Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South
September 4, 2019
The Power Plant Gallery and the Forum for Scholars and Publics, in collaboration with the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at NC State University, present Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South.
By Forum staff
The exhibition was curated by Mark Sloan and Mark Long of the College of Charleston School of the Arts and debuted in Charleston in the Spring of 2019.
In North Carolina, you can catch the exhibit at the Power Plant Gallery from September 6 through December 21 and at the Gregg Museum from December 5 through December 29. Check out the full schedule of events.
To adapt the exhibit for the two North Carolina sites, the photos have been organized for display by author Randall Kenan, whose acclaimed literary works include fiction, memoir, folklore, and journalism. One of the premier chroniclers of the complexities of African American experience in the U.S. South, Kenan’s capacity to find the big story in the small detail in his writing has translated beautifully to the visual medium of photography. His vision for the exhibition, revolving around the themes of Flux and Home, has enriched our ability to find stories and connections across the many topics, places, and photographic styles on display in Southbound.
Call & Response
Writing Inspired by Southbound
In our frequent collaborations, the Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Power Plant Gallery aim to create conversations in the gaps, to think about the questions and topics that might be inspired by an exhibit, that often exist in the shadows in and around the works of art. Inspired by the poetry Nikky Finney composed for Southbound in Charleston and by the engagement of Randall Kenan as curator here in North Carolina, we have created Call & Response, a forum where writers respond to selected photographs. This continues our tradition of inviting community members — artists, writers, activists, journalists, scholars — to help us engage in a deeper exploration of issues and themes raised by an exhibit.
For our Call & Response series, we reached out to nearly a dozen writers with North Carolina ties. We asked each writer to select a photograph to inspire their writing, after which the photograph was removed from consideration by other writers. We’re grateful for the generous and enthusiastic responses we received, and we’ve been moved by the work the writers have contributed.
Contributors represent a range of genres, including poetry, songwriting, fiction, and nonfiction. The writers hail from all over the state of North Carolina, some having lived here their whole lives and others having arrived more recently. Some are well-known authors while others are on their way to establishing themselves among the South’s literary stars. We’re honored to be able to present their work here:
By Kelly Alexander
On Silver & Ghosts
This is a photograph about ghosts. It is about the ghosts of family suppers past. It depicts the way in which some Southern families value all of the aspects of sitting down to a meal.
By Belle Boggs
When the Deepwater Horizon Exploded
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill unfolded, for me, on television news—like that other terrible Gulf breach, the abandonment of New Orleans’s people following Hurricane Katrina.
By Kofi Boone
Collisions of Race and Place
The recent passing of acclaimed author Toni Morrison compelled me to revisit this stunning image with fresh eyes. Morrison’s writings are imbued with characters and settings that grapple with the human condition.
By El'Ja (LeJuane) Bowens
Funny how life works sometimes
You find yourself arranging all the cards life gives you to your advantage
Just to use them all up
By Ina Cariño
alone / together
every day I try to secret the ruffle / of starling feathers into jars / but fail each time / I think they mimic those / of angels / plush & seedy / like rumpled coverlets flapping / in the wind
By Tyree Daye
& the beloveds emerged one by one
we stand in the light
for days we rattle with an old song
By Jaki Shelton Green
no poetry for these hands. no poetry for these trees. no poetry for these men. no poetry for the time you chase. no poetry for dreams that hold you hostage.
By Malinda Maynor Lowery
The Southern Fabric
In 2019, the Confederate flag triggers me like it never has before. This photo fulfills my wish to destroy that which abuses us on a daily basis, so much abuse and so quotidian as to seem normal, part of the southern fabric.
By Michael Ramos
We Are More Than Our Past
This is the real south, isn’t it? All rust and decay, a fenced-in collection of humid days and sun-baked junk overgrown and unkempt, its glory days long past. You can almost hear the hum of the heat beetle, the growl of a guard dog defending its precious Dixie, oblivious to its disrepair keeping everyone out, even those who don’t want in.
By Kamara Thomas
Black rubber tire leviathan
Snake inking under tar-bend
Ode to trees of swamp
Soaking, stinking of Styx and Acheron
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