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The Picture Show
Fri May 11, 2012
The Visual South, Part V: Personal Portraits
Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:47 am
The current issue of Oxford American magazine, known as "the Southern magazine of good writing," is nicknamed the "Visual South Issue." In its 100 under 100 list, the magazine identifies "the most talented and thrilling up-and-coming artists in the South." This is the final installment of our weeklong look at five of those photographers.
Susan Worsham describes her work better than I could, so in her words:
I photograph the landscape of my childhood, but through the lens of my adult self.
One of my muses, Margaret Daniel, is my oldest neighbor on Bostwick Lane, and one of the last threads remaining from my childhood, since all of my family has passed. ...
I can remember one particular time when I visited Margaret. I looked out of her large picture window and saw what looked like a nest or hammock of small red berries draped between the winter trees. I asked Margaret what it was. She answered, "Why, that's bittersweet. Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane."
Maybe that is what it means to me to be a Southern artist. Putting sugar in my tea to make it go down easier. Maybe not hiding the real taste, but being able to taste both the bitter and the sweet.
In the South it seems like there is a name, a history and a story for everything, just like in Margaret's house. She calls the flowers in her yard "Frannies" and "Mrs. Macs." ...
"Look at Esther growing in your old backyard."
My mother's name was Esther. She is referring to a camellia bush that my dad, who died when I was in the third grade, planted for my mom long ago.
In Margaret's kitchen, her homemade bread or ... chocolate chip cookies can be found baking, set to the same timer that she used to use ... in her old biology lab. The ticking sound is a reminder to me to appreciate every moment I have with them.
When I ask Margaret what it means to be Southern, she says: "It is just liking to keep what was."