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How Far Is Yonder?

How Far is Yonder is a series of paintings set in rural and suburban locales in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where I spent most summers and many teen years watching people live out American culture in their own unique manner. This theme is my exploration of our regional culture at the close of the 20th Century. This was a transformative time in human history, because the information age was beginning and new ideas were being introduced to areas that were traditionally culturally homogeneous. The aim is an authentic, historical record of how the people of the "Bible Belt" maintained their unique individuality as they integrated into a larger society made available via antennae, giant, domestic satellite dishes, and, eventually, cable boxes and dial-up modems.


This series begins around the time a fellow from Georgia was elected President, and ends around the time another from Arkansas left office. It was a time of relative peace and absurdity. As a nation, we wanted to be "Peppers" or harmony-focused singing coaches, survived Cola Wars and Cold Wars, dressed like Benetars and Madonnas and lumberjacks, and learned who shot JR, who had "the beef" and that ill-fitting accessories must lead to acquittal. However, the majority culture didn't fully absorb. The folks in "Dixie" continued to be southern, though their daughters dressed as much like Madonna as their mother would allow. The sons still went into the wild with their fathers, though they brought the walkman on hunting trips and the Gameboy on fishing trips. This generation gap-meets-cultural divide created some interesting variations on theme, and these works show some of the incomplete assimilation that made growing up in the south so memorable. The canvases star people I know dressed up as people I knew doing the things we did with the stuff advertised on our color TVs. Each painting started with a memory, and became a photograph before I transferred the idea to canvas in oil.


The specific aim is a reflection on “working class” culture in the south, a mindset translated into English by King James, as our general store was replaced by a Wal-or-K-mart and our nightly rituals were converted from black & white VHF broadcasts to colorful sitcoms and America On-Line. I produced a portrait of this specific time and place through the appearance of the people, their cultural objects and the interaction between those elements. Not all narrative are complex. Some of the ideas are single-figure observations: a woman wearing a walkman as she wrings necks for a family gathering, or a girl talking on a phone whose cord traces the conversation’s path around the room. More complex, multi-figure pieces show the spectacle of a divided house during the Iron Bowl, the joys of riding country road in grandpa’s car or the heritage of combat found in car-hood jousting. Each snapshot of human experience displays the people I know with the objects we all recognize doing what seemed like a good idea at the time.

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