Connie Pirtle is a painter and sculptor who works out of her studio at her home in Hermitage, Tennessee. She has a M.F.A. in Sculpture from East Tennessee State University and a B.S. in Fine Arts from Vanderbilt University. She has worked extensively in academia, as an art educator and administrator. She was the Art Department Chair at Lipscomb University in Nashville, the State Visual Art consultant for the Tennessee Department of Education, and the Visual Arts Director for the Tennessee Arts Academy at Belmont University. She has over 20 years experience teaching art, kindergarten through college. Recently retired, she started working on her art full-time.
With the retreat from academia, and the creative routine she now practices at her 5-acre home, Connie has had the opportunity to more fully explore some of her longstanding inspirations, like Mexican art, abstract expressionism, and Pre-Columbian pottery. Moreover, she has refocused her work and is making a conscious “effort” to “unschool” herself.
“Intuition and raw creativity are the artistic qualities I value above above all. The art I am doing now reflects my desire to return to a primal state of inspiration and paint more like a child. I think refinements-training, technique–have a way of diminishing expressiveness. They can lock you into formats and conventional attitudes.”
Connie’s latest work includes a series of semi-abstract paintings inspired by cave paintings, featuring multicolored streaks and slashes (applied with rollers) and vague outlines of animal figures; and a series of clay sculptures inspired by the animals she and her husband raise on their small farm: fainting goats (formally known as myotonic goats) and her dog and cat. If you look closely, you will see these same animals in her paintings.
The goats, which fall over when frightened, have become a favorite subject of hers. “The goats don’t really understand what happens when they faint, I think. It’s just an unconscious fright response. It’s definitely funny to see, and they get back up and there’s no real harm. But it’s sad, too in a way–this abnormality, this deviant thing in their lives they have to deal with. I see it as a kind of metaphor, for temporary but ever-present helplessness, that can strike at any time.”
As her “back to basics” approach, Connie finishes some of her sculptures using a primitive firing technique called pit firing. In this method, which goes back to Native American and Pre-Columbian pottery, kiln-fired pieces are placed in an old oil drum with lighted saw-dust on the top. The drum is then covered and the piece is literally smoked for several hours, giving it a rough earthy finish. She also uses Pre-Columbian hand-building techniques she learned in Mexico. Her latest sculptures are finished in bright colors similar to her paintings. Most of her animal sculptures are also vessels or containers like many of the Pre-Columbian sculptures she admires.
Master of Fine Arts, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, M.F.A., 1980
Bachelor of Sciences, cum laude, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1976,
B.S., Fine Arts
Major: Fine Arts
Art instructor, K-college, for over 20 years
Retired, full-time artist, 2007-2013
Adjunct Professor, Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, 2002-2007
Art Department Chair, Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee, 1997-2002
State Art Consultant and Director of Tennessee Arts Academy, Tennessee
State Department of Education, 1990-1996
“Collective Creativity”, Renaissance Center, Dickson, Tennessee, 2013
“Art and Soul” Open House and Exhibit, 2013
“Art Crawl”, Nashville, Tennessee, 2013
“Art and Soul” Annual exhibit, 2012
“Home”, juried show, Sheridan Gallery, Harpeth Hall Academy, Nashville, Tennessee, 2011
Solo exhibit, “Nouveau Classics”, Nashville, Tennessee, 2011
“Best of Tennessee Crafts”, juried show, Tennessee Artist-Craftsman Association, Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, Tennessee, 2012
Solo exhibit, “The Mill”, Lebanon, Tennessee, 2012
Appalachian Center for Crafts, Tennessee Tech University, Holiday Arts and Crafts Exhibit, Smithville, Tennessee, December, 2013
Grovewood Gallery, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina, 2012-13
Providence Dental Center, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, 2011
BOMA, Building Owners and Managers Association International,
Atlanta, Georgia, 2013
Georgia, California, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas
Tennessee Artist-Craftsman Association
Frist Center for the Visual Arts