Monday, June 11, 2012

Southern History and Photography Turn Kitsch in New York City

Christine Calabro is a curator at an online art gallery based in New York City called Artspace, and she is getting married.

Artspace has devoted one of its email messages to her, and especially to her wedding plans.

You can see the original entry here.

The connection is that in the message she provides us with a list of her 10 favorite photographs available through Artspace, ostensibly because she thinks they would make great wedding presents.

So, this is sort of a bridal registry for the artfully inclined.

Her is what she says: "There is no more timeless gift to give or receive than a work of art, a special piece that will richen (sic) in meaning with time and intimate engagement, just like love.

"With my own wedding approaching at the end of this month, I’ve assembled a collection of elegant works on Artspace that I would truly enjoy living around. (Hint, hint.)"

Interestingly, one of Christine's favorites is Walker Evans' iconic image, above, of the Breakfast Room at Belle Grove Plantation, built by John Andrews, a wealthy sugar planter, near White Castle in Iberville Parish, Louisiana.

Belle Grove Plantation had 75 rooms spread over 4 floors, an act of Southern planter hubris. It was finished in 1857, just in time for the Civil War and the collapse of the plantation economy. It sat vacant after 1925 and was finally destroyed by fire in 1957.

Clarence Laughlin, in his Ghosts along the Mississippi,  described Belle Grove as a "tremendous mass [that] rose on huge brick foundation arches over twelve feet above the surrounding earth, its walls and mantels were plastered and carved by the most expert European craftsmen money could secure, its great flight of brick steps was covered with imported marble, its door knobs and keyhole guards were of silver, its pillars bore Corinthian capitals six feet high but of the utmost refinement."

Evans visited Belle Grove in 1935, just in time to catch a sense of the emptiness of Southern antebellum vanity and arrogance that a society built on human bondage could flourish and endure.

Well, Calabro loves "the timeless quality of this photograph." To her, and with no trace of history or irony in her language, "this photograph shows a once-grand private mansion that was left derelict to age at the mercy of the elements." 

She believes this photograph is a "truly classic piece reminiscent of the home in Yonkers where we will get married."

I wonder if that home in Yonkers was build with slave labor, like Belle Grove.

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