Artist Christine Rogers
grew up in Nashville, but she spent the majority of her recent life in Ireland, Boston and New York. She moved back to Nashville about a year ago, only to receive a Fulbright scholarship that enables her to relocate to India for eight months. But just like the phenomenon of never being as southern as you are the moment you leave the South, Christine’s rootlessness inspires themes of family and location-as-home in her art. So I asked her to take me on a field trip, and we toured a laundry list of her favorite spots in search of what it means to be in Nashville. Here’s what we found.
The mural on the side of this house in Belle Meade is terrible and awesome at the same time. Christine blames the resurgence of lasers on bands like MGMT, and I think the whole thing looks like a T-shirt from Flight of the Conchords
. We knocked on the front door and were greeted by a very sweet woman with a killer leopard print pedicure who was in too much of a hurry to chat with us for long.
Christine drove us to Natchez Trace Parkway, and we parked at the bridge so we could explore its underside before we crossed. According to rumors frequently told during her high school days, there’s a way to crawl inside of the bridge from this point — like a secret tunnel that’s inside the bridge itself.
While we were walking across the bridge, Christine told me stories about the times she went up there with her friends during high school. They would throw marshmallows over the railing, wanting to feel what it's like to throw stuff off a bridge, but still be sweet and not hurt anybody. Another tip for hanging out on a bridge that Christine imparted from her teenage years: Shout out from the top of it as loud as you can. I tried it, and it was totally satisfying.
After nearly landing a psychic reading (the place could have been a movie set — floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls, a stuffed marlin mounted on one of them, a big-screen TV set tuned in to The Young and the Restless
, and the smell of cigarette smoke that was so thick it was practically visible. It was fantastic, but unfortunately it was also cash only), we had grab a bite. Christine considers the delicious cucumber-and-white-bread sandwiches from Picnic Café to be a guilty pleasure. I have never felt more fancy over a paper plate.
What field trip is complete without a visit to the museum? The Tennessee State Museum is a great place to feel like a kid, but without all the boredom — it seems that history is much more interesting when you're grown up. But it's still just as weird.
Some of my favorite parts were the money (Printmaking! Minutia!), and the weird Ku Klux Klan flag. We looked up the translation of the Latin phrase — thank God for smart phones! —and it means, “What has always been, everywhere, by everybody,” which manages to be vague and offensive all at once.
On the way out, we spotted a fancy Chrysler with an equally fancy sombrero in the backseat. And I showed Christine one of my favorite spots downtown — the men’s bathroom in the Oak Bar. It’s total Shining-set material.