Robert Oermann and Anna Jaap Explore Our City’s Rich History
Nashville Public Library through June 18
by Catherine Randall
The collaboration isn’t exactly an odd couple: Robert Oermann is a Nashville-based music journalist, and Anna Jaap is best known for her abstract paintings, but their subject matter is a bit on the unconventional side of art. The exhibit Hiding in Plain Sight features locations that people drive by every day unaware of their historical significance.
The portraits, accompanied by short essays, tell the stories of Nashville’s Elusive Past. Oermann wrote the copyandJaapphotographedthevenues. Nashville Public Library Courtyard Gallery is the perfect space for this collaboration. The exhibit runs through June 18.
The concept was Oermann’s. He is a history buff, and this collection is the culmination of thirty years of passion for Music City’s unique legacy. By his own admission he is obsessive. “I am a voracious reader. I read two books a week about Nashville history.” Whenever he would come across a reference to one of these hidden artifacts, it was time for a road trip. The pair has worked for the last two years choosing the 39 locations that are featured.
When asked about the shift from painting, Jaap clarifies, “Photography is like painting with a camera—it’s using color, composition, and form to tell a story.”
With architectural photography, Jaap explains, the time of day, orientation of the building, where the light comes from and at what angle factor into the quality of the image. For example she went to Lookaway multiple times before deciding on the evening glow. The final image of this pink-and-white brick home with an early moon rising above and a single smoke plume rocketing across the sky is truly breathtaking. Jaap says this is her basic process: Just “show up, do your work, and get out of the way. That’s when the magic happens.” Oermann’s narrative completes the history of the home of Nashville’s first professional songwriter—Beth Slater Whitson. Other pieces include the Civil Rights Church, Quonset Hut, and the Omohundro Water Treatment Plant.
The photos are printed on archival paper with a tooth-like texture, which reads as acrylic painting. The prints are oversized on purpose, ranging from 12×16 to 40×40. “They really need to be large to give that sense of being there,” Jaap says. “In the end these are not stories about buildings but about people.”
Hiding in Plain Sight: Portraits of Nashville’s Elusive Past is on view at Nashville Public Library Courtyard Gallery through June 18. For more information, visit www.library.nashville.org.