Today finishes our celebration of SlowExposures…
SouthLight Salon is composed of Jerry Atnip, Nick Dantona, Robert McCurley, Jerry Park, Mark Mosrie, Rick Smith and Chuck Arlund.
As part of the jurying experience for SlowExposures this year, both Aline and I were invited to give talks; mine was called “In Words and Pictures” and was about looking at the “relationship between text and images”—as a means for giving context and meaning to photographic sequences.” One of the joys of being at SlowExposures is seeing the exhibits and pop-up shows that become part of the landscape of Pike County, if only for two weeks. Two of the pop-up shows this year explored, much to my surprise and delight, the interplay between text and photographs in very different and unusual ways. The Posse (Anne Berry, Ann George, Bryce Lankard, S. Gayle Stevens, and Lori Vrba) put together a show called Time, Place, and Eternity: Flannery O’Connor and the Craft of Photography, which combined photography and installation with quotes from O’Connor’s writings that were handwritten in blank books and then nailed to barn walls with handmade iron nails.
The other show, Off the Page, was comprised of images by another posse, the Southlight Salon of Nashville—Jerry Atnip, Nick Dantona, Robert McCurley, Jerry Park, Mark Mosrie, Rick Smith, and Chuck Arlund. Each photographer took a page from William Gay’s novel Southern Provinces of Night and made images inspired by the passages on their respective pages. Forty-two images (and the words that inspired the photographs) were hung on the walls of a U-Haul truck. Taken together, the show created a compelling cinema of masculine energies. I studied each photo, read each text, and put the pictures together in a story that I told myself, having walked up the ramp and into the show without first reading the explanatory text. The drive to create a narrative from the quietest invitation is something so basic: The pictures, with their elliptical, mysterious captions, actively inspired me to think about what was being said and shown. Who were these characters, where did they live, what happened to them? The photographers so successfully created a collaborative novel-movie that I have kept thinking about the show and pondering ideas of how we look at and interpret perspectives that are male or southern or both.
Off the Page
The idea for this project came from Salon member Jerry Atnip, who teaches a Fine Art Photography class at an art school in Nashville. In an effort to stimulate his students, he photocopied pages from a novel and gave each student one page. Their assignment: create an image based on or inspired by a sentence, phrase or word on their page. The resulting work, which Jerry shared with the Salon, was wonderful and showed the students’ creativity, originality and fearlessness. Upon seeing these images, the Salon members decided to make this one of their monthly assignments to see if they could create work with the same freshness as Jerry’s students. A book was chosen, William Gay’s distinctly Southern Provinces of Night, and seven pages were distributed, one to each member. The resulting work was something of a mixed bag, with some members electing to re-shoot their images and others quite happy with what they shot. The one thing that everyone agreed on, however, was how much fun the assignment had been. With that, it was unanimously decided to make this a long-term project, with each member getting a total of six different pages. The project stretched to over a year as members struggled with how to interpret their pages, some of which seemed to provide little or no inspiration. This gallery represents the results of the Salon’s efforts: forty-two images, each born from a single, randomly selected page from Provinces of Night.– Exhibition curated by Rick Guthrie
“…moving so fast the speedometer must have been pegged, a blur of a face he recognized…” ©Chuck Arlund
“Early lowered the trunklid.” ©Chuck Arlund
“Mr. Woodall told me to come out and look at the paint on the house, he said. Mr. Woodall is dead.” ©Chuck Arlund
“He looked for something of the boy Brady had been twenty years ago in the pale freckled face but if any of the boy remained he could not find it.” ©Jerry Atnip
“The engine labored and wheezed and even on level ground seemed to be ascending some almost insurmountable grade, on hills it came to a near standstill.” ©Jerry Atnip
“Forty years ago he had set out a row of cedars that extended for over a quarter of a mile, that ran from the road he’d just left and crossed the wide field to the fencerow that had enclosed a garden. He thought for an amused moment that if he was ever remembered for anything it would likely be the cedar row.” ©Jerry Atnip
“He guessed he should have come in the daytime but he had felt instinctively that this was a thing best done at night” ©Jerry Park
“Who’s out there? he called. No one answered him and even as he watched the figure vanished, not abruptly but like something sinking slowly backward into deep blue water, like a light dimming down until finally there is nothing there at all.” ©Jerry Park
“He was stopped from killing the peddler not by any compunction to violence or even by the fear of getting caught in so public a place under the eyes of scores of witnesses, but by the sheer and abrupt realization that it would be the end of something. It was less a jumping off place than a denouement. He had not thought beyond it. He did not know what came next. He was at the point on an ancient map beyond which the old cartographers had drawn dragons.” ©Jerry Park
“…a blur of cypress past the cottonfield.” ©Mark Mosrie
“Forty years ago he had set out a row of cedars that extended for over a quarter of a mile. He thought for an amused moment that if he was ever remembered for anything it would likely be the cedar row.” ©Mark Mosrie
“…you’re goin straight to hell. When I look at you… it’s like you’re already on your way. Coming into the city limits of hell. Your hair’s startin to singe and little blue flames are flickerin all over you. Smoke boilin out of your ears. Your blood’ll boil and your brain snap and pop like grease in a hot pan. Your bones’ll burn white hot and just burn through your flesh.” ©Mark Mosrie
“He had come to believe that before this was over he was going to have to shoot somebody. Brady, Coble, who knew. Just start with the dogs and work up.” ©Nick Dantona
“The face itself dark and corrugated as an old walnut kicked out of the leaves in the woods. Her eyes where near lashless and murky, like water that had once been clear and clean clotting up with seaweed and slime.” ©Nick Dantona
“In the room across the hall a naked girl lay atop the tousled covers of a bed fashioned from gleaming tubular brass. He turned away in awkward haste and made to close the door but something drew his eyes back to her. She was very still. She lay profoundly still and seemed not to feel the cold though there was no heat in the room…” “..Her eyes were open. They were blue. A vase had been overturned on an old sewing machine cabinet set beside the bed for a night table and five roses lay on the bed and a single longstem rose lay across the rounded marble of her abdomen…” “..She lay staring at the ceiling and as motionless as if she was holding her breathe.” ©Nick Dantona
“Sometime in the night he woke to bedlam. He could hear a horse screaming, dogs barking madly. He jumped out of bed and ran into the moonlit yard. The stallion was screaming and thrashing about inside the barn… the horse looked like a unicorn struggling wildly to free itself from a snare and he saw with horror that a sharp section of rotten lumber had embedded itself in one of the horse’s eyes like a horn… he finally noticed that one of the stallion’s front legs was broken and he gave up and went to the house for his gun.” ©Rick Smith
“Not a sapling, not a twig or flower seemed to have survived. Everything past this point was ashes.” ©Rick Smith
“She wiped his bloody face with the hem of her dress. He glimpsed the smooth brown expanse of her legs as she raised it but she saw the cast of his eyes and turned his face gently away …” ©Rick Smith
“He just came to me in a dream…” ©Robert McCurley
“Things run along smooth when I don’t think of him at all. Then I get started on him and it’s like somebody jabbed a stick down inside my head and stirred everything up. My mind’s like muddy water.” ©Robert McCurley
“She set the tone arm carefully onto the spinning record, waiting… ‘The last time I saw my woman, good people, she had a wine glass in her hand. She was drinking down her troubles with a no-good sorry man.'” ©Robert McCurley
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