CONWAY, Ark. (July 9, 2018) – The “Our Natural State” Exhibit of
Photography, July 10-August 17, 2018 at Arts Center of the Ozarks, includes Hendrix
College Professor of Art Maxine Payne among the featured artists. A discussion
and opening reception will take place Tuesday, July 31 at 7 p.m., at the
Center, 214 S. Main Street in Springdale, Arkansas.
“Our Natural State” seeks define the mindset, culture and values
of Arkansans by exploring the historical and contemporary landscape of Arkansas
residents, from recent transplants to generational Ozark families.
Take, for example, a famous Arkansas photographer, who is also
one of the state’s most curious personalities: Mike Disfarmer, born Mike Meyer.
Changing his name to remove any association with farming and his family,
Disfarmer became known as one of the world’s greatest portrait photographers.
From Heber Springs, the photographer set off an international firestorm upon
discovery of his work, posthumously. His images speak volumes about the social
fabric of Arkansans, and the values they hold dear.
Photographers working decades after Disfarmer – Beverly Conley,
Ron Evans, Don House, Jim Simmons, and Geoff Winningham – similarly trace traditions
to life in the Ozarks, while Maxine Payne captures present day residents with
an uncommon humanity, elevating rural people to heroic stature.
By contrast, Rebecca Drolen focuses on “transplants,” those who
have come to Arkansas to live. Likewise, Donna Pinckley chooses diversity and
inclusion as her subject, observing resident reactions to interracial couples.
Intolerance is too often a response to alternative lifestyle.
The desire to escape responsibilities, to “head to the hills,”
is a mindset skillfully portrayed by Matthew Genitempo and Alec Soth. The
exhibit will contain images from Genitempo’s upcoming book, “Jasper.”
Similarly, Soth is an accomplished author, and one of the most celebrated
artists today with images in many major museums.
Jim Dow and Tim Hursley capture places people inhabit, yet these
environments are temporarily – sometimes permanently – vacant. Sabine Schmidt
creates constructed houses, and then photographs them as a metaphor for her Arkansas
home. And the concept of “place” is the subject of Gary Cawood and Kris
Johnson, who often photograph at night.
One of the most fascinating depictions of social values and
mindset is by Margaret LeJeune, whose “Modern Day Diana” reverses roles in a
classic Ozark motive, hunting.
“Our Natural State” is an exhibit of nearly 80 images to convey
the state’s vortex of transitioning values, told from the point of view of the
artists and their subjects. From a game of dominoes in New Hope, to a portrait
on interracial marriage in Jonesboro, and on to a funeral home in Malvern –
these visual vignettes can only begin to describe the collective unconscious of
Arkansas. As described by Matthew Genitempo, “I made my way through the
capricious woods of the Ozarks, and the deeper I went, the closer I came to
this spot…a spot equidistant from heaven and hell…I am indebted to this land
and its people for letting me make this discovery.”
The photographers curated for the exhibit are among the best to
ever photograph in the Natural State. Please join us and add to the discussion
on the people of Arkansas. Bring your own definitions and help discover the
spot where mindset, culture and values begin to define the experience of being
The complete list of artists whose work appears in “Our Natural
• Gary Cawood
• Beverly Conley
• Mike Disfarmer
(exhibition prints from the Disfarmer Project)
• Jim Dow
• Rebecca Drolen
• Ron Evans
• Don House
• Tim Hursley
• Kris Johnson
• Maxine Payne
• Donna Pinckley
• Sabine Schmidt
• Jim Simmons
(images on loan from Shiloh Museum)
• Alec Soth
(images on loan from Steve LaFontaine)
• Geoff Winningham
(images on loan from Special Collections, University of Arkansas)
For interviews with the artists, please contact Chuck Davis, ChuckDavisPhoto@outlook.com. For
information on the Arts Center of the Ozarks, please contact Eve Smith, Eve@acozarks.org.
About Hendrix College
A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix
College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal
arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40
Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic
quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture
in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has
been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more,