HOUSE & HOME • Spirits of the South

Paperback /  100 pages
University of Washington Press / 1994


“With these images and objects, these intiates offer a visible incarnation of the ineffable confluence of life lived through and in communication with its surroundings. Speaking through shacks as if “house” were a character in an alphabet, they write in an “unknown tongue” and participate in a form of visual divination. Another Southern artist, the self-taught J.B. Murray, suggests that such works are not easily understood by all. When he asks about the legibility of a piece he has painted in an unkown language he asks, “Can you read this? Only the pure of heart can read this writing.”

In House and Home, it is the spiritual language of the built environment, the lives lived, and the meanings embodied which comprise the message only to be seen by the pure of heart, only to be understood by those with faith in the beauty of the handmade, the ancestry linked, the dutifully and respectfully acknowledged and celebrated. There is a world in these shacks. And it is a world the artists here know to study, to engage, and to recreate in their own homes and in their art. They are students more than artists, students of the life force moving through these buildings. They become creators in their own right when they piece together, using all they have studied and known and felt, their own shacks: invoking the spirits, invoking the past, and documenting a Way so central to their lives. 

It is possible to believe that this Way is vanishing as a whole generation of builders and dwellers die, and their children move on to birth their own aesthetic practices. According to this logic, the patterns which make these built environments sing are displaced as the mass-manufactured environments of the pre-fab house and the trailer-home gain popularity and prevalence. Usually this is a claim made by non-initiates who do not yet understand the strength and tenacity of Southern culture. As Thompson writes, “the spirit does not date, neither does it fear the garish world of commerce and technology.” Passed on from generation to generation, the practice of making homeplace doesn’t die here, it simply reinvents itself and waits for another generation to recognize and cherish it.” -Rebecca Walker

Featuring the work of Max Belcher, Beverly Buchanan and William Christenberry. Curated by Jock Reynolds. 

︎ Condition note: Acceptable - Good / bent corners / foxing / Some tanning and discoloration to edges / Interior pages are free of marks or underlinings / binding is sturdy
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