About a decade ago, Professor of Art, Peggy Chan Professorship in Black Studies Syd Carpenter took a road trip through South Carolina, Georgia and the Gullah Islands to visit and photograph Black organic farms.
Inspired by her mother and grandmother’s love of gardening, and her own more recent interest, she feasted on the details of the farms, the stories of the farmers, their turbulent history and perseverance. And oh those details.
“Many of the farms that I visited on that trip had been in the families for multiple generations,” says Carpenter. “These folks, courageously, despite Jim Crow, despite vicious attempts to get them off of the land, they stayed. These farms were able to be passed down to subsequent generations.”
The trip is still bearing artistic fruit.
Seeing her seven sculpted farm bowls exhibited together in a new solo exhibition entitled Earth Offerings, Honoring the Gardeners was a revelation, Carpenter said the other day.
The red clay bowls seem to be in motion, their rims dipping, undulating even, the miniature sculpted houses, fences, animals, eggs, a porch glider, all perched on the bowls like they’d been caught mid-twister. Some are mounted on sculpted half brains, balancing, it would seem, on a foundation of memory.
“Precarious is the underlying theme for our history on the land,” said Carpenter, as she walked around the exhibition, which affectingly explores the connection of Black farmers and gardeners to their land, at Rowan’s High Street Art Gallery, through March 26.