Over the last year, one of my most significant projects was putting together my INTERSECTION photographic art exhibition. I haven’t posted about this side of my work at Jordan’s Journey, as this blog focuses on the genealogy side of things. Of course, the overall Jordan’s Journey project is a multimedia art project of which genealogical research is only one part. So I wanted to be sure to tell you about INTERSECTION. INTERSECTION is my follow-up to Jordan’s Journey. It’s not a sequel but a spiritual successor that takes the most specific art aspects and extracts them into a heritage-influenced art exhibition. The project’s focus is my debut museum exhibition, under my artist name luke kurtis, which opened on March 8th at Massillon Museum in Massillon, OH. I also published a book of photographs and writing that serves as the exhibition catalog.Read More
You’ve probably noticed the lack of updates here over the past few months. After a busy 2012, I planned to be less active here this year for several reasons. I intended to be a bit more active than I have been. But life happens, other projects take hold, and as often as I think about it… posts here just haven’t been done.
I expect to be back here with more posts in the future and even have another half-edited video or two in the works. But since those things won’t be ready any time soon, I thought I’d at least give you an update on some of my work beyond (but still related to) Jordan’s Journey.
Back in March, I had a solo art exhibition–titled muse–in Raleigh, NC. The works were inspired by some of the Jordan’s Journey research (among other things)–and the Jordan’s Journey book was on display too. I gave a brief talk at the opening reception and included a reading of an ancestor-inspired work of fiction (which was a special sneak preview of a project in the works). Above is a photo of me with the presenter, Geraldine Bryan, which is from Walter magazine (May 2013). You can learn more about this show on the main blog.
Opening today in Portland, Oregon, one of my photos is included in the new exhibition Field Notes: Landscape and Architecture at Black Box Gallery. If you happen to be in the Portland area, the show is on view until June 20, 2013. Otherwise, check it out online.Read More
My post here today is a little off-topic from the usual genealogy and local history focus here at Jordan’s Journey. But what I want to talk about is relevant in a roundabout, artistic way.
This past weekend I saw Sahkanaga. Sahkanaga is an unusual film for me to watch. Not because of anything to do with the film itself, but for the fact that I happen to be from the county where it was filmed–and where the Tri-State Crematory tragedy (which the film uses as a backdrop for its coming-of-age story) happened.
I told you this post was a bit off-topic for this blog, but hear me out. I think this will be worth your time.
Sahkanaga was written and directed by John Henry Summerour, also from Walker County. Mr. Summerour is, like me, a Georgian expatriate who moved away to New York City and became an artist. Candidly speaking, I think something about growing up in a place like Walker County makes you want–need–to flee it. In the film, Lyla asks Paul, “Do you like it here?”
“Sometimes I think it’s just a really big hole, you know,” Paul responds. “I’m trapped down here. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs so that someone will hear me, send me a ladder or something, save me and get me out of here, you know.”Read More
When I asked my mom if she knew of any recordings of music at East Armuchee Baptist Church she at first told me no. Then, almost as if I had willed it into existence, a few days later my mother–rummaging through some old junk–found a bag of old cassette tapes. She wasn’t sure where the tapes had come from but decided they were probably from her mother (my Grannie). One of the tapes was labeled Singing Sermon. David Pruett, the pastor at East Armuchee since 1981, often sang for the congregation. Usually, he sang one song after the congregational singing was finished. But sometimes, on Sunday evenings, he did several songs in lieu of a sermon, dubbing them “singing sermons.”Read More
My family doesn’t have a lot of heirloom/antique items that have survived the generations. One of the few pieces that has survived is an old sofa that had belonged to my great grandmother Nannie Elizabeth Clement Pope. The sofa was never in use during my life. It always sat in the back of Grannie’s shed, hidden under piles of junk, slowly decaying away. When I was a teenager, I told Grannie I wanted to get the old sofa and fix it up. I never had a chance to do that, but not too many years later, my mother did. She recounted her memories of the restoration for me:
In 2001 I got the old homemade couch out of the big shed. The rats had eaten it up. Mama had just been told her breast cancer had gone to her bones and I wanted to fix it for her to see.
When mama was still living in the white house she had that couch in the back den that had been closed in when I was about 10. She had gotten the couch from her parents when they died and it had been handmade–possibly by J.C. Clement, Lizzie’s father.
Mike tore the couch apart and removed the old green paint Mama had painted it with. He had to put some new wood in it. It used to open up and make a bed but he removed the springs and then took it to an upholsterer in Summerville to have him re-pad it. I selected an old fashioned tapestry fabric to recover it. Only a couple of small pieces of the original fabric were salvageable and I used that to make two small pillows for the couch.
The heirloom is all the more special knowing a bit of its history and the love that went into restoring it. Today, my mother proudly displays the sofa in her home in East Armuchee.
The photos here show the sofa. The first photo was taken in about 1957, showing my great grandparents Nannie Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clement and Ben Hill Pope. Note the photograph of my aunt Charlotte’s wedding on the mantle behind them! The second photo was taken during the restoration process. The third photo was taken by me of Grannie on the sofa in 2001 after the restoration was complete. Notice the wall of family portraits behind Grannie.
Do you have any treasured family items? Do you know any stories about the heirloom? Furniture and other tangible objects often carry their own lineage and make up an exciting part of family and local history.
If you were to ask me what are the most important things to me, music would certainly be one of the top items on that list. Looking back as far back as I can remember music has always played an important role in my life. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know music has even played its part in my family history research.
Not long ago I asked my mother, “Do you think you have any audio tapes of music from East Armuchee back in the day?”
“No,” she responded. “I don’t think we ever recorded anything like that.”
I was disappointed but told her to ask around to see if anyone might have a recording. I wanted more than anything to redisocver the sound of that rural country church from my childhood. She didn’t think anyone would have anything, though.
I have so many music memories from that church. It wasn’t a particularly learned environment for music. There were no professional musicians and no formal choir… just like Scared Harp. It was a “do-it-yourself” sort of aesthetic, and I think that influenced me a lot in life in ways far beyond music.
For most of my childhood, East Armuchee used the Christian Praise hymnal, published in 1964 by Broadman Press. Christian Praise is a shaped note hymnal and relates to the Sacred Harp in that way. But out of 471 pieces, it contains only a couple of songs actually from The Sacred Harp hymnal. We always referred to this book as “the red hymnal.” These books contain bookplates at the front indicating who donated money for that hymnal, and to whose memory it was dedicated.Read More
Way back before Jordan’s Journey came out, I was doing all kinds of work, not only writing, photographing, and designing the book but also figuring out how this website was going to work, what I wanted to do for the book trailer, and of course the research itself. Almost everything I do as an artist has some purpose or meaning behind it. This sense of aesthetic plays an important role in what sets Jordan’s Journey apart from any other genealogy book I’ve ever seen.
The book trailer has its roots back in early 2011. It started with the poem that became the script for the trailer. And after that I just let it sit for a while. Creative ideas need time to incubate. By the time I visited the homeland in September 2011, things were ready to hatch. I filmed the principal photography for the trailer early one morning on the family farm. Editing didn’t happen for at least a few weeks but by the time I did start the work, I pretty much had it all laid out in my head… down to the music I wanted to use!
The music is from the album White Spirituals From The Sacred Harp and contains field recordings of the Alabama Sacred Harp Convention made by Alan Lomax in 1959. Sacred Harp is one of my favorite types of music.
I first encountered Sacred Harp in its proper form while studying music in New York City. When Professor Andrew Tomasello first dropped the needle and introduced us to the genre, it must have sounded completely foreign to my NYC-bred classmates. But it sounded instantly familiar for me and evoked images of my childhood. Though I did not grow up with Sacred Harp music proper, the music of the East Armuchee Baptist Church of my childhood was certainly influenced by this uniquely American style. We even used a shape note hymnal. I’ve always kept a copy of that Christian Praise hymnal and showed it to my music professor one day. He was intrigued by this artifact of Southern musical culture. Connecting that emotional part of my past to my new academic interests was the icing on the cake… as if fate had led me to New York in the first place. This is only one example of how creating Jordan’s Journey would not have been possible without moving away and studying art in the big city!Read More
The response to Jordan’s Journey has been extremely positive (just check out some of the recent press and see for yourself). I’ve even been contacted by a handful of people who have found me because of the press, this blog, or my social media updates. The connections are fascinating! For this synergy, I am grateful.
Today, I want to explain some of the background behind this project.Read More
Thanks for stopping by
These posts are archived from the Jordan's Journey project by Jordan M. Scoggins. They have been made available here for continued reference and research purposes.
The original book is available to order from the bd Shop or your favorite bookseller.
For more about the project, visit the Jordan's Journey archive home page.