Red Grooms: The Blue & The Gray
Internationally Acclaimed Artist Pays Homage to the Civil War in
New Exhibition at State Museum

An exhibition of 50 artworks interpreting the Civil War by internationally acclaimed artist Red Grooms will open at the Tennessee State Museum on December 13. The exhibition entitled, Red Grooms: The Blue & The Gray, will be the first time this body of work has been seen by the public. There is no admission charge for the exhibit which will be on view through June 7, 2015.
Grooms, who was born and raised in Nashville, currently resides in New York City and maintains a home near Beersheba Springs, TN. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States, as well as in Europe, and Japan. Grooms’ art is included in the collections of more than 39 museums, including the Tennessee State Museum.
Grooms has created these paintings and sculptures over the last 18 years with the subject matter relating to many historic aspects of the Civil War. Some of the topics include the portraits of prominent generals and soldiers, profound battles, and poignant characters and events of the time.
A convergence of several factors is at the root of this body of work. In 1996, Grooms and his wife, fellow artist Lysiane Luong, built a log home with a work studio on the Cumberland Plateau.
“The surrounding landscapes and its 1860s cottages lovely maintained through generations reconnected him with his father’s tales of the family experiences during the Civil War,” explained his wife Lysiane. “Red, since childhood has been a big fan of epic films, like Quo Vadis, Samson and Delilah, and Ivanhoe, where large casts of costumed men engage in historic battles. This rekindled his fantasy of being a film director.”
“The ideas were percolating when Grooms encountered a rich trove of photographs from the 1861-65 period,” Lysiane further explained. “It all started to come together …. large oil paintings of famous battles, drummers and zouaves, portraits of generals and soldiers painted on slices of cedar wood from flooring scraps salvaged from the construction of our log home. There are also images of contraband and spies on painted on wooden scraps.”
“There has been a longtime bond between Red Grooms and this museum,” stated Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the State Museum. “In 1986, the museum hosted one of Nashville’s most popular exhibitions, Red Grooms: A Retrospective, which encompassed three decades of his work. The museum is truly honored to have the opportunity to exhibit this ‘never seen’ before work by one of Tennessee’s most famous artists.”
Along with Grooms’ art, the exhibition will also include an interview from a segment which aired on NPT’s Tennessee Crossroads.
The exhibit opens on Saturday, December 13, and will be a part of the citywide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Battle of Nashville. For more information, visit tnmuseum.org.



“What Is To Become of the People”
The Civil War and Reconstruction in Tennessee

Opens at the State Museum on Dec. 13

An exhibition exploring the experiences of Tennesseans during the Civil War and Reconstruction opens on December 13 and is part the city-wide commemoration of the Battle of Nashville. “What Is To Become of the People” The Civil War and Reconstruction in Tennessee is free to the public and will be on view in the museum’s Changing Galleries.
Many rare artifacts will be showcased in the exhibit, which tell the personal stories of individuals who lived during these tumultuous times. Visitors will learn about the lives of civilians during military occupation, how women confronted challenges on the home front, and about soldiers fighting in pivotal conflicts such as the Battle of Nashville.
The exhibit will also examine how many African Americans freed themselves during the war and how the state officially ended slavery. It will also show the ways in which Tennessee’s Reconstruction story was different from the rest of the South, with former Confederates, African Americans, and Unionists struggling to create a new kind of state.
The exhibition includes a color study that was made for a full scale cyclorama of the Battle of Nashville by Louis Kindt. The study was done about 20 years after the battle but was never commissioned as a finished work.
There will be hundreds of artifacts from the museum’s collections included in the exhibit, such as Civil War military flags; uniforms; and weapons; historic documents; photographs of Tennessee civilians; soldiers, and landscapes; numerous artworks from the period; women’s and children’s clothing, farm equipment; and many other objects. The artifacts will help visitors learn about the experiences of many Tennesseans from different backgrounds during these important years in the state’s history. It will feature displays portraying a school for freed people and a West Tennessee merchant’s store which was burned by Union soldiers.
Some highlights include:
  • A Bible owned by R.S. Matthews, 6th Tennessee Infantry, C.S.A. During the Battle of Chickamauga, Matthews carried this Bible in his breast pocket. A bullet struck the Bible, saving him from injury.
  • Ledger, containing entries related to the 2nd Regiment, West Tennessee Infantry of African Descent/61st United States Colored Troops, while stationed at LaGrange, Moscow, and Memphis, TN, July 8, 1863 to November 28, 1865
  • Church pew from Wilson Creek Meeting House (Primitive Baptist), in Triune, TN, with carvings made by a soldier from Company A, 38th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, U.S.A. on the back.
  • A dressing gown from the 1860s owned by Mary Buntin Carter. Her son, John W. Carter fought in the Confederate army. He was wounded at the Battle of Perryville and cared for by a local family. Carter and her daughter traveled to Kentucky, and he died shortly after their arrival. Federal officials allowed Carter to bring her son’s body home with her to Nashville, where he was buried.
  • A work contract, between former slave Lucy Moore and John S. Fielder, 1866
  • A rare photograph of notorious guerrilla Champ Ferguson, one of two former Confederates sentenced to death after the war, and the ball and chain he wore while imprisoned before his execution
  • Confederate Brigadier General Otho F. Strahl’s uniform coat, 1861 to 1864. When the war began, Strahl working as a lawyer in Dyersburg, TN. He joined the Confederate army as a captain of the 4th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry and quickly rose in rank. He fought in battles at Shiloh, Stones River, and Chickamauga, where his conduct received particular praise. During the Battle of Franklin Strahl and his men assaulted Union earthworks. Strahl received a mortal wound while passing loaded weapons for his soldiers to fire down into the Union fortifications. His last words were reportedly “Keep on firing.”
  • William G. Brownlow’s coat and vest, worn at his gubernatorial inauguration, 1865

What Is To Become of the People” The Civil War and Reconstruction in Tennessee is free to the public and will be on view through June 7, 2015. For more information, visit tnmuseum.org.
Ali images from the collection of the Tennessee State Museum.
Above right: The Maxwell House Hotel, circa 1864, was used as a Union prison for Confederates. Note the African American man driving the wagon. After gaining freedom, this was a popular pursuit for freedmen who chose to start their own small businesses. Tennessee State Museum Collection.
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