Asha Fuller’s new work is a photographic exploration assailing the regional stereotypes that create intra-structural isolation regarding the South. This Exhibition fractures those perceptions and exposes universal themes of home and community. Coupling these large color portraits with autobiographical text the artist has created quintessential stories of Hometown South that are lapidary and subversive.
As a young man overcome by wanderlust, the artist left his rural environs in Tennessee and set out on a journey of self-discovery. During his extensive travels through out the Continental United States, he received a letter from his father accompanied by an old family photograph with an inscription that read, `It’s a good thing to know where you come from because it helps you get where you’re going.’ He decided to return to his hometown of Centerville, Hickman County, to explore this idea. Using his trusty 4×5 camera and a small closet in his parents’ house as a dark room, Fuller began what proved to be a cathartic endeavor of expression and introspection. The initial project took six months to bring to fruition and is ongoing. The selection of subjects was through an intuitive process allowing his memories to appeal to his imagination creating a nexus of identity and craft. The artist was awakened to his past. His `line of flight’ back through his origins is not re-discovery, but first-discovery. These photographs become self-contained memories, clues to the photographer’s relation to his home and to his own identity.
Fuller’s fascination with the human condition is evident in this project. Douglas T. Bates III (2004) and Douglas T. Bates IV (2004), present father and son with proud countenance before their hunting trophies and military regalia; conventions of southern society and Americana are used to bring out preconceptions. These notions are then challenged by the accompanying text, which focuses on the individual’s life story and legacy. This forces further cogitative examination and a deeper understanding of the individual and their voice. By capturing his subjects in their familiar surroundings (rather than before a flat backdrop) the artist has sufficiently provided them with form. The observer’s scrutiny becomes more informed. The disparity between induced impression of the individual and their origin, which is explicitly provided by the text, is a dramatic presentation of prejudice.
Fuller further uses the text in accordance with the photograph to heighten the disparity between initial visual perception and personal connection, until all of a sudden the aesthetic image reveals a more complex and in depth biography. Each wrinkle on their face and scar on their hand becomes a chronicle of a life lived: Mary Hill Hickman Horner (2004), stands outside the room in which she was born 90 years ago. She touches the first afghan she’d ever knitted with a hand (almost as colorful as the yarns) that seems to recognize it as the product of its labor. She has begun her life in this house, filled it with her family, her crafts, and will leave it changed and full of memories. Within the frame of each photograph we see the details of the person’s taste, the objects of their experience. The photographs act as an index of their lives. There are books, furniture, movement, the appurtenances of trade, imprints of a lifestyle that distills the home space, sublimates walls and floors, whole acres of land into a refuge. Captured in these photographs is natural ease, a kind of grace that comes from the harmony of lifestyle and environment. This is home.