Today, my last day in the Tennessee capitol, I took a little tour of some local art. I hereby present the awards for worst monumental statuary in the greater Nashville area. I will score on a scale of 1 to 5 in the categories of Poor Craftsmanship, Inappropriateness to Surroundings, and Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American, for a possible total of 15.
3. Cowboy guitarist statue, outside the Idle Hour bar.
Not even close. Sure, it’s a bit amateurish in construction, but that only serves to give it an authentic folksy charm. Plus, it’s located right on Music Row, which makes it a model of large(ish)-scale artwork suited to its surroundings. As for offensiveness, I would be offended by anyone who wasn’t delighted by this big galoot.
Score: 2 (2 for Poor Craftsmanship, 0 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 0 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)
2. Billy Graham statue, on private downtown property near LifeWay Christian Resources complex and Southern Baptist Convention administrative offices.
About 9 feet tall, this bronze behemoth is pretty tacky. The text of John 3:16 is engraved at the great evangelist’s feet, a nearby plaque delivers an “open invitation to believe in and invite Jesus Christ to be your personal savior,” and there’s a 17-foot realistic cross looming over Graham’s shoulder. Billy Graham is quite old, and he’s probably as close to Jesus as anyone, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually at the foot of the cross back in 33 AD. Another troublesome fact is that while the statue is technically on private property, a passerby would never realize this, and it’s just strange to see a huge cross so prominent in a seemingly public square. But such is the South, I suppose. On the plus side, though no one would call this great art, it does resemble Graham with a fair amount of realism. (Though I haven’t seen Graham in person, I did graduate from a college boasting the Billy Graham Center and accompanying museum. And, no, we’re not related.)
Score: 7 (1 for Poor Craftsmanship, 4 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 2 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)
1. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, in a private yard visible from I-65 a few miles south of the city.
Ho hum, just another mammoth Fiberglas statue of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, spraypainted gold and silver, looming over a public interstate, and surrounded by Confederate flags. No big whoop. Normally, a statue this hideous would be draw most of its terribleness from its remarkably crappy construction, but in this case aesthetics are the least of its offenses. Forrest became a rich man as a plantation owner and slave trader before the start of the Civil War, in which he distinguished himself as a Confederate cavalry leader (hence the enormous “gold” stallion). After the war, he was tried and acquitted of committing war crimes in a brutal battle north of Memphis. Oh, and he was also the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Really, an all-around great guy who any commuter would be happy to gaze upon twice daily.
Score: Not even a fair fight: 15 (5 for Poor Craftsmanship, 5 for Inappropriateness to Surroundings, 5 for Offensiveness to the Sensibilities of Any Right-Thinking American.)
Finally, a special judges’ award goes to the 30-foot-high gilded statue of the goddess Athena, inside the Nashville Parthenon: