Uzzle Buzz: Country Roads

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“Uzzle Buzz” is a series of blog posts, written by various authors, that respond to or comment on some aspect of our exhibition All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle.

Molly Boarati is Assistant Curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

Chicken ranch

Burk Uzzle, American, born 1938: Chicken Lunch, 2011; archival pigment print. Collection of Jennings Brody and Jonathan Kea. © Burk Uzzle.

Driving to Wilson, North Carolina is a little like driving home. As the curator of Burk Uzzle: Southern Landscapes at the Nasher Museum of Art, I went to visit Burk in his Wilson studio a few times to prepare for the exhibition. Heading east from Durham on route 264 reminded me of the trip to Lancaster County, Virginia, where I grew up, with fields of flowers, rural oddities, like the Country Doctor Museum, and the sleepy towns in between. It seemed appropriate that, in planning a show of Burk’s photographs of southern landscapes, I would have to experience the land along the way, visit parts of the South I had never seen before, and consider them in relation to other regional areas I’d traveled often.

The photographs in Burk Uzzle: Southern Landscapes cover much of the Southeast and present Burk’s inimitable talent for capturing what makes the region southern. Both black and white and color images from the past 15 years present, among other scenes, a field of crosses in Georgia, rusted cars by a stream in Appalachia, and crab pots in eastern North Carolina. A tobacco barn, downtown Wilson, and abandoned washing machines also make an appearance. In photographing such sights, Burk explores the many aspects of the South, both urban and rural, that make it unique. His ability to find distinct imagery along back roads, his attention to composition, and a deep respect for his subject matter make Burk (a native of North Carolina himself) the perfect documentarian of a diverse region filled with charm, history, eccentricity, and beauty.

The countrysides of central North Carolina and tidewater Virginia contain surprising similarities as well as stark contrasts. In speaking with Burk about his practice and selecting photographs for the exhibition, I was reminded of the importance of slowing down and looking at them, of taking the time to see both the new and the old, the altered and the familiar. The southern landscapes around us will continue to change with time, as the photographs suggest. It’s how we live within these spaces and travel through them today that counts.

Molly Boarati

Three Triangle-area museum exhibitions explore Burk Uzzle’s work this summer and early fall: All About America: Photographs by Burk Uzzle (Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, through 11 September 2016), Burk Uzzle: Southern Landscapes (Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University through 18 September 2016), and Burk Uzzle: American Chronicle (North Carolina Museum of Art, through 25 September 2016).

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