Dates: February 18, 2022
Time: 5:00 PM
“Weird Regionalism: The Art of John McCrady and William Faulkner”
Brooke Alexander and Jay Watson, University of Mississippi
Painter John McCrady and writer William Faulkner, who both resided in Oxford, Mississippi in the late 1920s and early 1930s, came of age as modern artists amidst influential regionalist movements in visual art and literature. Both men, moreover, were taught or mentored by towering figures in Midwestern regionalism, the leading edge of the movement: Thomas Hart Benton in McCrady’s case, Sherwood Anderson in Faulkner’s. But in turning their focus away from the modern city and the American heartland and toward their native region, McCrady and Faulkner took American regionalism to a weirder place. Their warrant came in part from national print and visual cultures that had long exoticized the South as the nation’s internal other: strange, grotesque, by turns primitive and decadent—in short, weird.
In exploring this weird regionalism, Alexander, a painter, and Watson, a literature scholar, will focus on landscape representation, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between human figure and environmental ground, on the canvas and on the page. What emerges is not so much the superficially bizarre world that contemporary audiences had come to expect of the South, but a more mysterious, disquieting one: animate, sentient, radiant, pulsing with a sense of expectancy. By leaning in to the weirdness already latent within regionalism, McCrady and Faulkner may anticipate the unsettling sense of “global weirding” emerging among 21st-century artists and environmentalists.