Academic journal article Flannery O'Connor Review

Photographs from Sour Vanilla

Academic journal article Flannery O'Connor Review

Photographs from Sour Vanilla

Article excerpt

Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.

-Walker Evans (qtd. in Rosenheim 197)

Neither the writer, nor the photographer, should ever be ashamed of staring. As I develop my voice as an artist, Flannery O'Connor continues to teach me how to see and stare.

In the spring of 2015, as I neared the completion of my MFA thesis project at Duke University, I enrolled in a course called "Beauty, Suffering, and the Cross" with Prof. Dan Train at the Divinity School there. The class considered O'Connor's work in relation to other artistic media and theological texts. Despite my interest in theology and my longtime appreciation of O'Connor's work, I was a bit intimidated by the class. After all, I'm trained as a visual artist, not a theologian. We read familiar stories like "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge," but it was "The Partridge Festival" (a story the writer herself called a farce and removed from Everything That Rises Must Converge) that resonated with me in a way that few others had. The very real issues of race, mental illness, and murder of Flannery's time were again familiar in light of the shootings in Sandy Hook, Charleston, and many other recent tragedies. It's through the fiction of "The Partridge Festival" that I began to find grotesque and beautiful symbols in the everyday and felt the need to respond in a series of photographs. I wanted to create a work with no visual precedence and see in what ways written words can influence imagery.

The work I made in response to this short story became a handmade zine. The finished book and select prints were exhibited at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting in Nov. …

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