A review of “Picturing the South: 25 Years” from the High Museum, Atlanta, Georgia.
Photographs by Richard Knox Robinson.
John Lusk Hathaway's photographic project One Foot in Eden takes as its subject the Cherokee National Forest and its visitors, who use this place extensively for day tripping and recreation. Largely a rural, undeveloped place, the waterways that appear time and again in Hathaway's explorations are part of a system of reservoirs built by the Tennessee Valley Authority for flood control and hydroelectricity generation a century ago. Built and unbuilt environments in One Foot in Eden speak to bigger questions about our existence as organic beings in a world increasingly given over to the high-modern ideology that drives mammoth undertakings like the TVA. Hathaway's images are suggestive of a deep-seated human need to connect with the world around us, evoking ideas like E. O. Wilson's biophilia.
Giving fresh attention to Carrie Mae Weems's photography, this photo essay focuses on the artist's critical engagement with architecture through a series of black and white images in the "Louisiana Project." We argue that by contrasting the built environment of Greek Revival houses with industrial and impoverished neighborhood spaces in and around New Orleans, Weems leverages a subtle and searing critique of entrenched systems of racism and racial oppression. The photographs, centered on a mysterious witness figure dressed in period clothing and portrayed by Weems herself, point out long-lasting effects of racial hierarchy expressed in architectural and preservationist practices. Weems's critical subjectivity evokes the colonized body trapped in a mythos that created and still, in the twenty-first century, sustains systemic racism in economic and social modalities, particularly in the southeastern United States. Our article interprets Weems's photography, here, as an indictment of and a protest against continuing patterns of racism.
This photo essay presents the moments and changes that the artist and her family have experienced during the modification of their very first home in the United States. It is based on the artist's exploration of cultural identity and understanding of what home means to a person. Having arrived to the United States as a child and adjusted to a new culture and community, the artist reflects on her immigrant parents finally being on the path to achieving the American Dream, the contrast of living in two different cultures, and discovering her identity and place.
Front Porch essay for the Built/Unbuilt issue.
Over the course of eight years while living in North Carolina, photographer Lisa McCarty visited Lake Eden, former home of the renowned experimental art school Black Mountain College. McCarty writes, "My motivation was never to repeat what the original students made, and I never expected to see exactly what they saw. However, I did want to feel something of what they felt, to be a part of natureculture. When I go to Lake Eden with my camera, I can, and I do. I become sensitive to everything." Between 1933 and 1957, Black Mountain's roster included Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Gwendolyn Lawrence, Jacob Lawrence, Barbara Morgan, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Susan Weil, and Marion Post Wolcott. Many of these artists are now part of the canon of American art and literature, and it is often the knowledge that many of them lived and worked together in the same place that sparks curiosity about the school. But despite the visceral effect of this specific place on a wide range of students, faculty, and even the subsequent admirers of the school that tour Lake Eden today, the importance of environmental stewardship and reverence at the College are often footnotes in its history.
A new installment of our Shutter series on photography to accompany Southern Cultures’s special “Human/ Nature” Issue. Grace Hale discusses the work of artist Dave Woody and his photographs of the James River around Richmond, Virginia.