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Friday May 26, 2017
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William Christenberry

 

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Though this woman made the egg carton flowers in the image hers, those aren't the only Styrofoam handicrafts Christenberry documents. Another image captures kitsch at its most heartbreaking and sincere: an egg-carton cross decorated with pink plastic flowers marks the head of a gravestone.

With quiet attention to common details, Christenberry's work captures broken, rustic beauty. But to me, a native Arkansan, it also smacks of southern clichés. Collectively, these images create a portrait of the deep South that walks a fine line between old-fashioned and backwards - between woodsy and backwoodsy. They document certain truths about the South: there are kudzu vines, crumbling old buildings, Styro-crafts, and illiterate people. I just hope these aren't the only southern truths circulating up in these parts.

The sole image acknowledging racism - a southern cliché whose exposure remains imperative - hangs in a (tellingly) marginal space next to some folding chairs and a dark hallway. It depicts a squat building called "The Underground Railroad." With dead leaves and a half-fallen marquee in the foreground, it isn't the most beautiful tableau in the exhibit, but it might be the most poignant.

The exhibition continues through Sunday, June 1.

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