“Southern Discomfort: Art Inspired by Flannery O’Connor” on display Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2 & 3

"Converge / Reveal (ation)" by Jack Metcalf

It’s not often that I get short of breath when I open my mail, but that’s what happened a few weeks ago when I realized that a big package with a zillion individual stamps on it was from Jack Metcalf in Missoula, Montana.

Jack isn’t as familiar a name in the Savannah arts community as other artists who are participating in “Southern Discomfort: Art Inspired by Flannery O’Connor” sponsored by the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, but his meticulous, provocative work told me that he would do something special. O’Connor herself might have taken particular delight in the name of his website: fowlthoughts.com.

Jack’s “Converge / Reveal(ation)” is one of 43 pieces by about two dozen artists that will be in the show today and Friday. In an accompanying letter, he told me that the palette reflects that of the kitchen of his Southern granny; the “unzipped amphibious apparatus” references O’Connor’s own statements about the tendency toward dissection of fiction rather than the enjoyment of it; and so on. The title obviously references both “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Revelation”.

"The Horrible Thought" by Lind Hollingsworth

Because we got such an immediate and enthusiastic response from the first artists that we asked to participate, we quickly realized that we had to cap the invitations. We’ve been asked repeatedly about “when” we’ll do this again, but I think the better question right now is still “if” — a lot will depend on how the silent auction goes. Since we essentially commissioned work, we did not expect artists simply to donate their work. We worked with each on an acceptable starting price and are splitting sale prices (a few artists have already told us that the work is an outright donation).

"Above Cortana's 1" by Daniel E. Smith

While some artists like Jack approached the project in a completely non-illustrative way, others delved deeply into the intense visuals of the plots (each artist was offered a copy of O’Connor’s National Book Award-winning The Complete Stories). Lind Hollingsworth‘s “The Horrible Thought” is a brilliant evocation of the moment when the Grandmother in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” realizes that she has led her family down the wrong road. Toomsboro can be seen on the map behind her in the collage elements of the piece.

Daniel E. Smith‘s “Above Cortana’s 1” and “Above Cortana’s 2” were inspired by “The Geranium”, which mingled in the creative process with Dan’s own memories of growing up in New York.

"The Geranium" by Curtis Bartone

Curtis Bartone, who had a solo show last year at the Telfair Academy, also was inspired by “The Geranium” and produced one of his gorgeous drawings exploring the tensions between the natural world and urban life.

I’m especially pleased that we ended up with such a great mix of media in the show, including photography. Ellen Susan, whose use of Civil War era technology to create portraits of contemporary soldiers has earned wide acclaim and several museum shows, created “Violins and Grays”, an ambrotype (literally an image on glass) exploring symbolism related to O’Connor’s Catholicism. (I could probably write three pages about Ellen’s piece, but that sentence will have to suffice.)

I could go on and on and on about the work. As one of the organizers and as one of the installers, I feel like I have some sort of relationship to every piece.

"Violins and Grays" by Ellen Susan

Arguably the signature piece in the show comes from Mary Lawrence Kennickell, who grew up in Milledgeville and who knew O’Connor. Mary Lawrence, a longtime docent and support of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, created a portrait of a young O’Connor using nothing but titles and passages from all of O’Connor’s stories. It seems a fitting portrait for O’Connor, who seemed to be wholly herself even as a child.

My apologies to all the other artists that I don’t have time or room to talk about all the work here.

Within a couple of weeks, we hope to have a web page on the Childhood Home’s website with all the work and other information.

The Savannah Morning News previewed the show here.

"Primary Thoughts" by Mary Lawrence Kennickell

There’s a wonderful piece in Connect Savannah.

The Facebook event invitation is here.

“Southern Discomfort: Art Inspired by Flannery O’Connor” will be on display on Thursday February 2nd from 4 to 7 p.m. and Friday, February 3rd from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Bids can be placed anytime, with the silent auction closing at about 8:30 p.m. on Friday.

1704Lincoln gallery is at the corner of Lincoln and 33rd streets. A big shout out to Blanche Nettles Powers, who is giving us free use of her gallery and has donated to the show as well.