Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art is the first exhibition to explore the instrument’s symbolism in American art from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Featuring over one hundred works of art and dozens of exceptional instruments, the exhibition will demonstrate that guitars figure prominently in the visual stories Americans tell about themselves.

Works by artists such as John BaldessariThomas Hart Benton, Lonnie Holley, Dorothea Lange, and Annie Leibovitz and seminal instruments by FenderGibson, and C. F. Martin & Company show how guitars have served as symbols of American history, cultural attitudes, identities, and aspirations. For the presentation at the Frist, notable instruments and other artworks drawn from Middle Tennessee collections will be on view, reflecting Nashville’s internationally renowned status as “Music City” and a mecca for outstanding guitarists and socially impactful music.

The works in Storied Strings are organized into twelve thematic sections: Leisure, Culture, and Comfort: 19th Century America,  Amateurs and Professionals, Hispanicization, Hawaiiana, Blues and Folk, A Change is Coming, Iconic Women in Country Music, Cowboy Guitars, Making a Living, The Visual Culture of Early Rock and Roll, Personification, and Aestheticizing a Motif. Linking these disparate themes is the premise that the guitar, as a visual motif, has long enabled artists and their human subjects to address themes and tell stories that otherwise would go unexamined. The accompanying three hundred–page catalogue positions the guitar within a nexus of art, music, literature, and cultural histories.

Organized by Leo G. Mazow, Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane Curator of American Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Platinum Sponsor

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Hospitality sponsors

Union Station and Grand Hyatt logos

Education and Community Engagement supporter

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Spanish translation sponsor

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Supported in part by

Frist Foundation, Metro Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, and National Endowment for the Arts logos

Exhibition gallery

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