Sprott Church, 1974–75. Wood, illustration board, paper, Plexiglas, paint, and red soil. Complete text i

William Christenberry: The South of Fact and Dream

Any consideration of William Christenberry’s wide-ranging production during the past four decades must take into account the simultaneity of the American South as place and as idea. This odd cultural situation, in which both modes of being co-exist without exact delineation or differentiation, has lodged itself in the regional mind and in a larger cultural psyche that now extends even beyond national borders. The first South is literal and cartographic, a people possessed of a particular landscape, history, politics, economy, and daily life. The second is the seductive face of a powerful, unusually comprehensive mythology that has generated stereotypes, clichés, and many indelible images of a region cloaked in the impenetrable shadows of its own violent, enigmatic past. It is no longer enough to wonder how this condition should have come to be. Why does it still have so much appeal, even for Southerners, for whom it constitutes a level of self-identity?