Thursday, March 12, 2009

twist lately

Photographer's urban landscapes reveal layers of perspective
The Tennessean

March 8, 2009

Photographer's urban landscapes reveal layers of perspective

By MiChelle Jones
FOR THE TENNESSEAN">John Dowell's images of cities — convention centers, skyscrapers, squares — display a startling clarity, a crystal-clear sharpness that can take one's breath away. So far he's photographed about 12 cities, including New York City, Chicago, Atlanta and his hometown of Philadelphia, where he teaches printmaking at Temple University's Tyler School of Art.

"What guides me in traveling is that, I'm in 70 museums. They didn't come looking for me, I go there and knock on the door," Dowell says by phone from Atlanta. "Every time I visit to show somebody some work, I'm shooting photographs."

He planned to do the same this weekend in Nashville — "Hermitage in the daytime, skyline at night," he says — while in town for the opening for a show of his works at Twist Art Gallery's Space 58.

He doesn't really consider his photographs to be skylines; to him they're "urban landscapes." The idea, Dowell says, is to capture several layers of a city as a metaphor for the continuum of time.

"There's an old African saying about the past and the future and the present; that continuum exists all the time," he says. "I'm always looking at how (to) show that dual existence."

One way he does this is through reflections and nocturnal scenes.

"I can shoot a building and that, especially with the glass, will reflect what's in front of its façade, and then I'm also photographing the façade," he says. "But if it's in the evening and the lights are on, I can penetrate that space and put you inside. So, I'm looking at a building, I got a reflection of another building on it, I still see the building itself and I can look into that building. That's when I'm happiest."

Getting the shot

In 2007, Dowell was asked to photograph excavations of the President's House, the executive mansion used by George Washington and John Adams from 1790 to 1800 during Philadelphia's stint as the U.S. capital. Though he first balked at the assignment — "I shoot buildings; that's just a dirt hole," he thought — Dowell found himself contemplating history as he spent long nights photographing the site, which included remnants of slave quarters.

This led him to plan a series of lithographs and paintings called The Dinner Party, based on the celebrations he imagined slaves had when masters were away. During a panel in Memphis, he mentioned the project to Kevin Bartoy, archeological director of The Hermitage. Bartoy in turn told Dowell about evidence of slave celebrations at The Hermitage and invited him to Nashville.

Meanwhile, Dowell is preparing for a 2010 show of 40 nighttime images of Atlanta. Things were going well this trip: He'd been given access to a penthouse undergoing renovation, a law firm with spectacular views, a building's entirely empty 16th floor and the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design.

"I like to shoot down, but at the same time, I don't want to be up too high; I want you to be able to see and identify with it," he says. "Ideally, I'm happiest around 20 stories."

Even Dowell's wonderful shots of the Chicago River meandering under bridges and past buildings in the Loop were shot from inside, not from, say, a helicopter hovering over the water with Dowell hanging out into the elements.

"No, I'm in a hotel room, very comfortably, with the raging wind outside. Drinking tea, shooting," he says, laughing.

Overcoming technical difficulties

Still, getting from negative to print is a lengthy and costly process.

"Some of the people that process my stuff and some of the curators say I couldn't have picked a more difficult subject matter to do," Dowell says, laughing. "So at retirement age, I start spending more money than ever (in) making my art."

Dowell uses a large-format camera and still shoots film. "There's a group of us, the archivists, we call ourselves," he says. Dowell says the cost of a digital camera of a comparable size would cost about $60,000. Still, he admits he faces certain technical challenges.

"They no longer make tungsten for what we call night illumination, so I can only use daylight film," he says. The images are then scanned and the color balance tweaked in Photoshop. "Then there's this testing and testing and testing, right until it's printed."

Those prints are usually 22 by 30 inches, or 27 by 34. But he has also gone larger.

"I've had a couple printed at 44 by 55 inches," Dowell says, "and they're just as sharp, and that's . . . oh, my God, it's wonderful."

Additional Facts
What: Photographs by John Dowell
Where: Twist Art Gallery’s Space 58, 58 Arcade
When: Through March 28
Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
Admission: Free
Contact: 1-888-535-5286 or


Twist in the scene
Work by Shana Kohnstamm at Twist Gallery
Art Twisted Together
Joe Nolan

For this month's First Saturday Art Crawl, Twist welcomes a prodigal daughter with a brand new perspective and a perpetual wanderer who has trouble shaking off the memories of his travels. In Twist's 58 Arcade Space, John Dowell's I Want to Capture Your City brings horizons from around the country to our own Nashville skyline with evocative photographs of cityscapes from Houston to Norfolk. Former Nashvillian Shana Kohnstamm fills the 73 Arcade Space with her newly inspired abstracts, exploring the meeting ground of the organic, the exotic and the erotic. Kohnstamm was an active pioneer in the construction of the downtown art scene, and Growing Season marks a strong, new vision in her work. The Twist event will serve as a sort of homecoming for this hometown fave.


Lauren Kussro's installation at the Twist Art Gallery


Irene Wills paintings at the Twist Art Gallery Feb. 2009



Call to Artists – Flying Solo Exhibition Series
Call to Artists – Flying Solo Exhibition Series
Nashville International Airport
Nashville, TN

Submission Deadline: Friday, April 17, 2009, 4:00 p.m. Central Standard Time

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority and Arts at the Airport announce a Call for Proposals for the Flying Solo Exhibition Series at Nashville International Airport. The exhibition opportunities are open to Tennessee artists or artists who have a strong connection to Tennessee.

The complete Call to Artists is available on the Nashville International Airport website The Direct link to the CFP is

Artists must comply with the submittal requirements described in the Call for Proposals to be considered.

Please post, distribute or forward.

Arts at the Airport


Twist Art Gallery presents: John Dowell in space 58 Arcade March 7 through March 28, 2009

John Dowell

Twist Art Gallery


March 7 through March 28, 2009

opening March 7th from 6-9 pm

Twist Art Gallery
58 Arcade
Nashville, TN 37219

John Dowell has created and exhibited art for more than four decades and is a Professor of Printmaking at the Tyler School of Art of Temple University in Philadelphia. He has had 49 one person exhibitions at prestigious venues including the 35th Venice Biennale, Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. His work is represented in the permanent collections of 70 museum and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Boston Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Biblioteque Nationale, Paris France and I was exhibited in the 1975 Whitney Biennial in New York City.

In 2001, he received the 14th James Van Der Zee Award from the Brandywine Workshop, in Philadelphia for a Life Time of Achievement in the Visual Arts and Teaching and in1999 the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching from Temple University. He also received grants in 1985 and 1975 from the National Endowment of the Arts, and several from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, 1985, and 1979 plus a Philadelphia Foundation Grant in 1994, as well as many others.

His work was included in the Chicago Art Institute exhibition, "A Century of Collecting African American Art" and he served as a panelist on the accompanying round table discussion of the realities of being an African American artist in 2003. He had work in the invitational exhibition "A Celebration of Color" at the Benny and Smith Gallery, Banana Factory, Bethlehem, PA as well as created two commissioned prints: a portfolio print for Lafayette college, Master Artist/Master Printmaker Portfolio Project, Lafayette College, Easton, PA, and The Legacy Project of the Atelier Towson, Towson University, Towson, MD that were Lithographs constructed of primarily photographic cityscapes to be used as scores for concert performance.

His current work entails traveling to different cities in the U.S. taking photographs of skylines and urban settings capturing, "moments of magic."



There is an excitement of the city that is often over looked. These are the structures of our culture that sore to the sky with intimate details of our lives. They embody our energies with moments of magic.

It is so fast an encompassing with all aspects of time; the past, and present with the hoped for future.

For what is real? The surface or the reflection on it, or is it the space that we enter beyond the façade of the building.
I paint with that frame, trying to capture the connective moment. As the light reflects the distant forms, defines space, capturing insights into our inner being, stirring those untapped levels of our humanity.
Didn't know it could look like that.

I can smell the color and hear the walk, the rhythm of the city, blasting like a big band moving in and out of a harmonic discord breathing a dynamic pulse of the moment.
It's real. It's real.

Didn't see it before, but I got it now.

John Dowell

Twist Art Gallery presents : Shana Kohnstamm March 7 - 28, 2009 March 7th from 6-9 pm

Twist Art Gallery presents : Shana Kohnstamm March 7 - 28, 2009

opening March 7th from 6-9 pm

in the Twist space 73 in the Arcade

Twist Art Gallery
73 Arcade
Nashville, TN 37219

Shana Kohnstamm – "Growing Season"

This body of work has developed over the last two chaotic, wonderful years, having moved cross-country twice (upending my world and my work) and having found the peace of mind that comes with being newly wed. It also comes from sharing my life with someone who sparks my thinking about the natural working order of things, like why our lungs inflate and the molecular cacophony that allows us to breath. I'm fascinated by quantum physics, string theory and naturally occurring fractal patterns. I wonder at how the tiniest seed can hold so much potential for life. And by the way an emotional reaction can sprout from nothing more than color on a canvas.
My own organic process of image development surprises me. The paintings themselves evolve, seemingly without my input. The images mature in stages, growing like plants to reach the light, the surface. This work is about that growing process and what gives something the potential for life.
"Growth is the proof of life" - Peter Reinhardt, philosophic breadmaker.


Shana Kohnstamm, born in 1970, was raised in Nashville, Tennessee. She attended both the Art Academy of Cincinnati and the University of Tennessee before pursuing employment in a variety of art careers, including stained glass designer, muralist, bead-maker and scenic artist. In 2006, she created and curated the "Model Artist" show, which featured the works 22 Nashville artists portraying each other in a variety of mediums. Shana is an active member of the Nashville-based Connect 12 Artist Collective and participates regularly in a collaborative of international artists found at Having lived in New York, Florida, Ohio and Massachusetts, Shana is settling once again "for keeps" in Nashville.


Nashville Scene critic's pick this week
Twist Art Gallery

Works by Duncan McDaniel

Duncan McDaniel at Twist's Space 58
Loving the Alien
Joe Nolan

Twist Gallery is becoming the Japanese monster of downtown art spaces, gobbling up square footage and opportunities at a pace that would find Godzilla himself reaching for the Prilosec. How appropriate that the first permanent tenant in their new space at 58 Arcade is Duncan McDaniel, a young artist whose fantastical work--including drawing, painting and installation art--explores a world where surreal is the new black. The storefront of 58 will still host rotating shows, but the back space will be McDaniel's studio. His current exhibition fills the space and features an installation of Zen-inspired monoliths that hang from a ceilingful of white helium balloons, as well as a collection of drawings and paintings that range from biomorphic abstracts to narrative canvases that read like film stills from a late-night double feature.

No comments:

Post a Comment