Monthaven Art and Cultural Center

Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center
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Gifted young artists usually go to college to pursue their passions. Ruth Chase enrolled in the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute to find salvation.

“Before college I had been doing hard drugs and living on welfare,” recalls Chase. “But I had this idea that if I went to college, I could escape that life. College was like a form of drug rehabilitation.”

For Chase, a Venice, Calif., native now living in Tennessee, art school was certainly life changing. She went from being a challenged youth living on the wrong side of Lincoln Boulevard in Venice to being a widely respected, award-winning artist. Her solo exhibitions have been on display in galleries and museums across the country, and she has been the recipient of important art grants and residencies.

Attending college provided Chase with a refuge from drugs and crime. Just as importantly, she discovered her unique style. Many of her large paintings blur the line between realism and abstraction, resulting in images that seem to tap directly into Jungian archetypes. Her films and other multi-media works, meanwhile, often come across as engrossing documentaries.

Some of Chase’s most thought-provoking works are on display in September 2023 at MACC at the Streets in Hendersonville. Chase will be on hand at the Gallery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7 for an Artist Talk. The exhibit, titled Passion Projects, features paintings and film from several of Chase’s award-winning conceptual art projects. These works, in Chase’s words, explore themes of the human spirit and belonging. All of her work imparts a strong sense of community.

That’s especially true of the paintings that comprise the series West of Lincoln. The title refers to Lincoln Boulevard, the thoroughfare that cuts through Chase’s hometown of Venice. A neighborhood of Los Angeles, Venice is probably best known for its iconic beachfront boardwalk. An assortment of bohemians, bodybuilders and various sketchy characters have long inhabited the place. In recent years, the neighborhood has also experienced widespread homelessness.

“Lincoln Boulevard was home to two kinds of people,” Chase says. “Poor people and less poor people.”

West of Lincoln Boulevard is where Chase grew up, and it’s where she focuses her project. The West of Lincoln Project is the culmination of work that Chase began in 2015. Her paintings depict Venice natives who have overcome hardship, adversity, drug addiction and violence. Many of her subjects provided written statements about their hard scrabble lives. These statements are displayed alongside the paintings.

Fernando Manzanilla, whose portrait is represented in the painting “Not Just Me Anymore,” notes in his statement that “Venice was a land of opportunity if you wanted to find trouble.” Manzanilla was apparently no stranger to trouble and addiction until he had his two beautiful children, whose faces are included in the painting.

Similarly, one suspects that Venice resident Eddie Hadvina was no Boy Scout, despite the fact that he is portrayed as an 11-year-old in a scout uniform in the painting “Second Chance.” Hadvina remembers a city filled with hunger, poverty and broken families. But he also remembers the pure joy of riding his skateboard, which is proudly displayed in the painting.

“West of Lincoln,” the title painting in the series, reminds one of a celebratory wall mural. The only apparent danger in this painting is a message warning about “Heavy Local Vibes.” The citizens of Venice clearly gleaned a lot from their surroundings. “These are all people who have overcome difficulty and emerged with a lot of street-smarts,” says Chase.

For the most part, the paintings in West of Lincoln reflected the views and stylistic preferences of the subjects. They told Chase how they wanted to be portrayed. In the series Blur, Chase follows her own muse. In these large paintings, Chase explores the question of what it means to be a woman. There appear to be no absolutes in this quest. Masculinity and femininity occupy various places on a spectrum.

Chase’s idiosyncratic style is fully evident in the painting “With, Without,” which explores ideas of how the masculine perceives the feminine. The painting shows a male figure with a transparent head. Superimposed above his shoulders are images of women carrying children. Chase uses dripping painting and blurring lines in this painting to suggest memory and nostalgia. Some of the women wear colorful dresses, suggesting strong emotion. Yet there is considerable gray in this memory of women, implying a sort of ambivalence.

Passion Projects at MACC at the Streets also includes the terrific short film Belonging. Filmed on the western slope of Sierra Nevada, the film is a conversation about our relationship with the land. Chase interviews earth educators, environmentalists, ranchers and others who have come to see the soil as a community to which everyone can belong.



Passion Projects: SEPT. 1-30, 2023
MACC at the Streets
300 Indian Lake Blvd., A140
Hendersonville, TN 37075

Artist Talk
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
September 7, 2023

Kaylin Warden

External Affairs Coordinator

Kaylin Warden joined the Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center staff in 2024 as External Affairs Coordinator. In this post, she organizes special off-site events and manages the organization’s external communications. She also works with the development department by updating the MACC’s customer relations database, and she assists the executive director in setting up exhibitions. Above all else, Kaylin is passionate about the arts. It comes as no surprise, then, that she is now pursuing a master’s degree in art history. When she’s not at the MACC, you can find her reading her favorite books (especially ones dealing with maritime mysteries), cooking, gardening, playing with her cat and two dogs, and cheering for the Nashville Predators.

Ruth Chase

Regional Arts Director
Ruth Chase is the Regional Arts Director of Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, joining the team in 2023. For Ruth, the job is all about community, bringing people together to uplift and educate artists and art lovers alike. Her role at Monthaven is to strengthen the local artist community and build connections that will enrich Hendersonville and our surrounding communities through art exhibitions, art education, and opportunities for regional artists.
Prior to joining Monthaven, Ruth worked in the arts for over 30 years and is a multimedia artist and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute. Her artistic practice is inquiry-based and engages in community bridge-building. She was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Los Angeles, curated and juried exhibitions, and has taught at the Crocker Art Museum.
Ruth was awarded an Artist-in-Residence for Artist Activating Communities through a grant from the California Arts Council for three consecutive years. Her film Belonging screened at both the 18th Annual Nevada City Film Festival and Wild & Scenic Film Festival. She has received the Legendary Female Artist of Venice award, and she has exhibited in The Crocker Kingsley, the Museum of Northern California Art, and the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ruth also continues her work as a Curatorial Consultant and Art director for the Californian Indigenous Research Project, where she has worked with the local tribe since 2018.