What does it mean to be southern? What is our relationship to this place we call the South?* Does a southern aesthetic exist? Over the next six months, we will embark on a series of wanderings in anticipation of our major upcoming show, Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art — the first contemporary art exhibition to question and explore in-depth the complex and contested space of the American South. The show opens at the Nasher Museum on Sept. 1.
Southern Accent will stretch the limitations of the word “southern.” It will push boundaries, make some unexpected revelations. The show will be both serious and fun — it will explore the contemporary southern art world through music, literature, folklore and food.
Our heads filled with questions, we recently drove to Greensboro to visit Elsewhere, a “living museum” set in a three-story former thrift store that dates back to 1939. Elsewhere’s artist residency program brings artists from all disciplines to make work from the 58-year collection of surplus and thrift materials. This fall, Elsewhere will host a conference that celebrates Southern Constellations, the residency program for six artists. Elsewhere is closed until later this spring, but Director George Scheer and House(pitality) Curator Emily Ensminger were kind enough to let us wander on a recent sunny afternoon. Elsewhere’s previous artists in residence include George Jenne, Hong-An Truong and Stacy Lynn Waddell, whose work is part of Southern Accent.
*To be from or of a place — this is a wonderful concept inspired from our friend Rob Amberg, a photographer and artist who lives in Madison County. In his blog, he writes about his relationship with the place he’s called home for 42 years.
Many thanks to Chief Curator Trevor Schoonmaker, who is working on Southern Accent with co-curator Miranda Lash, curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. As we immerse ourselves in all things southern, we are also grateful for ideas and guidance from Reneé M. Cagnina Haynes, exhibitions and publications manager at the Nasher Museum.
We hope our field trips will help us to discover partnerships for Southern Accent with cultural institutions and scholarly organizations already steeped in activities that celebrate the southern experience. If you are interested in a Southern Accent partnership with the Nasher Museum, please contact Wendy Hower, Director of Engagement and Marketing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by J Cadwell, Rachel Goodwin and Wendy Hower.