Discovering William Christenberry.
One of my first days in Washington, having just arrived from Tennessee, I wandered into the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I found myself surrounded by Kodak Brownie photographs of barns, country stores, Baptist churches, metal signs, family graveyards—striking reminders of the Southern landscape I’d left behind.
Starting in the 1970s, the artist William Christenberry had photographed the same places in rural Alabama year after year. In one picture, a shack with false brick siding commanded the landscape; two decades later, kudzu had swallowed it whole. Their continuity gave these images a neurotic but documentary quality. There was loss in them. There was deep and complicated love. Read More