Virginia Overton: Saved

October 7, 2022–January 2, 2023

Image courtesy Overton Studio

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 24, 2022)—The Frist Art Museum presents Virginia Overton: Saved, an exhibition of sculptures and site-specific installations made from repurposed everyday materials that create a dynamic visual poetry of reclamation and renewal. Organized by the Frist Art Museum, the exhibition will be on view in the Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery from October 7, 2022 through January 2, 2023. 

Virginia Overton seeks out the creative potential in ordinary building materials, defunct equipment, and other objects that have been discarded or fallen into disrepair. “In her practice, Overton focuses on harnessing and examining associations carried by items, machined or organic, that retain aspects of their former lives,” said Frist Art Museum chief curator Mark Scala.

Through a process that embraces improvisation, the artist adds layers of meaning by dismantling, constructing, realigning, and juxtaposing elements. “Encouraging us to see beauty and find value in neglected things, Overton presents an alternative to the attitude of disposability that prevails in consumer culture,” said Scala. The exhibition’s title, Saved, is a reference to how material objects can be re-envisioned as art instead of being cast away. 

Overton’s work has numerous artistic touchstones, including Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, the minimalists’ interactions with industrial materials, the arte povera artists’ use of “poor” materials as a statement of solidarity with the working class, and the found object assemblages created by self-taught southern artists like Thornton Dial.

Though she has long worked in New York City, the Nashville-born artist maintains strong connections with Middle Tennessee, where her family has owned Wedge Oak Farm in Lebanon for more than a century. “Implicit in her work are references to these two settings, meshing city and farm, industrial and organic, refined and rough,” said Scala. “Throughout the exhibition, we see not just isolated artifacts-turned-artworks but also a larger gestalt in which the works inflect each other and the surrounding architecture.”

Ned Overton views Untitled (KO’s Ham) (2016) by Virginia Overton, Whitney Museum of American Art.
Courtesy of the artist. © Virginia Overton

On visits to the family farm, Overton often finds materials for her projects. Her sculpture Sister Ham is a bronze cast from a ham produced by her sister at Wedge Oak Farm. An earlier version of the sculpture was an actual ham that was suspended from the ceiling in Overton’s 2016 exhibition Sculpture Gardens at the Whitney Museum of American Art. “The original ham embodied the elevation of a ‘real’ found object into art status,” said Scala. “The bronze version is uncanny; a familiar food product is now transformed into an object of aesthetic contemplation that evokes the Dutch still life tradition of depicting meat and produce as a reminder of both abundance and the inevitability of death.”

Overton has also constructed a large chime using paired metal implements and other remnants from the farm hung over a gantry, equipment typically used during the production of work rather than its presentation. “Like all her work, the chime closes the gap between life and art—here, the art comes alive through human interaction or, when displayed outside, the effects of the wind,” said Scala. “Guests can play this musical sculpture while enjoying its visual ingenuity that evokes an agricultural existence both pastoral and laborious.”

Installation view of Untitled (chime) (2020) by Virginia Overton, The Ranch, Montauk. Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery. © Virginia Overton.
Photo: David X Prutting/

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens recently acquired one of Overton’s large outdoor sculptures that was specifically fabricated for the property. The piece, Untitled (4×8), will be permanently installed on The Ann & Monroe Carrell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail and debuts on October 8 in conjunction with the opening of Saved at the Frist.

About the Artist

Virginia Overton earned her bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees from the University of Memphis. She has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland; Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. In 2018, she became the first woman to have a solo show at New York’s Socrates Sculpture Park. This year, she had a solo exhibition at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art in London; installed a permanent site-specific installation at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York; and is included in the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Cecilia Alemani, in Venice, Italy. She is represented by Bortolami Gallery in New York City, White Cube in London, and Galerie Francesca Pia in Zurich.


Saturday, October 22
Conversation: Virginia Overton with Courtney J. Martin, director, Yale Center for British Art
2:00 p.m.

Free; first come, first seated

Join Virginia Overton in conversation with Yale Center for British Art director Courtney J. Martin to learn more about the artist’s practice and her solo exhibition Saved.

Exhibition Credit

Organized by the Frist Art Museum

Image Credits

1. Image courtesy Overton Studio

2. Ned Overton views Untitled (KO’s Ham) (2016) by Virginia Overton, Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy of the artist. © Virginia Overton

3. Installation view of Untitled (chime) (2020) by Virginia Overton, The Ranch, Montauk. Courtesy of the artist and Bortolami Gallery. © Virginia Overton. Photo: David X Prutting/

Supporter Acknowledgment

Funded in part by the Gordon CAP Gallery Fund

Additional support from the Friends of Contemporary Art

The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by The Frist Foundation, Metro Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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