Huntsville, Ala – The Huntsville Museum of Art (HMA) is sharing photographic treasures from its permanent collection in a new exhibition William Christenberry: Time, Distance, and Memory opening Sunday, March 13, and running through July 10. The Huntsville Museum of Art is fortunate to own a significant collection, donated anonymously in the 1980s, of more than 70 photographs by nationally-renowned artist and Alabama native William Christenberry. As a tribute to this early chronicler of Alabama, the exhibition will feature 33 photographs and one sculpture.
While he grew up in Tuscaloosa, Christenberry spent each summer on his grandparents’ farm in rural Hale County. In the late 1950s, he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama. The initial color photographs he made, using a Brownie camera he received as a child, were made as visual references for the subjects Christenberry wanted to paint.
In 1960, he had a life-changing experience…he encountered the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and realized that his grandparents had known the poor sharecropper families whose lives were documented in it. Initially inspired by James Agee’s writing and Walker Evans’s portraits, Christenberry sought out Evans in New York City in 1961. Evans, who then worked as senior editor at Fortune Magazine, helped him get a job at Time-Life. They became close friends until Evans’s death in 1975.
“He was the first one to encourage me to take the photographs, the little Brownie snapshots, seriously,” Christenberry has said of Evans.
From 1962 to 1968, Christenberry taught photography at Memphis State University, after which he obtained a teaching position at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC, where he taught for many years. He began using a large format camera in the late 1970s, which has enabled him, year after year, decade after decade, to record the effects of time’s passage on his beloved Black Belt region.
Since 1968, he has made an annual pilgrimage from his current home in Washington, D.C., to the red-clay soil of his youth in central Alabama. Here he finds inspiration in its rural landscape.
The Huntsville Museum of Art docents will lead a public tour of Time, Distance, and Memory on Sunday, April 3, from 2 to 2:45 p.m. The tours are free to museum members and included in general admission for nonmembers.
Beginning April 8, special admission in conjunction with Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art, the Museum’s next blockbuster exhibition which runs concurrently with the Christenberry exhibition, is $12 for adult, non-members; $10 for active military, teachers, and seniors (60+) with a valid ID; $5 for children age 6 and up and students; and $8 per person for groups of 10 or more. Museum members and children 5 and under are admitted FREE.
The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 12 to 5 p.m. The museum is closed to the public on Mondays and some major holidays.
For more information, visit www.hsvmuseum.org or call 256-535-4350.