Tuesday, July 21, 2015



FRIDAY JULY 31, 6 - 8:30PM

Following the ethos of the Pinehurst Artist Residency in association with Yalo Studio & Gallery, which aims to connect an artist with the local community each summer, HOT BLIND EARTH deconstructs and re-imagines in a fully sensorial experience how the people in and around Yalobusha County, Mississippi, are connecting with and responding to the land that surrounds them.

Although I had never been to Yalobusha County—I hail from Pearl River County, a few hours’ drive south—coming home to Mississippi in some regards is a reconnection to my native lands, a way for me to put my boots back into my home soil and dig into my past. The thought of returning “home” sparked some questions: How have things changed? How have they stayed the same? What power does this land hold over the people who preside upon it?

In order to answer those questions I embedded myself to take a true, unbiased pulse of the community. Using my background in documentary filmmaking and photography as a tool to find the “truth”, I interviewed, photographed, captured sound samples, and dug dirt from the ground upon which a selected five people live.

5 people / 5 senses / 5 elements / 5 fingers on a hand / 5 mediums

Medium1 - Photography
There is a stillness and directness to the type of photography I chose to use from the 1850s known as large format wet plate salt collodion ambrotype. This inconvenient form of photography was chosen for many reasons, one being the coinciding birth of its process with the founding of many of the towns in Yalobusha County. Utilizing nature’s elements like UV light and silver nitrate to physically write the moment and see the unseen, wet plate collodion photography offers a hands on, site specific challenge that creates a non-replicable, ghostly moment in time that blurs the line between the past and present. Photographing on glass offers a vulnerability and tension to the imagery and creates a 3D-like effect when backed in black cloth suggesting physical or temporal depth.

Medium 2 - Sculpture
In the context of this show sculpture is used to break beyond the confines of the two dimensional planes used commonly in pictorial space. The third dimension allows the viewer to relate to their own body. Notions of vessel and home are the primary motifs within this medium. One deals with the nature of protection and home whilst the other transforms the sculpture into a vessel mimicking its relationship to the subject’s livelihood.

Medium 3 - Video
In the back gallery lives a contemplative video interview with the land. This honest investigation of the land as a character consists of all its five elements (wind, water, earth, metal and fire) as they pertain to each other. It is both timeless and timely as it shows North Mississippi as it stands for the duration of my residency while allowing it to speak for itself.

Medium 4 - Audio
Upon entering the gallery a tamber is set through spoken Haikus gleaned from cosmic moments in the subjects’ lives. The Haikus intertwine with statements of wild sound from the land’s natural settings, giving voice to both subject and nature equally.

Medium 5 - Installation
A community is made upon the layering, interaction and variety of its people. It is in this spirit that the direct representation of layered earth collected from the subjects’ land greets the community’s passers-bys through the gallery’s front window. This layered earth also serves to bring both the scent and the physical soil indoors, elevating the earth to a situation in which it rarely finds itself and offering an opportunity to commune with the gallery viewers inside.

From soil to soul, Mississippi is fertile, diverse and proud, at once embracing modernity and growth whilst celebrating the traditions and ways of the past. Not unlike a reverse time capsule, the goal of HOT BLIND EARTH was not to achieve a comprehensive study on how the people interact with the land but rather to help unearth the spirit of their diverse interactions in this specific moment in time. As a child I felt a lot like a William Faulkner quote: “... a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.” Now approaching 40 years of age and returning to my native land, I find myself wondering what if anything has changed. 


A very special thank you to Autumn Tarleton for sound and video collaboration. I could not have done it without you. -- JR