The tumultuous history of race relations in the South has been, in large part, buried and left to fester in the years since the Civil War. While culture is intangible and abstract, its artifacts are available as evidence of its existence. Born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised throughout the South, Travis Somerville unapologetically picks at these old wounds by exposing the popular objects and iconography of Southern culture. Somerville’s use of imagery is complex and shaped significantly by his personal relationship to it. His critical eye works in the shadow of his own nostalgia and consequently attempts to reconcile the idealism of his religious upbringing with the racial and political turmoil of his past.
Somerville’s irreverent installations, paintings and embellished photographs incorporate suggestive symbols of the South’s troubled history such as Ku Klux Klan hoods and Confederate flags as well as doo-rags, whiskey bottles and images of popular advertising from the more recent past. His graphite-on-paper portraits take their subjects from vintage photographs and offer a more reflective side of his historical excavation. The suggestive content, although sensitive, attempts to unearth the complexities and contradictions in post-antebellum society rather than condemn it. Somerville has recently expanded on these ideas by exploring how the contemporary concerns of the South – most salient in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – stand as a metaphor for exported racism and colonialism.
Travis Somerville has shown extensively with numerous solo and group exhibitions in both galleries and museums. His work has been presented at, amongst others, the San Jose Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, the Laguna Art Museum and the university art museums of Virginia and Arizona State. He is currently participating in “Beyond the Mountaintop” at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT. He has garnered critical attention in numerous publications including The Washington Post, Art in America, FlashArt and The Los Angeles Times. Authentic Facsimiles of a Nation, Somerville’s first solo exhibition with Caren Golden Fine Art, will be on view from January 3 through February 9, 2008.