The artist returns

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2002

Features Editor

Internationally acclaimed artist Nall is back in Troy and in the center of his universe.

"Wherever I am is the center of my universe," Nall said with a smile. "I have the same passion for Troy that I do for France. I choose to be here because I love it."

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Nall, who has a home and art museum in the South of France, had a very successful summer exhibition in Paris for Christian Dior titled Couleurs & Dependances. But,

coming back to Troy was not a letdown. In fact, he anxiously awaited the opportunity to be back home again.

Nall is the artist-in- residence at Troy State University for the spring semester.

This tenure is his second at TSU. His first was the spring semester of 2000 and it was a memorable one for him, the university and the community.

During the spring, he planted the seeds for the Alabama Art Museum that he hopes will grow and flourish in Troy.

However, the museum, which will feature artists from Alabama in different mediums, needs a place to call its own and Nall is waiting to see if the museum finds a home in Troy.

He admitted that other cities have expressed an interest in locating the Alabama Art Museum in their communities, but he wants to see it in his hometown. So, he’s willing to wait and hope that the Troy and Pike County communities will nurture the project which would bring much attention and attract tourists to the area.

But, right now, Nall’s main focus is getting art under way in his studio on the TSU campus.

"I have big plans for this semester and I’m anxious to get classes started," he said. "I already have several of the apprentices, which number 12 in all, in the studio and they are excited about the work we will be doing this semester."

And what art student wouldn’t be excited to work with a renowned artist like Nall and who wouldn’t be star struck to work on a portrait of Beetle, Ringo Starr?

Nall and Starr "go back a long way" and have great respect for each other’s work.

Starr’s portrait is one of several – including TSU benefactors, Richard and Leslie Scrushy – that the students will have a hand in helping to create.

"The apprentices will work on the frames and the mosaics," Nall said. "They all seem to be excited to work on the portrait of one of the Beetles and to get an opportunity to see the items he has chosen to be included in the portrait."

Nall’s portraits often include items that have special meaning to his subject or items that illustrate their personalities or idiosyncrasies.

Nall said Starr had a large number of items from which to choose for his portrait.

"Every time I would pick out one, he would say, ‘Oh, no, not that,’ so the selections are his own, not mine," Nall said, adding that Starr did not reveal why the items he selected were important to him.

"Why Ringo picked the pink flamingo key chain, I don’t know," he said. "But, some of the other items I understood – his St. Christopher for traveling,

a coin engraved with his favorite prayer – the Serenity -, temple bells from Nepal, a cross, a crucifix, a ‘No Guns’ symbol and an ‘Art Saves Lives’ logo. The students will learn a lot about Ringo Starr as we work on his portrait."

Nall’s apprentices will spend a lot of time in his "coffee shop" and also time outside the studio.

"During my first residency, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to go out and paint," he said. "This time I plan to do more of that and the students will be invited to go with me and paint. I can critique their work and make suggestions and give advice. That should also be a good learning experience for them."

Nall said he will select sites and scenes of interest throughout the county.

The homes on College Street, the old cotton gins and the old buildings on the square are just some of the places Nall plans give his special interpretation in watercolor.

"Down in Brundidge is one of the most unusual and interesting sites," he said. "It’s a single brick wall standing alone by the railroad track there in town. I must paint it. And, I also like the antique village. I’m excited to get an opportunity to paint some of these special places in Pike County."

When Nall is not busy at his "residence" or "out in the field," he will be involved in exhibitions of his work throughout the area.

Nall’s traveling Alabama Art Show is "here and there" and will soon be shown in Dothan, Tuscumbia and Gadsden.

Nall will have work on exhibit in Dothan, Talladega, Mobile, Birmingham and Houston, Tex. and other cities yet to be announced.