Roots/Routes: Mobility and Displacement in the American South

Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
August 30, 2023 – December 8, 2023

The American South is a region of great dynamism—a latticework of intersecting cultures and histories that emerge at the creative tension-points between the roots of one’s origins and the routes by which new identities are forged. This exhibition presents a visual overview of the many ways that Southern artists, from the nineteenth century to the present, have interpreted and responded to these interrelated themes of rootedness and movement. Included in the show are reflections on border crossings, social mobilities, migration and travel narratives, and traumatic displacements. As these twenty artists re-tread pathways (real and imagined) of dislocation and relocation, they memorialize the dynamic histories and evolving identities of their subjects.

Prominent in the exhibition are works that grapple with the Great Migration (1910–1970) which saw millions of African Americans leave the South. Such relocation was accompanied by, alternately, hope for a better future and poignancy about homes left behind. African American author Richard Wright, describing his own relocation from Mississippi to Chicago in his 1945 memoir Black Boy, characterized his relationship between his roots and his routes thusly: “I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns, and perhaps, to bloom.”

Featured artists: Robert Duncanson, Jeremiah Theus, Joshua Johnson, Edwin Harleston, Romare Bearden, Robert Gwathmey, Beverly Buchanan, William Henry Johnson, Leo Twiggs, Anna Hunter, Samella Lewis, Alma Thomas, Beauford Delaney, Ruth Asawa, Hale Woodruff, Mavis Pusey, Charles Alston, Loïs Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, and Aaron Douglas

On view at the Richardson Family Art Museum, Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC, please go to the museum's website for the most up-to-date information on hours and other programming.