There are three new musical reasons to visit The Tennessee State Museum.
They are Grand Ole Opry star Steve Wariner, photographer Russ Harrington, and the late dulcimer virtuoso David Schnaufer (1952-2006). An exhibit titled “Three-Part Harmony” showcases the trio in dedicated spaces to each on the museum’s lower level.
As you enter, Harrington’s exhibit comes first. Titled “Shooting Stars,” it features more than 60 oversize prints of some of the celebrities he has shot. The portraits include Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Trace Adkins, Jamey Johnson, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Grace Potter, Tim McGraw, Johnny Paycheck and Alison Krauss with Robert Plant.
Some of them hang next to the costumes the stars are wearing in the photos. These include Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose ball gown, Alan Jackson’s western duds and Reba McEntire’s black jersey outfit. Rhonda Vincent’s portrait is next to both her lime-green cocktail dress and her mandolin. One of Brian Setzer’s electric guitars is hung alongside his images.
Harrington, who is a Nashville native and an MTSU grad, seems especially good with female subjects. Faith Hill, Kellie Pickler, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Lorrie Morgan and Dolly Parton have seldom looked lovelier than they do through his lens. His breakthrough music subject was Trisha Yearwood.
The photographer has more than 500 album jackets to his credit. This exhibit shows you why.
“Wariner’s Watercolors” is the first major exhibit devoted to guitar-great Steve Wariner’s skills as a visual artist. He has a gentle touch as a draftsman. Watercolor is a difficult medium to work in, but the musician has made it his own.
My favorites were the tiny landscapes. How does he do that? How does he do that so well?
Also striking are his pen-and-ink studies of musicians. Again, many of these are on a small scale.
“It’s something that takes me away from music,” Steve commented about his artwork. “I’ll be working hard in the studio for two or three days at a time, and then I’ll take a day off to go and paint. It’s a wonderful distraction for me in a lot of ways.”
Added a grateful Steve about the Tennessee State Museum show, “This is truly a first for me.” It is, indeed, his first major exhibition.
“David’s Dulcimers” is the subject of the third installation.
Shortly before his death in 2006, David Schnaufer donated his collection of the instruments to the State Museum. They range from the rectangular instruments called Tennessee music boxes to hourglass-shaped Appalachian dulcimers, from a hammered dulcimer from 1840 to modern, custom-carved examples.
In addition to the instruments, the exhibit includes photos of Schnaufer with some of the stars with whom he recorded or collaborated. These include Emmylou Harris, Cyndi Lauper, Johnny Cash & June Carter, Mark Knopfler, The Cactus Brothers and Jean Ritchie.
The exhibit preview party took place on Thursday evening (Oct. 10). Getting an early glimpse were Manuel, Martha Moore, Denise Stiff & Steve Sheehan, Don Light, Hank Adam Locklin, Jo Walker Meador, Justin Levenson, Debi Tate, David Ezell, Renee White, Butch Tatum, Kay West, Steve Williams, Scott Stem, Neil Pond, Leigh Hendry and Guy Gilchrist.
We sampled cocktails and hors d’oeuvres including turkey sliders, ham loaf on biscuits, roasted squash and sweet-potato salad. Yum, yum.
“Three-Part Harmony” opens today (Friday, Oct. 11), at The Tennessee State Museum. If you’ve never been there, the museum is situated beneath the TPAC theaters.
Three things. First, this Nashville treasure is always free to the public, all the time. Second, you should visit it even when there isn’t musical stuff to experience. Third, become a member and support this outstanding institution with donations.
That’s how you get invited to cool parties like this. Plus, you get to hang with groovy executive director and hostess with the most-est Lois Riggins-Ezell.