genetic flaw however, undetectable until the foals were 2 years of age. As a result, the young horses remained on property until the animals were determined fit to be released to their rightful owners. The film feature footage of the bands of colts and fillies, racing, bucking and nipping each other inside the plank fences under the wide canopies of old oaks and maples.
Building A it was decided, would honor this charming piece of local history. After numerous photo safaris around the northern part of the county, I was able to acquire a full body of reference material to create the initial sketches for a series of life size foal paintings. From those, three final sketches were selected to create the larger works.
Sample of sketchs:
Creation of the large works to scale with each other.
During final installation:
Building B, it was determined, would feature one dramatic painting in the main vaulted lobby complimenting a series of historical black and white photos from the company’s archives framed in white shadow boxes hung together. In addition, the 2nd floor elevator lobby would feature Grandaddy’s beautiful barn. Before finalizing the palette, I took a tour of the art collection of the largest tenant occupying the 2nd and 3rd floors to make sure the aesthetic of the new work being created would integrate well with their impressive collection. It was important all the art in a connected area like this center be diverse and original while seamlessly communicating. It is an interesting process to make sure everything “works” but is never too much the same.
For the dramatic lobby piece, I found my inspiration in the company of local a local fox hunting club of which Grandaddy had been a member and hosted at the farm when he was alive. I secured an introduction through a good friend, was instructed on proper manners and protocols and then invited to attend two separate events. Both were fascinating to experience. Up very early for a long drive to the designated farm on the first attempt though greeted with overcast skies and then rain. The riders and hounds carried on, I observed the culture but the photos were unusable. As a painter of light, sunshine is my muse therefore a non-negociable. The second attempt rising early and driving another similar distance was perfect. Misting sunrise with glorious golden light followed by a day of pure sun. Exactly what was needed.
Original sketch of the whip and his hounds:
Original sketch of Grandaddy’s barn:
Barn with companion landscapes to balance to length of the space.
After the artwork was up, the owners came back and requested a copy of the barn series for the 2nd floor lobby of Building A. Because I do not replicate my work (I will leave that for any ancestors), I offered to do another original series. Since the first barn was painted at sunset in Building B, a sunrise version was created for Building A and two completely original companion pieces.
The latest Building H holds art work on the main floor lobby and the 2nd floor elevator lobby as well. It has been in the making for 3 years. Original reference photos were taken at a local annually held event. Because weather is a constant companion and sometimes nemesis, I had to gather the photos and also have a back up plan if the sunshine did not cooperate. Fortunately I was able to secure an abundance during the first attempted year taking in a five races and shooting 500+ photos to cull. I needed all of them. The race track itself was a place I had painted on location before and created several pervious works so was much more tame to conquer.
Here are the original sketches of the race:
In progress photos:
In a small vestibule, watercolors (previously commissioned) were framed in simple white moulding under archival glass then hung in a similar format to the black and white photos from Building B. The charming watercolors were inspired by sculptures (also commissioned earlier) now located throughout the parklike development. A companion coloring book for young visitors is available to inspire scavenger hunts while parents, shop, eat and work.
All original artworks (other than the previously mentioned watercolors/sculptures) were created with interior finishes, furniture choices and floor selections carefully considered. Other selected artworks on property were also selected, utilized, moved or repurposed as the project progressed. Important tenants, designers and other decision makers were included during the ongoing decision making process.
The forth building in the development has become a hotel with its own art consultant. The fifth and final building is slotted for sometime in the future, though no timeline has been set. I will be gathering photos now for that body of work. It will honor the tradition of polo another beloved equestrian tradition practiced in our lovely Tennessee landscape following another long beloved tradition.
For more information about commissioning unique original artwork for your special home, estate, business or development, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.