For a Christmas ornament she designed for a project launched by the Tennessee Arts Commission through a partnership with first lady Maria Lee, Leiper’s Fork artist Anne Goetze knew she wanted it to depict the rural landscape of Williamson County.

First of all, despite the rapid growth and development that’s occurring here, Goetze thought the natural landscape is still the most prominent feature of Williamson County. So when she was selected to design and paint the ornament that would represent Williamson in the county ornament collection that includes one painted globe from each of the state’s 95 counties, Goetze set to painting rural life such as cows, a tractor and local gardens. 

Her ornament and the 94 others can be found on the Tennessee Residence website, where the ornaments are featured as part of a virtual tour of Christmas at the Tennessee Residence.

“As a visual artist, I am influenced by my surroundings and it is reflected in my chosen subject matter,” said Goetze, who lives on a small farm in Leiper’s Fork with an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. “For this project I was inspired to highlight the beauty of the rural landscape and lifestyle of Williamson County, of which I am blessed to call home.”

In choosing a rural motif for her ornament, Goetze also wanted to stress the importance of preserving the farms, the forests and other natural landscapes of Williamson County.

“We’re now in this flux of rapid growth,” she said, “and how we do it is very important so we don’t lose all of our rural landscape.”

The original county ornament collection was commissioned by former first lady Crissy Haslam in 2012. Those ornaments were displayed every holiday season during the Haslam administration. This year, first lady Lee decided to revitalize the collection and give new artists an opportunity to showcase their talents. 

“I’m so glad they resurrected it this year,” Goetze said. “Even though we can’t all go see it in person, it’s a perfect thing across the state to do and to share — something that’s positive.

“For me personally, it was really a good project to be immersed in, especially with everything being in lockdown. It allowed me to just kind of dive into it. I spent pretty much the whole month of October [working on it] so it would be ready by Thanksgiving to turn in.”

This is the first time Goetze has been involved in the state’s ornament collection, but having been born into a family of artists and photographers, she has been an artist throughout her life. Her work is found in the permanent collections of The Tennessee State Museum and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, as well as the personal collections of Oprah Winfrey, Tim McGraw, Michael McDonald, Naomi Judd, John Hiatt, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Billy Ray Cyrus, among others.

In addition to the Tennessee Residence website, the ornaments can also be viewed on first lady Lee’s website and her social media channels at Twitter (@MariaLeeTN), Instagram (@firstladymarialee) and Facebook

Pray to Love Series

Goetze’s most personal work is her project titled Pray to Love — The Visitation Nun Series. One of her aunts lived most of her life behind the walls of a closed cloister covenant in Annecy, France, and Goetze would travel there regularly to photograph the nuns who lived that lifestyle.

The Pray to Love Series is currently on exhibit at the Customs House Museum and Cultural Center in Clarksville through Jan. 17. It includes more than 40 paintings, a short film and spiritual captions written by the Contemplative Nuns of the closed-cloister Visitation Order.

“It’s really a perfect outing for people, because a museum is about the safest place,” Goetze said. “This building has about 30,000 square feet. Even at half capacity, it can still hold about 300 people and everybody can be spread out. 

“I’m happy the nuns are there because their whole lives are dedicated to praying for the world, and I thought, OK, this is a really good time for those prayers to be out there.”

Visit Goetze’s website to learn more about her art and to view her many pieces. 

Her son, Nathan Collie, is a photographer and videographer who also has a special interest in the natural world, including an expansive collection of bird photos and videos. To learn more about him and to view his works, visit his website and YouTube channel.

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