The Nashville Sign, a giant screen-billboard at one of the largest intersections in Tennessee, showed one of Brian Tull’s beautiful, giant, hyperrealistic paintings every three seconds last week. 38' high, Tull’s paintings captivated drivers and pedestrians with their bright reds and baby blues, seductively depicting different cropped images of Tull’s wife, shiny old cars, and highways. In one painting, called The Highway Has Always Been Your Lover, only a woman’s calves and heels are visible out of the window of an old car. In the background, the fields glow orange and the sky is a summery blue. Positioned above the traffic and gray skies of January in Nashville, the sign’s bold colors radiate glamor and nostalgia.
While the Nashville sign usually broadcasts the weather or corporate advertisements, Nashville Arts Magazine has teamed up with owners of the sign, and will be showcasing the work of one artist every week for the rest of 2017. The collaboration between the magazine and the sign is part of an effort to promote the visual arts in Nashville.
the highway has always been your lover
The female figure and 1950s cars are staples of Tull’s work, which deals lovingly with an era that Tull was not alive to see. On his website, Tull writes: “Born in 1975, the only option I have to remember the 1930s through 50s, is through my imagination.” For inspiration, Tull looks to the honky-tonks downtown, and the musicians for whom the city is famous for. “I feel like the closest thing you can get to nostalgic authenticity,” Tull told the Creators Project.
While he willfully describes his work as nostalgic, Tull’s position in time complicates this idea. In his resurrection of past decades, he creates his own fantasy world through how he imagines the past. With their larger-than-life characters, his paintings certainly have the vibrancy of nostalgia, but Tull also works with the present, often using his wife as a model. The projection of his paintings on the Nashville Sign represents another interesting contact with today, as it broadcasts works set in the mid 1900s into the technologically-advanced world of 2017. For his week on the Nashville Sign, Tull chose the bright, summery pieces that contrasted sharply with the dreary winter, and called further attention to his complicated relationship with both the past and the present.