I recently met with photographer Gieves Anderson, a Nashville native, at his apartment in Brooklyn. He showed me the book he's been reading, we talked about the band Haim and how they kind of sound like Shania Twain, and we discussed how dirty the phrase "soft opening" sounds, as well as how much Nashville is growing right now.
His cat, Darkness, purred about as Anderson made us both tea (fitting behavior, considering his name). On a table in his spare room sat what appeared to be R2D2's little sister. "Now this is something I thought might be an item of interest," Anderson told me. "This is how the whole painting thing really got started. It's called a reflector box."Work by Gieves Anderson Gieves Anderson
His photographs — represented locally at Zeitgeist Gallery in Nashville's newest arts district, Wedgewood-Houston — are close-ups of abstract paintings he has created. He starts by placing the paintings inside the reflection box, which was designed by artist and Nashvillian Hans Schmitt-Matzen. It only has one point of entry and one source of light. The inside is a reverse dome consisting of approximately 60 different reflective surfaces. Anderson places things into this area and then places a two-way-mirrored dome top on it, which allows him to shoot photos of the bouncing reflections inside.
We moved into his office to see the test prints for his recent Zeitgeist show, which were still hanging around. His paintings are still wet when he shoots them. The way the light hits each piece creates an intimate, multidimensional experience, with the reflections reminding the viewer that there is a world on the other side of the painting. The light interacting with the wet paint creates a captivating metal or chrome-like effect in some of the pieces. After talking a bit about how music inspires the paintings and how he captures them, drawing from influences as varied as Chopin and Sparklehorse, we decided to get on to the five-question interview.Left, artist Gieves Anderson working with a reflector box. Right, writer Jeremy McAnulty and Gieves Anderson take a "selfie," just for fun. Jeremy McAnulty
"Jeremy's 5-Q Interview"
(The writer will ask these same five questions to a series of Nashville creatives for 12th & Broad, then take a "selfie" together... just because.)
Question No. 1:
JM: You have 5 seconds to design a pizza: 5-4-3-2-1, go!
Anderson: Pesto, spinach, artichoke.Work by Gieves Anderson Gieves Anderson
Question No. 2:
JM: How do you define the concept of value? (You can think in terms of your artwork, or you can take that in any direction you want, really.)
Anderson: Ever-changing, ever-shifting, nothing grounded whatsoever. When it comes to art, especially, Francis Bacon just sold a piece for however many millions and it became the most expensive piece of art ever bought. And that just keeps on happening. I like that he's the guy now, though; I think his work is dark and challenging. When Picasso was the guy it was just kind of boring (laughs). And when Damien Hirst had it, I was probably just annoyed. For my own work, it's just so frustrating trying to figure that out for my own stuff. Honestly, what I do is run through all the numbers and figure out how much I actually spent, not including my time as labor or anything like that, and then I probably triple it. It's so frustrating, though, because the prices for a show in Nashville have to be different than prices in New York. And then the gallery has to do their own thing, too. So at that point I just try to have a number that I know I don't want to go below, give that to the gallery and just tell them they can do whatever they want. And that's great, because then I'm removed from this process that I'd really rather not have to worry about as an artist.
JM: Yeah, and it's not something that you can equate to basic economics. It's not a supply-and-demand thing. There's more art in the world than there is usable wall space, or whatever. It's just such a personal thing.
Anderson: It is. It's very personal. It's really all about curating your life as an art buyer. Some people are always going to be more invested in that than others. We love those people.
Me: Yes, we do.
Question No. 3:Work by Gieves Anderson Gieves Anderson
JM: What's the best thing that's happened to you in the last three days?
Anderson: Probably this (laughs). I've just been in this weird antsy mode and just reading a lot. I get in this weird zone after I finish a big project, like the work for this show, or last year with the record.
Question No. 4
JM: Who's your best friend?
Anderson: (laughs) Um. Your brother. Joel McAnulty.
JM: Whoa, awkward! My brother? The Phantom Farmer? I kind of had a hunch you might say that. How long have you guys known each other, though?
Anderson: Well, we met in the third grade. He claims I was wearing a karate outfit… I dunno. Then we reconnected around seventh or eighth grade, and then in high school we started playing music and making art together. Best friends ever since, I guess.
Question No. 5:
JM:What's the worst pain you've ever felt?
Anderson: Is that physical or emotional?
JM: It's up to you.
Anderson: I made a drunken mistake one of the first years I was living in New York. I was going very fast down a hill on a bike. I had a BMX jumper at the time. I was inebriated and I definitely should have just slept it off at a friend's house, but… I rode home. It was the new Walkmen record, whatever the new Walkmen record was at the time, just blaring in my headphones and I was going so fast and I came across this curb. It was too late to brake, so I had to try to jump it and make it. I didn't make it. I wake up and I'm in this bad part of Brooklyn and this dude is just standing over me. I ask him if he has the number for a car service so I can get home. He's just clearly horrified by my face; he's like, "Dude, you ain't goin' home, you goin' to a hospital." So he sent me to a hospital, which was the worst hospital I have ever been to in my entire life. So that was it; I broke my nose and lost a lot of skin on my face. Having to sober up within all of that pain was probably the worst part, though.
JM: Well, let me say that your face skin has recovered nicely. You look great. Came back strong, my man.
For more of Gieves Anderson's photography, visit www.gievesanderson.com or visit Zeitgeist Gallery at zeitgeist-art.com, 516 Hagan St. #100, Nashville. You can also hear music by Anderson at www.feralhymns.com.