Nashville has a flourishing art scene. That sentence may not seem odd to this city’s transplants of today, but to the natives such as myself, it is indeed a strange statement to hear. I remember a time when the majority of this town didn’t believe that art could transform an area, when murals were nowhere to be seen, and to be an “artist” gave people the impression that you were a lazy underachiever. No group was scrutinized harsher than the small community of graffiti artists who constantly had to battle the overall public opinion that spray painting was not only an illicit act, but also one that indicated a person had ties to a gang.
During the late 80’s, Troy Duff, a resident of 12th South and a student at Hillsboro High, was tagging this city's walls with his crew long before it was cool. “Back then we all used Krylov and Rusto, and there were no stencil tips” Troy says as he teaches me how to spray in his studio. “Now, you can buy high and low-pressured cans and different sized tips for application”.
After high school, Troy followed his passion west to Los Angeles where his art form had originally became popular, and he quickly launched a career airbrushing surfboards and designer clothing. The artist was also pursuing an acting and modeling career and landed a gig as the dreadlocked dancer in Apple’s iPod campaign, and in 2003, he founded his own clothing brand called Duff Couture, which became a huge hit nationally and internationally. “Manufacturers in Japan were wanting me to mass produce my stuff, but I had no interest in that. My desire was to design each piece by hand,” says Troy.
Due to an illness in his family, Troy returned home to Nashville to study at Nossi College of Art. His commercial art and graphic design degree began a trajectory of straddling the gallery and graffiti worlds. One day he would rock out a drippy tag on the Venice Beach boardwalk and the next, he would showcase at Miami’s Art Basel. In 2006 he returned home permanently to focus on fine art but found that a new Nashville was demanding his gritty style of graffiti. Corporations began requesting live graffiti demos, and his raw street art canvases attracted big names such as Calvin Klein, Converse, and Dish Network.
Now, in the city where he once allegedly “vandalized” walls you can find his work effortlessly. Josephine’s, Jets Pizza, and POP proudly display Duff’s murals, and this May, The Rymer Art Gallery will feature him in the #615Streets exhibit.
On May 20th from 5 to 8 pm, you can meet Troy at Rail Yard Studios, who will be hosting an event to celebrate launching their “Project Box Car” -- an exciting new venture where train cars are cut up into manageable pieces that Troy tags in his incomparable style. We hope to see you there.