Nashville Visual Artists-Ariel Lavery

Ariel Lavery is a sculptor and teaches at Watkins College. I visited her on campus and got to see her at work creating some of her sculptures.

What is the theme of your work?

What my work tries to do is deconstruct and reconstruct the domestic landscape, specifically in relationship to the kitchy materials that are used in the American aesthetic, and the vernacular these materials hold. I’m also interested in iconography, how a strong symbol such as the American flag is sold back to us as a kitchy product. 

As I’m building these pieces, it’s almost like a drawing process; I never adhere to initial sketches of the pieces. There is some sketching out initial ideas, then working through those ideas, then some more sketching, then working. It’s very organic. The process is more like a “call and response” to found materials and I develop the pieces as needed. It’s about how things fall apart because of how cheaply things are made these days, and how we ad hoc the pieces together in our homes. Of “making do” in the home. I’m making a statement of the materials’ inability to withstand time though we have a need for their continued function. 

This anxiety is what really drives the work, the anxiety of the cycle of everyday objects. In the past, we used to have fewer things but they lasted a longer time because they were made by carpenters and other handcrafters. Nowadays we have a lot more objects but they don’t last as long so we have to cycle through them continuously. Something breaks, we replace it instead of fixing it. Something goes out of style, we go out and buy something that is more modern. Its no longer about the quality of the object anymore, it’s about keeping up with the times.

What is the inspiration for your work?

I come from a household where we didn’t make much with our hands, so I became interested in learning how to build things. Also as a woman, it’s empowering to use power tools and make large sculptures when traditionally doing this was a male thing, though that is changing. I also feel like what I’m doing is a universally felt anxiety/inequality. I like to think that my work functions as an open possibility for how we relate to our domestic environments regardless of the sex/gender we are and regardless of our skill set. I’m really kind of inspired by our universally shared inabilities to interact with our most intimate spaces.  

What are your goals for your work?

It’s very important for me to continue to make work and to have this work evolve. I hope to start doing outdoor sculpture, and maybe some public pieces. I would also like to keep showing my work in galleries and continue developing national recognition.

What are your thoughts on the Nashville Arts Community?

I’ve only been here in Nashville for six months but have been pleasantly surprised at how much is going on in the arts scene. I’ve been really impressed with the work I’ve seen in the Fort Houston area-at the Packing Plant and at Seed Space, etc. I feel like the work is very ambitious there, and that the scene has a lot of potential. Actually, I feel like the scene here is in its beginning stages. The things I see artists do there are very experimental. However, there’s not yet an economy of artists that yields a competitive conversation. I think in some ways it takes a competitive scene to create an aesthetic dialogue that belongs to a particular place. I think we are in the beginning stages of an arts scene where that conversation can start to happen.

You can see more of Ariel's work at