Frist Art Museum debuts micro-exhibit for Nashville artist Elise Kendrick

The Frist Art Museum presents Nashville artist Elise Kendrick: Salon Noir, a micro-exhibition celebrating the beauty of African American women, their unique hairstyles, and the Black salon experience. The presentation will be on view at the museum from August 12 through December 31, 2022.

Installed in the elevator just inside the museum’s Ninth Avenue entrance adjacent to the Grand Lobby, Salon Noir takes advantage of a never-before utilized location to display art at the Frist. The elevator’s interior walls will feature vinyl prints derived from five of Kendrick’s portraits. Guests entering the space will find themselves immersed in depictions of Black hairstyles and haircare products.

Under the direction of student curator Jonathan Diggs, Salon Noir is the first micro-exhibition conceived through Project Uplift, an internship designed to offer a student or recent graduate from a historically Black college or university in Nashville an opportunity to curate, design, market, and develop a program for a micro-exhibition featuring a local artist of color.

Kendrick hopes that her work will start conversations about common perceptions and misconceptions surrounding Black hair

“With this series, my intent is to allow my subjects to feel seen, to take up space, and to show that women of color are not monolithic.” Diggs said. “Hairstyles and hair salons hold a significant place within Black culture. Salon Noir showcases the various ways that Black women maintain their hair with pride and elegance.”

The Project Uplift internship was conceived to distill the curatorial process into a short period of time so students can gain exposure to all aspects of exhibition planning. While typical museum exhibitions may take years of planning, a Project Uplift micro-exhibition is condensed into three months.

“Working with all of the departments at the Frist and receiving their guidance and advice along the way has given me a great appreciation for the work of museum professionals,” Diggs said. “As a graphic designer I see how important communication is when translating the curator’s ideas to an actual exhibition. Fortunately, I have been able to do both with this internship. Project Uplift truly has reshaped my thought process for the better around design and teamwork.”

Elise Kendrick. Vii, 2021. Acrylic on canvas; 20 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist. ©Elise Kendrick
Elise Kendrick. Vii, 2021. Acrylic on canvas; 20 x 20 in. Courtesy of the artist. ©Elise Kendrick

About Elise Kendrick

Like many Nashvillians, Elise R. Kendrick is a transplant to Music City. Originally from the suburbs of Gahanna, Ohio, she developed her love of creativity while spending her summers in theater and art camps as a youth and sharing time with her mother doing arts and crafts at the kitchen table. Early on, her parents encouraged her quirky attitude, as well as her unconventional approach to life, which made it easier to pursue art on the collegiate level.

While attending Tennessee State University, one of Nashville’s historically Black colleges and universities, she received her bachelor of science degree in art with a concentration in jewelry and metals. After college, she began painting seriously.

Her current work consists primarily of paintings of women of color in addition to linocut prints that touch on hair, race, culture, and the disruption of social norms. She often uses bright colors, black and white, and sometimes text to visually communicate information about her subjects. With each brushstroke, her goal is to capture the inner essence of the people she places on canvas.

About Jonathan Diggs

Jonathan Diggs grew up in Nashville with a passion for creativity and community. He is currently a rising senior majoring in graphic design at Tennessee State University. Diggs’s love for graphic design stems from the unlimited potential of creativity. His goal as a graphic designer is to become a freelance artist, being versatile enough to work in a variety of fields while making meaningful connections with his clients.

For Diggs, Project Uplift is an opportunity to explore an artistic career and create an exhibition from beginning to end.

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