CONFRONTING CONTEMPORARY SOCIAL ISSUES THROUGH A HISTORIC PROCESS
by jared ragland

We are excited to share our first long-term landscape project, Where You Come From is Gone, a series of large scale photographs focused on sites of Native American habitation and removal in Alabama.

Works from the project are currently featured in three simultaneous exhibitions, including the Huntsville Museum of Art’s Red Clay Survey: 2017 Exhibition of Contemporary Southern Art through Oct. 1, and a solo exhibition at Lowe Mill's North Floor Gallery through Aug. 25. An opening reception is scheduled for Lowe Mill's North Floor Gallery on Friday, July 7, 6-8pm, 2211 Seminole Dr SW in Huntsville.

See the press release below.

Image: Garrett Cemetery, final resting place of Pathkiller, the last King and full-blooded hereditary chief of the Cherokee, 2017; Archival pigment print from wet-plate collodion tintype; 40x50 inches; Edition of 3

Alabama Photographers Confront Contemporary Social Issues Through Historic Process

Birmingham, Ala. – Birmingham-based fine art photographers Jared Ragland and Cary Norton are pleased to announce their inaugural collaborative project GUSDUGGER with Where You Come From is Gone, a series of large scale photographs focused on sites of Native American habitation and removal in Alabama.

Where You Come From is Gone explores the importance of place, the passage of time, and the political dimensions of remembrance through the historical wet-plate collodion photographic process. Created on the eve of Alabama’s bicentennial, the project seeks to make known a history that has largely been eliminated and make visible the erasure that occurred in the American South between Hernando DeSoto’s enslavement of native peoples in the 16th century and Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act 300 years later.

Where You Come From is Gone works a type of subtle activism by focusing on the importance of process as well as the material artifact of the photograph itself,” writes art historian Catherine Wilkins, Ph.D., University of South Florida. “At this current moment in American life, the act of remembering is political and can have power – particularly when a polarizing president places a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office and whose policies endanger the environment, dispute Native American land rights, and further disenfranchise marginalized citizens.”

Using a 100-year-old field camera and a custom portable darkroom tailored to Ragland’s 4x4 truck, the two photographers journeyed more than 1,500 miles across 20 Alabama counties to locate, visit, and photograph indigenous sites. Yet the landscapes hold no obvious vestiges of the Native American cultures that once inhabited the site; what one might expect to see, preserve, or remember is already gone. Instead, Ragland and Norton deliberately document absence and seek to render the often-invisible layers of the landscape.

The artists’ deliberate use of the demanding, antiquated wet-plate process strategically highlights the materiality and physicality of both process and photograph, simultaneously uncovering a forgotten history and creating an archival object commemorating the sites photographed. The tintypes were digitally enlarged to 40x50 inch prints to impress upon viewers the magnitude of the landscape and all that transpired there.

“The honest remembrance, reasoned confrontation with our history, and resistance toward (willful or accidental) cultural amnesia represented by Where You Come From is Gone provides a defense against the sort of ignorance that threatens democracy, enables totalitarianism, and cautions us to be vigilant in guarding against altering, erasing, or ‘forgetting’ our past,” said Dr. Wilkins. 

Where You Come From is Gone is currently featured in three simultaneous exhibitions, including the Huntsville Museum of Art’s Red Clay Survey: 2017 Exhibition of Contemporary Southern Art and a solo exhibition at Lowe Mill's North Floor Gallery.

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