“Flannery’s writing encapsulates my experience of growing up in the South,” artist Betsy Cain told me recently, “and provides imagery I can’t ignore — or get relief from.”
Cain and I were talking about “Southern Discomfort 2018,” the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home’s fourth biennial group exhibition and silent auction featuring art inspired by the Savannah native, whose fiction has grown increasingly influential since her death in 1964. “The Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor” won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1972.
For this year’s exhibition, Cain has produced two pieces titled “You won't meet yourself coming and going,” a phrase she remembers from her childhood in Alabama. The companion pieces, which were created side by side, depict the two women — one white, one black — who have a fateful encounter in O’Connor’s brilliant “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”
More than 20 local artists working in a variety of media will have work in “Southern Discomfort 2018,” which has been organized this year by Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home board members Meredith Gray and Michael Schroeder and Location Gallery Director Peter Roberts.
Some of the pieces in the exhibition depict specific scenes from O’Connor’s fiction, while other pieces reflect themes in the author’s work. Auction proceeds will be split between the artists and the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home.
I am no longer directly involved with the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home, but in 2012, I organized the first O’Connor-inspired art show with my fellow board member and Georgia Southern University colleague Beth Howells. It’s gratifying to see the event continue so successfully and to engage so many of the region’s leading artists.
Cain noted that some of her friends find O’Connor’s work, which often explores the gothic and the grotesque, too “depressing” to read repeatedly. For Cain, however, the work resonates in many ways.
“I can’t swallow it fast enough sometimes,” Cain said.
“Southern Discomfort 2018: Art Inspired by Flannery O'Connor” will be on display from 5 to 8 p.m. May 18 at Location Gallery, 417 Whitaker St. The event is free and open to the public.
Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email firstname.lastname@example.org.