Carnival Punks, Flannery O'Connor and How To Become a Schizophrenic: 10 Questions for Shannon Lucy



The artist in a Coney Island photobooth
  • The artist in a Coney Island photobooth
I've loved having Shannon Lucy as our CL artist this month. I got to dig into her work and the kind of stuff that inspires her, and the whole process was really inspiring for me, too. She's hilarious and extremely open, which comes across in her work. There's a real lack of irony there — she's extremely forthcoming about her ideas, her secret desires, her neuroses, which gives the art she creates a combination of vulnerability and strength.

Here, you'll find her answers to the 10 questions I've been asking all our CL artists. If you need a recap of her work, check out past posts about Shannon here, here and here. And stay tuned as we unveil July's artist of the month on Monday.

1. What's the last show that you saw?
The Bill Traylor exhibit that's up at the Frist. I love that he began drawing at the age of 82 and was extremely prolific — most of his compositions were created on discarded shirt cardboard and the backs of boxes. And when Charles Shannon offered him clean white paper, he refused it — he preferred the irregular shapes and said he found those more inspiring.

Carnival Punks from the Uncommon Objects exhibit
  • Carnival Punks from the 'Uncommon Objects' exhibit

2. What's the last show that surprised you? Why?
A show that surprised and intrigued and pleased me was Uncommon Objects/Personal Views, Collections of Rick Ege and John Foster at Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis. I love seeing into other people's collections. These are two private collections of found and folk art by underground and anonymous artists, con-men, former slaves, criminals and hobos. I love the strangeness of the brute carnival punks and the Lee Godie stuff. She was a self-proclaimed French Impressionist who was, for the most part, a homeless street artist in Chicago. I relate a lot to both Ege and Foster — they make no distinction between whether an object is created by an anonymous or a famous artist. Instead, they look for quality and meaning, and what Foster calls "objects of great mystery and design."
Untitled, Lee Godie
  • "Untitled," Lee Godie

3. What's your favorite place to see art in Nashville?
I have to admit, I hadn't been to the Frist for years until a couple weeks ago. I don't frequent art galleries, except to support friends who are showing. Museums and galleries usually intimidate me. I know it's hypocritical, but I use the Internet more often than not to check out art.
Found art
  • Found art

4. Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
In the trash and on the ground. Literally. A couple months ago, I found this very small cut piece of paper. It looks like a child or a teacher had written the word "special" in the manner of a spelling or handwriting exercise. It had been scuffed, run over by cars, probably rained on. What's especially funny is that, at the time, I was reading a Zen book called Nothing Special by Charlotte Joko Beck. I'm not lying. God works in mysterious ways.
Dads schizophrenic writing
  • Dad's schizophrenic writing

Also, living here in Nashville, I get to spend more time with my dad, who is severely bipolar with schizoid tendencies. His deranged visual montages and scrawls rival those of quite a few of the New York City artists I've met, although he would never consider himself an artist. Just a genius, ha!

I love looking through children's crafts books; the ones from the '70s, when I was little, are the best. Also, I work around children and have always been excited by their pictures and poetry. I laugh out loud when I read Daisy Ashford's The Young Visitors, which is considered to be the greatest novel ever written by a nine year old.

A page from a childrens craft-making book
  • A page from a children's craft-making book

5. Do you collect anything?
I do pick up and covet extraordinary and mysterious little objects, sometimes maybe with the intention of working with it. I love yard sales and antique malls.

6. What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?
The weirdest, craziest, best thing I've experienced in a gallery was Tim Hawkinson's art — two shows at Ace Gallery in New York in particular. He makes these pieces that are reminiscent of dysfunctional amateur inventions, like the spy camera laundry piles he's done. The robotic machine that signs his own name in his own handwriting, over and over again. My favorite though is his "Sound of Wallpaper." He has this large metal cylinder that's been carved with a Morse-code-like pattern of dots, and uses the cylinder to create a design that he prints onto wallpaper. He hangs the dotted wallpaper in a small room, then connects the the metal cylinder to another machine that, when it turns, makes the clanky sound of a finger piano. I love it!

Sound of Wallpaper, Tim Hawkinson
  • From "Sound of Wallpaper," Tim Hawkinson

7. What's your art-world pet peeve?
The art world is my pet peeve.

8. Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
No routine at all. When I lived in New York City I would try to go to MoMA twice a year to see the revolving collection.

9. What's the last great book you read?
When I moved back South recently, I re-read Flannery O'Connor's short stories "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge." She manages to be hopeful, cynical, depressing, zany — it all depends on how you're feeling in the moment you read her stories.

I've also been exploring children's books at the public library lately. Books for children with inherently complicated themes, sometimes dark, attract me the most. Most recently I checked out Upside-Downers by Mitsumasa Anno, wherein the kings on the face of a playing card have to decide which of them is right-side up. Also Roger Hargreaves' I Am a Book. But on the flip-side (or not?), I am also reading How To Become a Schizophrenic, by John Modrow.

Lord, I Love You, R.A. Miller
  • "Lord, I Love You," R.A. Miller

10. What work of art do you wish you owned?
Actually, I recently bought my first piece of art by a known artist — one of R.A. Miller's "Lord, I Love You" paintings on tin.

A painting I haven't grown tired of is Luc Tuymans' painting "The Heritage." I was probably like 18 years old when I saw his show, and it changed my life. Laura, you and I were talking not to long ago about feeling more southern outside of the South. Well, Tuymans is Belgian, and so his American paintings somehow seem more American to me in some way. I'd like to look at that everyday.

And I think I could live with Mary Ellen Mark's photo "Woman With Scarred Leg." Or maybe a Norbert Schwontkowski painting.

Woman With Scarred Leg, Mary Ellen Mark
  • "Woman With Scarred Leg," Mary Ellen Mark

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