‘Where You Come From is Gone’ to document Native American sites in the Wiregrass
DOTHAN, Alabama – April 4, 2019 – The Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) is pleased to announce that Birmingham, Alabama-based photographers Cary Norton and Jared Ragland, collectively known as GUSDUGGER, will be in residence at WMA April 18-20. The residency, a regional extension of Norton and Ragland’s project Where You Come From is Gone, will document sacred Native American sites in the Wiregrass region using the 19th-century, wet-plate collodion tintype process with vintage, large-format cameras, hand-crafted chemistry and a mobile darkroom. The residency has been organized as part of WMA’s three-year-long schedule of exhibitions and programs in celebration of Alabama’s bicentennial, officially observed in 2019 with the theme “Sharing Our Stories.”
“WMA is working this year to showcase the stories that make the Wiregrass special, and I am thrilled to offer a residency to such unique artists and storytellers. Their use of traditional photography methods to capture the current conditions of historic sites was a compelling reason to partner with them for Alabama’s bicentennial. This is also an opportunity for the Wiregrass to be represented in a statewide project that highlights the lost stories of our region,” said Dana-Marie Lemmer, director and curator of the Wiregrass Museum of Art.
Created in 2016, Where You Come From is Gone explores the importance of place, the passage of time, and the political dimensions of remembrance through the wet-plate collodion photographic process. Norton and Ragland’s images seek to make known a history that has largely been eliminated and to make visible the erasure that occurred in the American South between Hernando DeSoto’s first exploration of native peoples in the 16th century and Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act 300 years later.
Using a 100-year-old field camera and a custom, portable darkroom tailored to Ragland’s 4×4 truck, the two photographers have journeyed more than 2,000 miles across 20 Alabama counties to locate, visit, and photograph indigenous sites.
“Our work with tintypes began simply as an experiment to learn the process, but I’m always looking for a way to engage in critical, social, and political issues pertinent to where I live,” said Jared Ragland.
“As Cary and I began by making portraits of local artists and creatives, we also shared a desire to move out into the landscape and see the state. As we journeyed into the Alabama landscape, our attention was drawn to native place names – such as Cahaba, Talladega, Coosa – names that were of course immediately familiar, but for which we had no real deep historical knowledge or contexts. So by making these images, we built a way to learn about a history that’s not told in most schoolbooks or on roadside historic markers,” said Ragland.
Norton and Ragland’s residency at WMA has been made possible by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.
“The bicentennial is an occasion to look back at our history, and Where You Come From Is Gone does that in an especially beautiful and evocative way. The images provoke the viewer to think about the passage of time and its effect on a place, and the fact that in many ways the history in these places has been erased makes the works even more moving. We think these pieces will inspire viewers to be more curious about the history of place both visible and invisible,” said Jay Lamar, executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.
The Wiregrass Museum of Art has received generous support from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) for its schedule of bicentennial programming beginning in 2017. In addition to supporting the artist-in-residence program with Cary Norton and Jared Ragland, the Alabama Bicentennial Commission is WMA’s partner for Stories of the Wiregrass, a digital archive that invites residents of eight Wiregrass counties to share stories with their community through the end of 2019. Combined support from the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and ASCA made possible Semiotic Compass, a public sculpture designed and built by Dothan, Alabama-based architect Jason Schmidt and artist Michael Riddle. The sculpture was commissioned specifically for the bicentennial and is intended to spur conversation both at the installation site and among the local and regional community. Other projects were made possible through a multi-year award from ASCA and include the 2017 exhibition Museum of Wonder, featuring work by Seale, Alabama’s Butch Anthony, as well as the 2018 exhibition Alabama Reckoner, featuring mixed-media portraits of Alabama artists by Birmingham, Alabama-based artist Doug Baulos.
Additional information on individual exhibitions and projects can be found in the Exhibitions tab of WMA’s website.
On April 18 at WMA’s Art After Hours (5:30 – 8 p.m.), the museum’s quarterly celebration of new exhibition openings, Norton and Ragland will offer offer tintype portrait sittings. Each unique 4×5 inch plate will be made on site, then varnished and delivered several weeks after the sitting with a high resolution digital scan.
Sittings are limited to one person per portrait. The cost is $65 and reservations are required. To register for a 15-minute portrait session, guests should visit the April 18 listing on WMA’s online events calendar: wiregrassmuseum.org/calendar.
Featured in header:
Jared Ragland and Cary Norton, Cherokee Rock Village, Cherokee County, Ala., from the series Where You Come from Is Gone, 2017, Archival pigment print from wet-plate collodion tintype
Additional images available upon request.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
The Wiregrass Museum of Art inspires a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs that engage diverse audiences through the collection and exhibition of quality works. Since its founding in 1988, WMA has offered educational programs, nationally-acclaimed art exhibitions and community events throughout the year. Its Board of Trustees guides the long-term vision and strategic goals, while its membership, City and County support, and grant funding provide the resources needed to fulfill its mission.
About the Alabama Bicentennial Commission
Created to guide and support the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama’s statehood, the twelve-member Alabama Bicentennial Commission is chaired by Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. Beginning in 2013, the commission established committees to plan and coordinate events and activities centered on education, statewide initiatives, and local activities. These committees draw their membership from local government, small businesses and national corporations, volunteer organizations, schools and colleges, and everyday citizens who want to contribute.
About the Alabama State Council on the Arts
The mission of the Alabama State Council on the Arts is to enhance the quality of life and economic vitality for all Alabamians by providing support for the state’s diverse and rich artistic resources.
The Alabama State Council on the Arts is the official state arts agency of Alabama. The staff of the Council, directed by Al Head, administers the grants programs and provides financial assistance in arts planning and programming. The Council receives its support through an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.