To the editor:
T.C. Steele was driven to stay in Nashville by that flame inside of him that every artist has — the one that ignites around inspiration, and they dare never leave it until it burns out on its own.
The hills, the trees, the colors, the people, they all lit that flame for T.C. Steele and so many other artists. Nashville was something unique as opposed to what they have seen all their life, and that is what inspired them.
The same goes for today. We see a lot of Nashville artists that have lived in the county their entire lives, but we also see a lot of artists who come to the county because it inspired them.
Nowadays, it seems we’re having more and more of a younger generation, but does the aesthetic of Brown County art pose a threat to the opportunity of a new generation of artists?
As both a young artist in her early 20s and a resident of Brown County for almost 11 years, I have found it very difficult for my art to find its place among the legacy of Brown County artists.
I was raised in an art generation where the artists are seeing and creating new and different things. It isn’t only the world we see outside of our window, it’s the people in the world. It’s the emotions of the people. It’s our own past experiences. It’s dreams, fantasy and imagination all expressed in what we put into our pieces. I believe this is something that has inspired artists since the beginning of time, but never more than the generation I am living in.
Brown County is known for a certain charm that it gets by passionately holding onto an older, more simpler time, where the outside world didn’t drain your energy or fog your brain. It is a place of beautiful tradition, held by so many wonderful people who work hard every day to keep it going.
The artists continue to express themselves just like Brown County artists did a 100-plus years ago. They paint the trees, the gardens and the wildlife. Impressionism, landscape, artisan crafts, these are the things you think of when you think “art of Brown County.”
Is there room for anything else?
I have nothing but respect for the art I see in Brown County, but something in me wishes for more.
Why do we not see more abstract? Why do we see no surrealism? Where is the fantasy? Where are those oddball, mindblowing, misunderstood pieces made by those oddball, misunderstood people where you knew they were taking chances and risking it all to create something new and unusual?
Where is the new generation of art to appeal to the new generation of tourists?
As time goes by, I believe a part of us, just a part, should evolve with the times. Allow for an expansion of creativity. Open the doors and invite in fresh outlooks with the potential to become the legacies of Brown County’s future.
Let’s combine tradition with evolution.
Shelby Napier, Brown County
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