Literary Lights: Come See Beautiful New Installations from Local Artists

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“Look up, people,” says Ann Patchett. “There’s an astonishing piece of art floating just above your heads.”

“One of the best things about having more space in the bookstore is thinking up creative uses for it,” says Ann Patchett. It didn’t take long after the store’s renovation was complete for Ann and shop co-owner Karen Hayes to decide the shop needed not only more books, but more art. 

From the beginning, Parnassus has paid special attention to what goes on the walls. Now we’re expanding our view to the ceiling, too. Artist Amélie Guthrie created the stunning new piece hanging over the center of the store, a chandelier that looks like a tree branch by day and a flash of lightning by night.

Karen loves the look of it, but says but visual appeal isn’t the only reason to add art to a bookstore. It’s about making an even more appealing place to gather as book-lovers, and about offering support to our extended arts community. “We love giving exposure to local creatives when we can,” she says. Here, Guthrie tells us more about her work, which we hope you’ll come see for yourself!

What’s the origin of this piece?

Guthrie installing the light-sculpture.

AG: The title of this light-sculpture is “Beneath, She Gathers.” It’s actually my largest chandelier yet. A few months ago I sculpted it in time to hang at an event for the Nashville Fashion Alliance. For a weekend, it hung in Track One with 10 of my other pieces, which together formed my biggest lighting installation yet. It’s been an exciting year for me in Nashville!

What is it made of — and what’s your process?

AG: I made it with a lot of lightweight aluminum wire and stubbornness! I use a one-wire technique where I fold lengths of wire back on themselves, form a central twist, and sculpt by twisting fractal segments from there. With a piece this large, I have to anchor it with my car. So with my dear studio assistant, my Subaru, I roll over the sculpture to pin it down while I stretch and twist the wire into branches.

What does it mean for you to have it here, in the bookstore?

Patchett and Guthrie with the finished installation.

AG: Goodness. It’s a blazing honor to have my work hanging in Parnassus. Each year, I do three community works with my art, and I was ecstatic to include Parnassus in that commitment this year. But this one almost feels selfish. I warmly welcome any association I can get with that shimmering gem of an independent bookshop, the community that gathers there, Karen and Ann and their splendid staff.

The honor is mutual! We’re delighted to have it. If people want to see more of your art, what should they do?

AG: They can do a few things: Until January 31, I have other pieces hanging in a show, Awakening Exhibition, in the East Side Project Space (507 Hagan St) in the Wedgewood Houston Art District. Also, Red Arrow Gallery is my Nashville representation and they will show you some of my work. My website and Instagram @lifli_studio, are open 24/7. And anyone should feel free to email me at

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Have you seen the stage wall lately? No? Good — that’s exactly the point!

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-3-59-03-pmWhile it’s wonderful to have a nice new central stage area for readings and events, the big, dark stage wall posed an interesting challenge, creating somewhat of a visual black hole in the middle of the store. Lucky for us, some of Nashville’s most talented local artists have saved the day (and the onstage photo backdrop). Over the holidays, for example, you may have seen Debbie Taylor’s beautiful paintings presiding over Christmas tree and gift-wrap station. (You can see more of Taylor’s work here.)

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 4.00.07 PM.pngOur latest installation features tiled 12×12-inch paintings of famous literary and cultural figures, all painted by artist Noah Saterstrom, whose art has been shown all over the world. (Educated at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, Saterstrom was once Artist-in-Residence for HRH Prince Charles at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.) You can see more of his work at Julia Martin Gallery in Nashville during his solo exhibition that runs through February 15, or check out his website. We hope to add even more from the “Faces” series to our stage wall soon.

Yes, we’re having a LOT of fun with these.

Visiting author Chris Bohjalian, onstage to sign copies of his book The Sleepwalker, says hello to Emily Dickinson’s face.

Come get interactive with the new art!

fullsizerender-251Play a game: How many of Saterstrom’s faces can you identify? (If you get stumped, we’ll provide a Whitman’s Sampler-style key of who’s who.)

Visiting from out of town? We invite you to leave a little of yourself behind in Nashville. Write your name and your favorite book on a leaf that will be added to Guthrie’s overhead light-sculpture.