Land Such As That

 

Eastern North Carolina Farmland, 2015

Traveling in eastern North Carolina with Farm Aid, it's easy enough to notice the soil down here near Tarboro is unlike ours in the mountain west of the state. On North Carolina's coastal plain, the dirt is rich and deep and loamy, teeming with nutrients, both present-day and millennia old. It's not unusual to find bits of seashells or even maritime fossils from a time when the ocean covered the whole region. Fields are big and flat enough to lay a level to them. One farmer we visited asked me, “Do you have many rocks up your way?”

“Rocks,” I answered. “That’s what we grow best in the mountains. Rocks. You can plow a field in an hour or two and then spend half a day hauling rocks to the edge of it. Disc it the next day, get a little rain on it, and you’ve got a whole new crop, without adding any fertilizer.”

“I wouldn’t know what to do with land such as that,” he said.

 

Blurred Memory

 

Highway 111, eastern North Carolina, 2015.

When I was a young boy my family would take trips to the beach in Florida. My father insisted we leave early in the morning to beat the DC traffic and the afternoon heat of southern summers without air-conditioning. We would drive on Highways 1 and 301 through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

I liked riding shotgun and my memory is of my face pressed against the side window, making imaginary pictures of the blurred, yet coherent landscape with a simple blink of my eye; images fixed in a particular spot while seamlessly moving through it.

Traveling through eastern North Carolina this past week, on Highway 111 between Tarboro and Oak City, documenting the lives of farmer advocates for Farm Aid, my mind drifted back to those drives almost sixty years ago. What’s changed since then? And what hasn’t? What remains familiar? And what is now foreign? The sky, the smell, and the open and expansive topography are as if they’ve stood still in time, the same as I remember. But those constants are but a background to a new and changed landscape with fewer people, boarded up towns, and huge farms, one unlike my memory of a faded past.

 

SS #4

 

SS #4, PawPaw.

There were many times in my career, applying for grants or fellowships, when I would make color transparencies of my black & white prints.  The slides offered the opportunity to blow the images up to giant size on the wall or screen and also to throw the projected image in and out of focus to see what the abstraction might resemble. I loved watching the picture move from sharp to blur and back sharp again, the scene changing from two-dimensional reality to streaks of light and dark.

These screen shots I've been posting the last few weeks are similar to the others in their desire to leave the realm of the known.

 

Wanda Faye

 

Wanda Faye Cooper Stilwell

Leslie's 82 year old mother Faye moved in with last this past July. She had lived by herself for the last fourteen years since her husband had died, but could clearly not continue to do so. She has dementia and Leslie is her only child. She is clearly not ready for institutional care so our choices were limited. Her daily presence in our home and in our lives has certainly changed our lives, but I take great solace in knowing that inspiration often comes from the most unexpected of sources. 

 

ShatterZone at Pink Dog Creative Gallery

Rob will be at Pink Dog Creative, 348 Depot Street from noon until 6 pm on Friday, December 5. Nothing formal or planned, only an interest in having people stop by to talk about pictures and solve the world's problems.. Hope you can stop by and visit.

Erich and Danni Playing at GoodStuff, Marshall, 2012.

ShatterZone - Up and Running

ShatterZone opened at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville's River Arts District this past Friday, November 7. The reception was great fun with a mix of old friends and new acquaintances. It was a group effort. In addition to Randy and Hedi, Ralph, and Jamie who have been mentioned in previous posts, a special thank you goes out to Kelsey, Kate and Shu for their work at the opening, Lynn, Karen, Mark and Julie, artists at Pink Dog for their  timely assistance. And mostly I want to thank all of you who came out to see the work. The exhibit will be hanging until January 11, 2015, plenty of time to get down there and take a look.

 

Cheoah Webb Butchering Hogs, Dry Pond, Madison County, NC 2009.

 

I've attached a couple of articles about the show:

Asheville Citizen Times

Mountain Xpress

 

 

ShatterZone

 

I-26 at Buckner Gap, Madison County, NC 2008.

ShatterZone will open on Friday, November 7, at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville's River Arts District. The address is 348 Depot Street and the reception runs from 5-8 pm on the 7th. This weekend is also Gallery Stroll Weekend throughout the River Arts District and most artists and studios will be open to the public. I will be at Pink Dog Creative on both Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th, after 10:30 on both days, if you'd like to stop by. I hope you will.

The project, ShatterZone, has been in my head for a while now, but remains a work-in-progress. This exhibit has offered me the opportunity to bring together a large grouping of images that speaks to this theme. It's been valuable in moving the whole project forward. Thanks go out to Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer, the owners and operators of Pink Dog Creative. And my friend, Ralph Burns, who stepped in at a moment's notice to handle the multiple things that go into putting on even a small show. Additionally, for me personally, Ralph's long understanding of my work, his critical comments and thoughts, and enthusiastic support made the process easy and comfortable. Lastly, I cannot say enough about Jamie Paul, my associate for over four years who had a hand in every part of this project. It simply wouldn't have come together without him. 

 
 

Driving Lessons with Kate, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2009.

 

Pink Dog Creative

I will be having an exhibit of photographs at the Pink Dog Creative Gallery at 348 Depot Street in Asheville's River Arts District. The exhibit will run from November 7, 2014 to January 11, 2015 with an opening reception on November 7 from 5-8 pm.

This is my first one-person exhibit in Asheville since my Sodom Laurel Album exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum in 2002 and I'm excited about showing new work from a new project. I want to thank Randy Shull and Hedy Fischer from Pink Dog Creative for this opportunity in their wonderful space. I also want to thank Ralph Burns, my long-time friend and mentor, for his work pulling this exhibit together. Finally, my assistant, Jamie Paul, has been his usual indispensable self who often leaves me wondering what I ever did before he came into my life.

I have included a short essay on the project. Galleries always want an artists statement, or introduction, or something explaining the work. Over the years I've responded to these requests in various and sundry ways. Today's version comes after the image.

Shu and Griffin Shaving Cheyenne, PawPaw, Madison County, NC 2012

These photographs are part of a work-in-progress titled ShatterZone, which is meant to accompany my two previous projects from Madison County – Sodom Laurel Album and The New Road.

Shatter zone is an 18th century geologic term that refers to an area of fissured or fractured rock. The phrase took on new meaning after World War II when political theorists began using it to denote borderlands. In this modern definition shatter zones become places of refuge from, and resistance to, capitalist economies, state rule, and social upheaval. Appalachia, and Madison County in particular, fit that definition.

Throughout its history, Madison has provided a haven for Native Americans, early Anglo settlers, Civil War resisters, Vietnam veterans, and refugees from the country’s cultural wars. The county’s present population includes long-term local families, young professionals, artists, retirees and back-to-the-landers. While the county is wired into the 21st century, many individuals understand it as a place where one can continue to resist modernity and be as “off the grid” as you want to be.

Madison County is not for everyone. It requires new skills, new tools, and new ways of interacting within your surroundings. It takes a rethinking of community and how one relates to it. And while that singular reason for being here – that idea of refuge – is almost universally felt throughout the county, there are also clear points of conflict. Zoning, land use, politics, religion, culture, language and many other beliefs and opinions offer potential for fracturing within the community, pitting newcomers against locals.

These photographs are not representative of the entirety of Madison County’s population or my work from the region. Most of the images are recent, while some are quite old, among my earliest from the county. These early images didn’t fit with other projects, but they are integral to this one, offering glimpses of a place that many continue to think of as unmapped, one of refuge and resistance.  

These are the dynamics of ShatterZone.