Saturday, July 16, 2022

Intruders In The Dirt: The Architecture and Landscape of the Arkansas Delta

I'm excited to announce that an exhibition of my photography has just opened at the Laman Library in North Little Rock. It includes 33 pictures taken over the past 10 years, which showcases the architecture and landscape of the Arkansas Delta. Many of the photos in the exhibition are of buildings and structures that have been abandoned or are threatened to be torn down. Included in the show are notable places like the Hotel Pines and the Saenger Theater in Pine Bluff, and the Riceland Hotel in Stuttgart. But the exhibition also includes humble and seemingly forgotten places like abandoned farmhouses and country churches. Several of the places that have been photographed have since been torn down or destroyed since the photos were taken.

Saenger Theater

The Delta region contains a rich and vibrant history, but many of the Delta's historical places could soon be lost. The goal of this project was to showcase these places, in the hopes that some of them could be saved. And if that isn't possible, to document them before they are lost forever.

Window To The Sky

This exhibition was orginially supposed to debut in 2020, but has been delayed twice thanks to stuff like the pandemic. I'm so happy that it is finally up on the walls. I humbly invite anyone who reads this to please visit the Laman Library (2801 Orange Street in North Little Rock), the gallery is on the second floor. The exhibit will be up until September 23. There will be an opening reception on Friday, July 22nd from 5:30 to 7:30.


Here's the Artist's Statement that I put together for the show. I hope anyone reading this can check out the show at Laman Library, from now until September. Thanks!

Even though I had permission to be there, it felt like I was breaking and entering. That was mostly because I was entering via a broken window, like a thief in the night. The remains of the wooden boards that once covered the window had already been roughly kicked aside and were scattered on the ground amongst a mosaic of broken glass, which popped and cracked as I carefully stepped through. It felt eerie and wrong, like I was entering a neglected tomb.

Beyond was the lobby of a once grand hotel, which had been left abandoned for several decades. Its current condition was rough, a far cry from the luxurious landmark that it once was. The fine marble floors were covered with a thick layer of dust and debris. The stained glass in the skylight was gone, and rain water had been allowed to pour through holes in the roof. The marble steps were fractured and crumbling. There was that sweet and pungent smell of decay, and an eerie stillness that muffled the sounds of the street outside. Cool air that was caught on a current passed through the building with a chill, like a ghost sweeping by. Above all was that pervasive sense of melancholy that seems to infect all forgotten places.

The hotel was the Hotel Pines in Pine Bluff, which opened in 1913 but closed in 1970. After decades of abandonment, it was sold in 2017 and plans have been made for its revival. But other buildings in the Arkansas Delta are not so lucky. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Pines is the old Saenger Theater, an architectural masterpiece that is crumbling away. Every year, more homes and buildings in the Delta are lost to arson, the bulldozer or just the unending assault of gravity and weather on weary structures.

Hotel Pines

The Delta region of eastern Arkansas is an area filled with rich history and culture. But economic and cultural changes have led to a steep decline in population in many Delta communities. Once bustling cities now have boarded up and closed downtowns, and many old homes and churches are abandoned and empty. These buildings and places represent generations of lives; of people who lived, suffered, rejoiced, and worked amongst these ruins.

Until The End Of The World

This project was undertaken in order to help showcase the architecture of the Delta, with a focus on its historic and abandoned structures. The hope is that these photographs might help bring attention to these places, and perhaps even help in some of them being saved. And if that is not possible, to at least document them before they disappear. There is no way to replace a structure once it is gone, but a small capture of time that is preserved in a photograph can suggest, in a merest whisper, that somehow we might be able to hold onto a place for just a little bit longer.

Pine Bluff

These photographs were taken with either a Canon 6D, an Olympus E-30 or an Olympus EM-5, between 2012 and 2022. They represent several thousand miles driven across the state, and hours of work spent researching and editing. I would like to thank Richard Theilig and everyone at the Laman Library for hosting this exhibition. It’s a honor for me to have my photographs on display at my hometown library, near where I used to read books in the children’s section or did research in high school.

The Delta

And I can not thank enough my wife Caroline for her encouragement and infinite patience. And also my sons Jonah and Elliott for all the time I spent away driving out towards old buildings. I would never have been able to take these pictures, or put on this show, without their support.

This Old House

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