Southern Waters: A Visual Perspective

Georgia Speller, Boat on the River, House on the Hill (1987), tempera and pencil on wood, 18.25 × 30 inches.

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Southern Waters: A Visual Perspective

by Bernard L. Herman, WilliamArnett
Southern Cultures, Vol. 20, No. 3: Southern Waters

"Something to be crossed; something that resists crossing. Something that gives life; something that can be poisonous and deadly. Water is the promise on the other side of the River Jordan; it is the deadly highway and misery of the Middle Passage. Water is allegorical, metaphorical, and historical."

“Water always finds a way,” a carpenter once explained, evaluating years of roof damage concealed behind a failed soffit. The same holds true for the presence of water as a recurring motif in the art of the American South. Work by Thornton Dial, Georgia Speller, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Joe Minter, Thornton Dial Jr., Purvis Young, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Joe Light, and Ralph Griffin offers multiple perspectives on water as a powerful metaphor speaking to deep histories of African American experience in the South. In their work, water finds a way in the description and critique of power. The images represented in this portfolio reveal some of that coded metaphorical flow.