Photographic exhibit reflects life in pre-Civil War Texas plantation homes

“A Corner of Canaan,” a series of photographs that focuses on preservation of antebellum, pre-Civil War buildings in East Texas, begins Feb. 1 at The Collective, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7.  The exhibit, curated by Sarah A. Trotty, PhD, continues through March 29.

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Artist Ben Davis has framed 20 photographs of plantation houses, coupled with handwritten text about both owner and slave occupants, to compare two diverse histories and two points of view–one Anglo and one African American.  He will give gallery talks Saturday, Feb. 8, at 3 p.m. and Saturday, March 8, at 3 p.m.

Naomi Carrier, historian and culturalist, will give a gallery talk Saturday, March 22, at 3 p.m.

Davis explains that pre-Civil War culture in Texas consisted of socially stratified spatial arrangements that were meant to remind people of their place in society.

Each photographic panel is crafted from dark walnut in a fashion similar to 19th Century building practice, with wood pegs. Texts and photographs are mounted on large sheets of hot-press watercolor paper floated in the frame and showing the unfinished deckled edge.

“That the photographs are meant to be formally beautiful is a deliberate irony,” Davis explained, “because anyone who has lived in one of these places knows that they are not the grand mansions Southern lore would have us believe they were.”

Davis, who has an M.F.A. from the University of North Texas in Denton, also studied at the Houston Community College and Houston’s Glassell School of Art.

The 6 to 8 p.m. reception and gallery talks are open to the public.

The Collective, located in the Midtown Art Center Tea Room Gallery, 1413 Holman at LaBranch, is open Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment.


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