Greenville County Museum of Art

Greenville, SC



Jack Spencer Photographs of Rural South


A collection of landscapes and faces that expose the raw beauty of the rural South, captured on film by photographer Jack Spencer, will be on display February 16 through April 23, 2000 at the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina.

Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Spencer has been a painter and musician, as well as a self-taught photographer. His photographs have been compared to the writings of William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Flannery O'Connor, all sharing the ability to etch the mood and character of Southern life into their works.

Jack Spencer: Photographs includes ten photographs published in Spencer's first book, Native Soil, providing a concise survey of the field and darkroom techniques with which the artist has captured the haunting and evocative spirit of locations and people in the Mississippi River Delta. The images are blended in sepia and maniupulated in the darkroom to enhance and focus their subjects.

"Photographically I approach my work in an expressionistic way," Spencer writes in Mississippi Visual Arts Interactive. "All photographs in Mississippi and elsewhere are metaphors that represent something primal within myself as the artist, and also, hopefully in the viewer as well."

"I am not documentary in any traditional sense," Spencer continues. "In fact, I steer away from that form. I am, however documenting what I perceive as 'Mississippi' in my own subjective way,history and viewpoint."

An understanding of that subjectivity is drawn immediately from photos such as Gussie's Magnolia (1997), a portrait of an elderly Black woman, holding a graceful magnolia flower. Its deeply personal but respectful tone echoes in other studies of elderly subjects, such as Hand on Door Screen (1998).

Landscapes such as Blackjack Road (1998) employ extraordinary textural values along with line and light to capture not a location so much as an illumination of visual, physical, and spiritual qualities in a Southern place.

"Everything (at least to my untutored eye) seems as planned--as made-as a novel or a short story," comments Southern novelist Ellen Douglas in the foreword to Native Soil. "He, after all, is the one who chooses the images, who goes into the dark room and manipulates light and shadow, who crops and frames. These photographs seem to me to be a conscious wresting of images out of the world-as-it-is--contingency--and into the category of 'the great refusal', the symbolic form that reveals, reforms, intensifies, illuminates the world as it is. Therein lies the story."

Native Soil will be available in The Museum Shop during the exhibition of Jack Spencer: Photographs

See photos by the artist at G. Gibson Gallery's website and at Edelman Gallery's website.

Read more about the Greenville County Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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rev. 12/27/10

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