Friday, September 15, 2017

Abandoned Rural America: The Landscape Has Never Been So Quiet

Abandoned, the rural landscape has never been so quiet.

Abandoned Rural America, a gallery exhibit and outreach program, opens with a reception at 2:00 p.m. Saturday, September 16, in the Museum Gallery at Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village in Tifton.

Lulu, Queenie, and Belle by Artist Elizabeth Collins Hanes

A swift rhythm is played out by my hands, a cadence known only to those who have strung tobacco. To many, the meter and rhythm of stringing is the only poetry they've ever known.

The exhibit by Georgia artists from across the state includes all manner of art. Paintings, photography, drawings, pottery, 3-D objects will fill the museum with the failing heartbeat of the past. Viewed together, the works of art present compelling and silent imagery of an abandoned way of life, arousing memory, enchantment, desolation, regret, yearning, loss, neglect, and the passage of time. 

Ask me about my childhood, and I will tell you to walk to the edge of the woods, a choir of crickets chirping from every direction, a hot humid breeze brushing through your hair, your feet bare and callused. Stand there, unmoving, and watch the dance of ten thousand fireflies blinking on and off in the darkness. Inhale the scent of cured tobacco, freshly plowed southern soil, burning leaves, and honeysuckle. Swallow the taste of blackberries, picked straight from the bushes, and lick your teeth, the after-taste still sweet in your mouth.

Artists will participate in a gallery talk, give tours, and answer questions about their work.
"Deep in the Valley"
Egg tempera by Artist Pete Muzyka
"They've Just Up and Left" by Artist Karen Strelecki

This land pulses with life. It breathes in me; it breathes around me; it breathes in spite of me.
When I walk on this land, I am walking on the heartbeat of the past
and the future. And that’s only one of the reasons I am a farmer.

Several local artists will present their work on rural Wiregrass Georgia as guests of Abandoned Rural America.

I’ve loved this land more than a man can love anything outside his family.

Quilt: "A Woman's Hands" by Artist Kathy Williams

“Swamp Daisies,” one of the Abandoned Rural America musical partners, will be featured in the opening reception.

The scent of honeysuckle takes me back in time and lays me down near a barn. I pick
a blossom, touch the trumpet to my nose, and inhale. With sticky filthy fingers, I pinch
 the base of its delicate well then lick the drop of nectar. The sweet liquid makes me thirst
 for more, and I reach for another and another, the same hands that reach
for tobacco as I string.

Written word, video, and music will also be included in the unique display.

My grandmother came from Arabi, Georgia, from baking biscuits, gathering eggs, 
hand stitched quilts made with scraps, and from vegetable canning in mason jars.
My mother came from Eldorado, from milking the cows, from hoeing the garden,
sweeping a dirt yard. She came from country houses, shelling peas, 
and making pear preserves.
My father came from Berrien County, from plowed fields, from dirt
roads, harvest seasons, cotton fields, and tobacco barns.

Although the exhibit runs through January 17, 2018, the opening reception at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 16, will be a special treat, an unveiling you won’t want to miss.

While digging for these words, ploughed
under the ground for generations, dirt
spilled from me and I went
to a place I had never known
and listened to haunting voices
I had never heard
and unearthed life
I never knew existed,
buried beneath
the sacred Southern soil.

Curator and GMA Assistant Director Polly Huff says, “The exhibition is dedicated to the American small family farmer, to their dedication to the land, and to their craft that has fed countless people.” 

I know this place like I know the calluses on my hands. 
~~ Dogwood Blues, by Brenda Sutton Rose

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