Nashville’s newest large-scale public art depicts a gigantic bushel basket with 6-foot-long turnip green leaves spilling out. It’s being strung up this week inside the soaring atrium of the Nashville Farmers’ Market.
The artist behind the work, Minnesota-based Seitu Ken Jones, is known for his focus on food injustice.
While working on the installation this week, Jones said this idea came when he was visiting the market last year, while he carried out a separate food-centric project for Metro Arts.
“I kept coming here … but the inspiration just came looking at these bushel baskets,” he said. “All the bushel baskets full of turnips — turnip greens — that were being sold out here. Literally tons.”
A year later, standing in a dusky pink sunset, Jones received the box truck that carried his artwork 800 miles from Minnesota.
He was pleased to see the 8-foot bushel basket — the size of a hot tub and made of aluminum but painted to look like woodgrain — had made the trip with only minor scrapes.
Jones often goes big in his art. As in, he once held a dinner party for 300 people around a 400-foot-long dining table to discuss food access.
He cites Nashville native Red Grooms, known for his enormous kinectic sculptures, as an influence. So is Claes Oldenburg, who often took ordinary objects, like a spoon, and sculpted them as big as a house.
And then he cites scientist George Washington Carver.
“Not a lot of folks know that he was a painter,” said Jones, recalling a gallery show at Fisk University in the 1970s when he saw Carver’s easel.
The cascading “Turnip Greens” reflect some 40 years of inspiration.
The artwork will become the centerpiece for an entirely new main entrance to the market’s food court, which will now be oriented toward the neighboring Tennessee State Museum.
There are also two new murals in the entryway, titled as “Adanedi,” by the Norf Art Collective. (Scroll the gallery at the top of this story to see an additional photo.)
Jones said he admires the vibrancy of the food court, but wants to remind visitors about the purpose of the place.
“To not forget that it’s a farmers’ market — that in addition to this grand and great food court that’s here, there’s food right outside the door, right under the sheds,” he said.
Metro Arts and the Nashville Farmers’ Market will dedicate the pieces at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2 during the annual Turnip Green Festival.