Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty Exhibition at the Frist

Bloggers’ Night Out

Nashville Bloggers at Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty Exhibit at the Frist Center for Visual Art

Thanks to Urbaanite and the Frist Center for Visual Arts, I was one of several women who attended the Bloggers’ Night Out preview of the Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty exhibit at the Frist. Let’s just start by saying it was the perfect event to bring all of us together. 

While all bloggers, we have a mix of focus areas: some of us are lifestyle bloggers, others have more of an emphasis on fashion, but one major thing our blogs have in common is telling stories through photography. The exhibit offered a very beautiful example of how to convey a message  and tell a story visually. As foreshadowed by the title, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty, the exhibit exemplifies how photographs can go beyond the mere beauty of the subject and tell a much deeper, much more meaningful story.

Nashville Bloggers Prepare to experience the Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty Exhibition at the Frist Center for Visual Arts

The Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty exhibit, a retrospective of Penn’s work, begins with his latest work and ends with his earlier work. From beginning to end, his photos are alluring, riveting, artistic, and go beyond just beautiful pictures. His work tells the story of models, musicians, and actors. It also tells the story of life and culture through his eyes, including fashion photography, his travels all over the world, and the people he met along the way.

Scales of Styles at the Frist or Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty Exhibition

Penn, one of the most renowned fashion, portrait, and still life photographers (most notably behind many photos of Vogue), had a background in art and it shows in his photos. In my opinion, the incorporation of art adds depth to the photography: from the placement of the subjects, to the angle and closeness of the camera, down to the lighting. Penn had the innate ability to capture the essence of his subject in a meaningful way and grab the audience’s attention.

As a blogger (which includes part-time photographer, part-time model, part-time writer, and part-time story teller) not only do I try to convey a message through words, I often use photographs alone to tell a story. Viewing the exhibit and seeing the art of photography through his lens was a remarkable way to explore the interplay of fashion, life, art, and storytelling. In the age of digital and social media where photographs have become a part of daily life, it was a gentle reminder of how beautiful the art of photography can be and how photography can go beyond the surface past the beauty of the subject.

Nashville Bloggers at the Frist Center for Visual Art

If I leave you with one impression of the Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty exhibit, it would be that Irving Penn’s work embodies the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Penn had the ability to photograph subjects in a way that makes people yearn to know more. I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience the exhibit firsthand with an amazing group of women bloggers/storytellers. After wrapping up the preview, we ended the evening with girl talk, lite bites (which might I add were delicious), and a live band at the Frist Center Café. It was the perfect ending to the perfect evening.

If you would like to experience the exhibit for yourself, click the link below to receive a special perk. The exhibit is on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and will be at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts until the end of May.

Photos provided by Life on Forty West Photography

Please leave your thoughts on the blog post and the Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty exhibit below.

7 Replies to “Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty Exhibition at the Frist”

  1. Love all the pictures & your description. Definitely makes me want to take a trip!

  2. Ellen Pryor says:

    Good morning, Malaka!
    I’m the communications director at the Frist. THANK YOU for this marvelous post about your visit. You hit every nail squarely on the head with this show! Your impressions and descriptions of Penn’s work.. spot on! We are deeply appreciative of your time, efforts and sensibilities! If it’s okay, we’d like to add you to our email list to receive information about exhibitions and invitations to our special events and previews for media. As a matter of fact, we have one coming up prior to the opening of two of our summer exhibitions, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now and the work of Vadis Turner. Our special preview for media will take place Thursday morning, May 25 from 10:00 a.m. until noon. (You certainly don’t have to stay a full two hours! Come and go as your schedule might permit.)
    Again, we are tremendoulsy grateful to you. I hope to have the chance to thank you in person. Please be in touch any time for any reason.

    1. Good morning, Ellen! Thanks so much for having me, and thank you for your extremely kind words regarding my write-up. I very much enjoyed the exhibit. Please do add me to your email list. I look forward to seeing you at future shows!

  3. Dawn Watson says:

    His portraits are beautiful. Great article.

    1. He was an amazing photographer! Thank you so much for reading!

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