Nashville Visual Artists-Shana Kohnstamm

Shana Kohnstamm makes sculptures that are colorful and soft to the touch. In the growing medium of soft sculpture, her work speaks of form and evolving beauty. She has a studio at Ground Floor Gallery, and there I to spend an afternoon with her watching her make her soft sculpture.

Nashville Visual Artists  is a photo documentary that profiles visual artists living and working in Nashville. The purpose of this project is to bring awareness to the strong visual arts scene here. Nashville is famous for its music culture but a lot of people aren't familiar with its rich visual arts culture. By interviewing artists and documenting their process in the studio, I hope to draw more attention to the visual arts community here.

What is the theme of your work?

It's all about the exploration of materials and pushing the traditional limits of using wool fibers. Sure, there are repeating forms in the subject matter (plant, animal, microbiology, etc.) but that's more like my handwriting. They are a means to deliver a message about my fascination with the properties of wool in the context of soft sculpture. 

What inspires your work?

I hate that word: inspiration. It has the connotation of some sort of magical gift. When I am working, I get excited about my work. Or I get pissed off if it's going sour. Or I get bored with the monotony of rolling wet wool. It's all part of getting it done. And it is work. We don't call it "artplay". Regardless, the act of making...using my hands, making obvious-to-me decisions about the next step of the process...that feeds me.

What are the goals for your work?

First and foremost, garnering visibility. Whether by exhibitions, magazines, or online presence getting the work seen by people and having them recognize my art. It's admittedly an egocentric goal but that's the honest answer. 

Beyond that, I work very slowly, in an already fairly slow medium so simply finishing a piece is a realistic goal. 

What are your thoughts on the Nashville Arts Scene?

I was born and raised in Nashville so I remember when the only places to see art were the basement of the Parthenon (old paintings hanging on peg board) and the mansion estates (old paintings hanging on old walls). As a child, I had an association of fine art with the smell of mildew...something made by long dead painters... disregarded, overlooked, part of an era that had nothing whatsoever to do with me. 

While folks who have only been here a short time, 10 years or less, are fretting about the exponential growth, I am delighted with the culture and youth that Nashville is attracting. Having moved my studio from home to the Ground Floor last year made me keenly aware of the pace of the change, both in the physical development of the city and by the variety of people who walk through during gallery openings. There is vibrancy to the city; a strange bustling that is unnerving and exciting.

You can learn more about Shana's work at