While I do not believe that geography alone defines each of us or who we are as individuals, for me where I am from is acutely important to who I am. From the red clay and black soil to the white fields of cotton and the sepia toned autumns, I associate what makes up my home with what helps define me as a person. For me, who I am is inseparable from the land, history, and culture of the South. The South has been defined by many people in many different ways. According to Pat Conroy “the South” is a place where “there are no ideas… just barbeque.” And William Faulkner famously writes in his novel Absalom, Absalom “Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all.” For many these questions posed by Faulkner’s character are asked in earnest, the visceral answers are lost to them.
Throughout my art the South plays an increasingly important role, culminating in a series of works focused on “Southern Iconography.” Iconography is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the tradition images or symbols associated with a subject.” Southern iconography then includes images of early cash crops, food, clothing, and more. Collaged and inlaid into each work are further examples of iconography such as maps (recalling the importance of land and location to many southerners). The layering process is as important as the final product, representing the layered nature of the South, its history and culture. Good draftsmanship, whether in graphite or paint, is important to me as an artist. For that reason although the images of Southern Iconography are recognizably rendered, there is a sense of impressionistic realism. Each piece should recall in the lines and texture the original drawings which inform its creation. Since I am not aiming at realism in the traditional sense, the play between line, color, and value is fluid, representing what I see as the vibrancy of the South.Mary Ruth Pruitt