Nashville Visual Artists-Dane Carder

On a very cold morning, I went to Dane Carder’s studio in the Chestnut Building in the Wedgewood-Houston area. The building has no heat, but Dane’s studio was kept warm by a small space heater. I was distracted from the cold, however, from all the history that was in his space. Paintings of soldiers stacked against walls, their haunted and blurry faces staring back at me-blurry like a memory and haunting like one too. Talking to Dane about his work made me understand it much more, and also realize how relevant the work and its theme are to all of us.

hat is the theme of your work?

It is about the human condition-how we deal with our own personal experience of the darkness and the light. My experience with losing my father at sixteen years old led me down the path to a very dark place, and I had to find some way out of that, simply for my own survival. Just as a soldier’s daily journey is very bleak, I believe that we also go through our own periods of personal “war”. But, it seems imperative to have hope, or light, in order to carry on with life. 

What inspires your work?

Life experience, mortality (the fear of being “forgotten”), empathy, hope. Losing my father was a life experience that brought up tremendous grief that I reference in the work... and that was followed by a survival instinct to “soldier on”, regardless of circumstance. The photographs of the Civil War era have been ideal source material for my work, as the imagery fits perfectly with the storyline of loss and hope. Mostly, I feel motivated by the an internal wellspring of creative juice. But, in regards to other artists, I am forever indebted to Michelangelo for the scope and scale of his output, and for displaying the pinnacle of humanity’s creative potential. And, of course, I am daily inspired by my wife and daughters.

What are your goals for your work?

I hope that my work stands the test of time... that it has a long shelf life. I want to make work that resonates with people, and makes them feel something deeply... and, if they can make the leap that my paintings of Civil War subjects are about much more than that specific war, I would be very pleased. I hope to continue exhibiting my paintings in galleries and museums and elsewhere, and not just paint and collect and store them in my studio. 

What are your thoughts on the Nashville Arts Scene?

Being a native, I’ve seen a lot of fits and starts in the art community over the years. In the past, we would gain momentum, and then it would fall flat for any number of reasons. I hope that this round of upward movement is not just another one of those false starts. I feel that Nashville’s visual arts industry is still very young, and that we have a ways to go to get to the next plateau. But, there simply aren’t that many cities that make it to the next tier. Getting a contemporary art museum with a permanent collection, a university with an MFA program, and a broader and more active collector base are several of the missing components to making the next big step, I think. Still, there are tons of exciting things happening in the arts community, and it feels authentic. Now, we must prove to ourselves, that we are committed to this sustaining the current enthusiasm, and hope that a well rounded “system” is materialized from our efforts.

Dane’s work “War Wounds” is currently on show at the museum in the Parthenon at Centennial Park. 

To learn more about Dane’s work visit his website at