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Adrienne Outlaw is a socially engaged, interdisciplinary artist with a commitment to well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing art. Her work, which is often interactive, is informed by bioethical issues developing with the rapid advancement of biotechnology. She sees her mission as one to disturb and inform us through her art about real life issues which are defining the world as we know it.

What began your journey into art that addresses bioethical issues?

When I  met my husband (a professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vandy!) in 1999, I began to hang out with a bunch of scientists who were doing cutting-edge research on issues in the biomedical field. It began to fascinate me (and scare me) how fast technology was moving, yet the common person was not being exposed to this type of research and how it was affecting their lives. This research encompasses everything from fertility to end-of-life issues, yet it won’t show up in science magazines for another 20 years. Through my art, I can bring attention to a myriad of ethical issues that will affect most of us in our lives.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over the south, but mostly in Nashville.

When and why did you move to Nashville?

I moved here with my family in third grade and left at the end of high school to go to The Art Institute of Chicago. I reluctantly came back a few years after graduating, but now stay because I want to be here – we have options to move all over the country and we choose Nashville.

Why did you become an artist and decide to devote your life to it as a career?

I like to make things. I think differently than most people and believe I can offer a unique perspective. I want to make a difference.

As a young artist, did you have a mentor?

Yes – Park Chambers, a dubious mentor, but a great one nonetheless. He wouldn’t let me get away with any #$@#$. Lindsay Obermeyer also taught me a great deal.

I think it is fair to say that your art is controversial. Your recent project Too Much deals with excess and obesity in our country. Can you elaborate on this project?

We live in the 5th fattest state. Obesity is a major cause of Type 2 Diabetes, coronary disease and a host of other illnesses. Our children are having dental surgery as toddlers, in part from eating too much sugar, which is the top ingredient in most products. Obesity is causing this country major economic hardships. We don’t have to be this way. I hope the project contributes to the dialogue about these issues in ways that aren’t being tackled and that people will give more thought to leading a healthier lifestyle. I want the project to inspire people.

What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?

Share your knowledge and your talent.

Do you have any irrational fears?

All sorts of them – most are physically impossible and pretty ridiculous.

What books can be found on your bedside table?

Not Here, Not Now, Not That! Protest over Art and Culture in America by Steve Tepper.

It’s a fascinating and incredibly readable book that’s well-researched.

Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?

It depends on how crazy the week has been – my top three favorite things are 1) Snuggle up with the family 2) Date my husband 3) Dance.

Event most looking forward to attending this spring? (in Nashville or elsewhere)

We are headed to Disney. When I return I’m meeting with several artists, curators and writers visiting from out of town.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville?

For casual food I love both PM and the 12th South Tap Room – they are fresh, fun and seemingly healthy, with great service, a long beer list and super fun vibe. They are also both within walking distance from my house. For a date night we like to go to Tayst, Virago, Watermark or Sole Mio. Really, I am drawn to anything that has outdoor seating, isn’t pretentious, isn’t a chain and that offers fresh, good food.

Favorite vacation spot?

I love Costa Rica, but really any beach, mountain or super fun city will do. Recently visited Los Angeles, where I had a blast.

When it comes to music, do you have a favorite (either local or national) band or a favorite artist who inspires you?

So many….

Living Visual Artists: Cathy De Monchaux, Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson

Writers: Antoine de Saint-Exupery, James Joyce, Jose Saramago, Linda Weintraub, Ray Bradbury, Nancy Kress

Musicians: Alison Krauss, Suzanne Vega, Vince Gill

Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God)

  • 72% dark chocolate – ideally from Olive and Sinclair
  • Art that is beautiful, mysterious and full of depth
  • The New York Times

I know, what a funny order!

Thank you, Adrienne! If you’d like to learn more about her work, visit her website

Special thanks to Ashley Hylbert and her gorgeous pictures of Adrienne featured here today. To see Ashley’s blog post about this shoot, click here.

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