September 2017

by Amanda Dobra Hope

If you ask artist Brian Nash what he wants people to feel when they see his work, his answer will unequivocally be “happy.”

As it turns out, that’s also what he wants from his life. Nash, who already has permanent installations depicting rabbits, squirrels, and the like at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, is continuing to spread the joy with his new exhibit in Vanderbilt Hospital’s main lobby.

The Keith Haring Museum, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”

The exhibit, featuring pieces from his appropriately named Museum series, came about at the request of Jenny Lewis, the Vanderbilt staff member who previously made sure the Children’s Hospital was adorned with his joyful creations. “After seeing my Museum series, Jenny [Lewis] asked me for six paintings from my inventory that she could install in the hospital’s main lobby. I wanted them to be a cohesive exhibit, and I wanted them to educate people about art, as well as be joyful,” Nash explains. “I created eight new pieces and asked her to choose the six she wanted, but she loved all eight, so I threw in the other two as well!” Nash continues.

The paintings are jovial in nature and depict Nash’s take on iconic artists he admires, as well as his thoughts on how art influences its admirers. In each picture, the viewer’s clothing is influenced by the pieces they are looking at, illustrating the inevitable ways that art shapes our society. Nash adds, however, that we can be affected by art only if we are open to the experience of it. As a contrast, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that each of his paintings contains the same two women in business suits, seemingly unaffected from piece to piece by what they are taking in. Although they dutifully attend all of the gallery openings and pretend to be interested, they are too worried about maintaining the status quo to really be internally moved by the art they appear to love.

The Rothko Museum, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”

The educational component involves Nash providing a short biography for each of the artists honored in his Museum series to give hospital patients, employees, and visitors something interesting to learn about art, while bringing them joy at the same time. “I want to cheer people up in a place where they wouldn’t necessarily be cheery,” he says.

The Jackson Pollock Museum, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 36” x 48”

In our talk, I met a man of gratitude who is extremely thankful for the ability to make a living doing what he loves. A man who lives by his father’s motto, “Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life,” and who wants the same for others. A happy man, spreading happiness through art. Sounds like a win for all those who choose to be affected by him.

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