Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Southern Art Thoughts, poorly written

Why do Southern artists continue to employ stereotypical/clichéd images of our region?
-Randy Wray (bottles, moonshine, flag)
-Kara Walker (sort of Southern, images of slavery, the antebellum, physical stereotypes)

I could name a host of others, but they wouldn’t be as prominent or well known and/or I am lazy. You’d think we would want to leave these things behind, or show folks something else about ourselves. But instead these are what we cling to, against perhaps better judgment.

[ASIDE: Really interested in Randy Wray, in his sense of decay, the macabre, and its gross-but-funny potential. Kind of Eudora Welty/Flannery O’Connor (I always get them confused)—that old Southern Gothic feeling rearing its head again.]

I was hanging out with my friend K from grad school on Memorial Day. Though she went to the U of I with me, she is from LR too. And though our work looks very different, we have a lot of the same concerns, and we both attribute these concerns to where we are from: a feeling of longing for something we cannot get at or even name; the need to feel that feeling of longing; an equation of traditional “women’s work” with feminist art practice; a deep feeling of resonance with old objects, people, places, and things. Also, I think we would both agree that, during our time in grad school, various professors and other students attempted to exorcise those feelings/interests out of us, almost by shaming us into making us feel those feelings were inappropriate.

I heard Roy Blount, Jr., interviewed on the radio recently. He said that to be a Southern writer, you have to have left the South but still be writing about Southern things. It follows that art making would be the same, and we cling to these images, concepts, accents, and flavors of our home places, we wave them around like battle flags, so that we never get accused of forgetting who we are, so that we will always be outsiders, so that we can continue to conjure up those old longing feelings, and then get our work done.

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