If you’ve heard of the Gee’s Bend Quilters or Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas, then you know there are some uniquely creative artists in the Black Belt of Alabama. Associate Professor Chris Jordan’s photography students got to spend quality time this semester with some of them — artist and civil rights veteran Betty Anderson of Camden, potters Eric Miller and Allen Ham of Brent, painter Stephen R. James and potter Sam Williams of Monroe County, as well as quilters Tinnie and Minnie Pettway — photographing the artists and interviewing them.
Working with a variety of Canon cameras, undergraduates Savanna Biggert, Arielle Gray, Jasmine James, Kayla Lawson, Holly Ray, Kassidy Stewart and graduate student Amber Quinn and recent graduate Candace VonHoffman took field trips to Camden in Wilcox County this spring, to practice their skills in portrait photography while documenting these culturally important artists.
Junior studio art major Kassidy Stewart said: “I have enjoyed the entire experience, from learning from my fellow photographers to hearing all the stories from the artists.” Stewart described a big turning point for her when the students used studio lighting outdoors. “That moment taught me that my passion is shooting with studio lighting and that I can shoot with lights inside and outside. That there is nothing limiting me when I create, I just have to learn to work with what I have to make some magic happen.”
The Black Belt Artist Project is a collaborative initiative between the UA department of art and art history, the non-profit Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center and Canon Solutions America. Jordan said that another student group will continue the project in May as part of an interim semester course. A book, exhibition and archive of the materials will be produced from the oral histories recorded and portraits created by the students.
Photo captions and credits:
top right: Graduate student Amber Quinn captures undergrads taking photos of artist Stephen R. James in Monroe County. Photo courtesy of Amber Quinn.
above left: Gee’s Bend quilters Tinnie and Minnie Pettway sit for their portraits in their living room at home with Chris Jordan and his students. Photo courtesy of Kristin Law.
For more information about the Black Belt Artist Project, contact Associate Professor Chris Jordan at (205) 348-1217 or Rachel Dobson, communications specialist, at (205) 348-1893.
For information about the UA Department of Art and Art History and its programs, visit our website: https://art.ua.edu/academics/or contact the department at (205) 348-5967.