UAB students curate BMA exhibition on photographs of the South

Students in the Department of Art and Art History’s Photography in the South course curated “Inherited Scars: A Meditation on the Southern Gothic,” from the Birmingham Museum of Art’s collection.

daah exhibit 2015Birney Imes, "Prairie Chapel Baptism," 1980, Collection of the Birmingham Museum of ArtA new show of photographs made in and about the South curated by students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham will open at the Birmingham Museum of Art on Thursday, April 2, for the BMA’s First Thursday event.

Throughout the semester, students from the UAB College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Art and Art History course “Special Topics: Photography in the South” have studied photographs and literature of the Southeast. The curriculum led students from the classroom to the field and from the library to the BMA’s permanent collection, in search of an understanding of the South and the complex ways in which it has been pictorially represented through fine art and documentary photographic practices.  

Taught by DAAH Visual Media and Outreach Coordinator Jared Ragland, the class read foundational texts on regional identity and Southern history. They also found support and inspiration for their research in the literary work of renowned Southern authors such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy and in contemporary films about the South, Ragland says. 

“After reading O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find,’ the class decided to focus their curatorial project on notions of the Southern Gothic,” Ragland said.

daah exhibit 2Students from ARS 373/473 Special Topics: Photography in the South study Birney Imes’ "Prairie Chapel Baptism" in the Birmingham Museum of Art library, March 4, 2015. Photo by Jared RaglandAs part of their studies, BMA Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Wassan Al-Khudhairi invited the class to curate an exhibition of photographs from the BMA’s permanent collection.  

The students mined the BMA permanent collection, facilitated by Al-Khudhairi and BMA librarian Lindsey Reynolds, and selected a broad range of photographs to research; their research was augmented by assigned readings on the Southern Gothic aesthetic. Based on their individual research and collective conversations, a final selection of 11 photographs was made.  

The exhibition, which will be on show through Aug. 9, includes works by well-known Southern artists such as William Christenberry and Sally Mann and images by documentary photographers Bruce Davidson and Melissa Springer. Each student was then tasked with writing text for the exhibition labels; the class collectively titled the exhibition “Inherited Scars: A Meditation on the Southern Gothic.”

Participating students are Jourdan Cunningham of Sylacauga; Catherine Duncan of Birmingham; Tyler Harris of Columbiana; Timothy Harstvedt of Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Devin Lunsford, Stacie Reese and Christianna Traynor of Birmingham; Britney Truitt of Corner; and Katie Walden of Eufaula.