Arkansas Farm


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Arkansas Farm is an art series created over several decades of rural scenes from what was my grandparents’ farm on the edge of the Mississippi Delta in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas.

My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are originally from the surrounding area of Northeast Arkansas and that is where I visited my family as I was growing up. My maternal grandparents grew rice, soybeans, and wheat on their farm on the outskirts of Walnut Ridge. It was two hours away from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains on Greers Ferry Lake where my parents and I lived. Those two very contrasting regions, the flat farmland of the Delta and the forested hills of the Ozarks, have always deeply shaped my Arkansas artwork.

My aunt painted as a hobby when I was younger. She painted farm scenes on small canvases and objects like iron plow points from the farm. I can very clearly remember sitting beside her at my grandmother’s dining room table and painting my first oil painting. It was of my grandfather’s barn, and I was five-years-old at the time. While I had no idea then, that first painting would mark the beginning of the multi-decade series of artwork that you see here. I can remember being inside the old barn on at least one occasion. I think there was more dust holding it together than wood at that time. It didn’t last much longer.

To the right of the barn was a smaller building which we usually called “the shed”, short for tractor shed. Later in life and in my artwork I referred to as the barn since it was the only such structure remaining. The section of the floor between the front and rear doors was concrete beneath a thick layer of dirt, and the rest of the floor was dirt as hard as concrete. The smell was a blend of dirt, grease, and buckets of old tractor motor oil. The wind blowing across the flat plains would rattle the tin roof and whistle through the walls like a chorus of ghosts until a strong gust would shake the whole structure scaring the birds inside up on the center beam off their perch and raising up small clouds of dust on the floor.

To the right of the shed was the dilapidated remains of a two-room shotgun-style house (not currently pictured here but photos will be coming in a future update). I was in the old house several times as a kid. The shed never bothered me, but the house was creepy. The rules were (1) look out for snakes and (2) try not to fall through the floor because you will probably land on a snake. My mother and aunt grew up here, and my mother grew up picking cotton in the roasting Southern heat. A few years ago my wife and I rented an apartment in Paris in a building older than the United States. I think about how different my family’s life was back then versus elsewhere in the world. My great grandfather had been born in Paris.

Soon I hope to publish Arkansas Farm as a book and possibly exhibit the series. Most of the photography currently shown was shot on film in my mid-twenties. Over time I will be adding digital photography work, and I’m continuing to scan negatives and slides and will be adding more film work going back to my childhood. All of the work in this series is of scenes from the farm or the immediate vicinity. Additional rural and agricultural work that is not part of this series will be collected in Arkansas & the American South. Much more will be added there soon as well. Please signup for my newsletter for updates.