The South. It’s just not like anywhere else. It’s not even like itself. The heat is glorious but overbearing. The food is delicious and deadly. Its people can be painfully lovely, or they can be painfully vicious. If you know the South well, you love it, and you hate it, but you can’t shake it. You can leave it, but it doesn’t leave you. It’s a way of life and an odd way of living. Some might even say a peculiar way of living.
Our witchcraft starts with a pleasant accent and a seersucker suit, like milk and sugar. We find pleasure in simple things, like rocking on the porch with a glass of sweet tea. Or a martini. Call it lazy if you like, but we know we are a complex people. We can be simultaneously hurtful towards and protective of each other. Yet, we are famously known for the sacred place we hold for grace and beauty and our relentless commitment to manners. You may be well-liked at church, but the talk behind your back will be ruthless if you wear white shoes after Labor Day. We may stab you in the heart, but at least we are clever and polite about it. We aren’t animals, after all.
The duality of the South can be hard to make peace with. Tradition is our way of life, so we place importance on rituals long after we have forgotten what they stand for. When our dearest traditions are being threatened, we may be unapologetic about how disastrous we’ve become, using the worst of excuses for bad behavior.
To the rest of the world, the South may make no sense, and that’s fine with us; we can’t raise everybody. To some, we may seem obscured behind some sort of penumbra, but it is that obscurity from the rest of the world that preserves who we are, and it is our own obscurities- the things about us that are so hard to understand- that make us such magical, absurd creatures. Southerners frequently find themselves in predicaments that are downright ridiculous, all in our efforts to preserve our own sense of place, of what it means to be at home in the South.
My work examines the South and its people in all their peculiar wonder. Shining a light on the parts that make us smile, and a flashlight into the dark parts that don’t. The paintings reflect the “Sunday afternoon” South: colorfully painted, depicting heartwarming scenes, with a twist that is all too familiar, even odd or absurd, but light-hearted and funny, even if you’re not exactly sure why. That’s the side of the South that we want you to see. Other works examine a deeper, more “raw” version of the South, the side we don’t show to just anybody. These works, focusing on the South with its flaws exposed, represent a recognition of its blisters and scars. Through the use of stark black on white, these rich, realistic charcoal drawings strip away any distractions from the possibly distasteful theme.
This emotional interpretation highlights both aspects in a way that will create a deeper understanding of “us” for insiders and outsiders, helping to embrace our complex absurdity, our Southern Peculiar.