Most recently, James R. Southard has started to turn the lens around towards himself, altering his regional material gathering technique into a biographical survey of his late father’s experiences in the 1970s. The resulting work has been a digital collage of still and moving images along with life action shots building a body of work that hopes to open a dialogue with his young father and himself.
“These (untitled) images were created from the thousands of slides my father shoot 40 years ago on his return from a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. He was actually at a similar point in his career and life as I am now, so I found this material very relevant to my current studio practice.”
Although we can assume that there is some degree of manipulation in the three images included here, it is not always clear what is the separation between the elder Southard’s original and his son’s contribution. But there is an unmistakable yet subtle incongruity that demands a close inspection, drawing the viewer into a close relationship with the work. Even the magnificent, apparently natural view of a city from between two high hills may not be what we assume.
The other photographs presented here are the latest example of Southard working with small community groups in the hopes of building collaborative digital photo and video projects. Each series has been catered to the issues and concerns of each region though documenting local habits, patterns, rituals, language, history and so on.
“In the summer of 2018, I spent a month in rural northern Vermont working with local dairy farmers. I was interested in documenting the changing state of affairs up there due to milk prices and costs of farming. Farms that have been in the family for generations are now going broke. This landscape looks to fade away soon and many of the farmers were interested in my capturing their lives before it disappears.”
Farms and cattle have been photographed ad infinitum, but Southard’s take is fresh and unique. Perhaps in part because the rural landscape has come to seem so foreign and removed from modern life, yet there is a delicate and irresistible tension in the cow caught in mid-turn, as if he has been arrested in the first stage of a much more dramatic action. Is he about to fall, or about to confront the photographer intruding on her haystack reverie?
In fall 2018, Southard will have a solo show at Vermont Dairy, Working Title, University of New Mexico-Taos, Taos, NM. Since 2014, he has been a Full Time Lecturer for the School of Art & Visual Studies at University of Kentucky, Lexington.
Hometown: Middletown, Kentucky
Education: BFA University of Louisville 2005
MFA Carnegie Mellon University 2011
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved