Manuel’s rhinestones shine at The Frist through May 22

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by Ryan Breegle

A&E Writer

Nashville is fortunate to have such a vital cultural center as the Frist Center for theVisual Arts. Since mid-2001, the Frist Center has featured a number of exhibits both classical and modern, both American and international. While the featured exhibits seem to have a longer-than-expected gallery run, often four to five months, the lengthy stays ensure that interested patrons will have numerous chances to experience the art.

Through May 22, the featured exhibit is the fashion wonderworking of designer Manuel. In the 1950’s, Manuel left his home in Mexico and began a career of dressing the music industry’s most adventurous artists in custom-made suits and boots, sparkling with rhinestones and embroidered with icons and images chosen to reflect the character of the particular artist.

The advertised focus of the Manuel exhibit is a series of 50 jackets, one for each of the United States . Manuel and his assistants chose the imagery and words that were most representative of each state, and they were either sown on as patches or embroidered into the sleeves, front or back. Each jacket contains nearly 100 rhinestones that were manually added as finishing touches.

Even more interesting was the collection of western jackets, skirts, coats and boots worn through the years by Manuel admirers such as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and even R.E.M.’s Mike Mills. Legendary country/rock troubadour Gram Parsons asked Manuel to include marijuana leaves, assorted pills and a large cross on the back of the jacket he wore for the Flying Burrito Brothers record Gilded Palace of Sin. Manuel was devoted to his commissions, often making an effort to see the artist live to better match his artistry to their personality. The original outfits worn by the musicians are featured in the exhibit, direct from the artists’ personal collections.

Upcoming exhbitis include Renaissance to Rococo and Gregory Crewdson’s Twilight series, both beginning May 20.