by Jarred Johnson

Scarritt Bennett | April 11 – June 27

At first glance, Camilla Spadafino’s brightly colored and patterned paintings seem naively simple. After all, the artist is selling a coloring book. One can envision the fourth-grade students Spadafino once taught at Lockeland Elementary School picking up crayons and paintbrushes to color in her art.

Behind that mask of simplicity, however, lies complexity. Her portraits are statements about art as commerce, viewer participation, and a work’s ability to empower.

Camilla Spadafino first conceived herself as an artist when her mother died. Through the cheerful paintings she made of her community’s sites and people, Spadafino transformed her grief. Now she seeks to provide this transformation to others.

“I want to use my art to give back all of the things my community has shared with me,” Spadafino said, “Art, friendships, stories.”

Spadafino tells a different story in each of her paintings—all featuring real people and sites, most from her community in East Nashville. The artist carefully chooses her patterns and colors for their symbolism.

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One of her portraits shows Nashville civil rights activist Diane Nash shaking hands with then-mayor Ben West. Behind the two figures is wallpaper with compasses, butterflies, and food. Spadafino uses these symbols to represent Nash’s defined direction, the dissemination of her progressive ideas, and the successful sit-ins that Nash organized in the city.

She envisions a better, more unified Nashville and brings that vision to life through art. “Finding out what people and communities want for their future has become the heart of my work,” the artist said.

Starting April 11 with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 and continuing through June 27, the Scarritt Bennett Gallery will host Camilla Spadafino’s exhibition Ms. Camilla’s Neighborhood. For more information, visit www.scarrittbennett.org or www.camillaspadafinoart.blogspot.com.

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