Between Absence and Presence: Rising River Blues


(left) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Mattie When you Marry, 1999. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York (right) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Rising River Blues, 1999. Charcoal on wood with found objects, 90 1/2 x 52 1/2 x 48 in. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

In Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works, the two tableaux pictured above (Mattie When You Marry at left and Rising River Blues at right) face each other on either end of a gallery. They were originally conceived as part of a larger installation that the artist developed in 1999 during a residency in Denton, Texas. Presented here, the single female and male figure represent the collective lives of Quakertown, the rural African American community that once thrived in the center of Denton from 1875 until 1924. In 1924, the residents were displaced when they were perceived as a threat to a nearby all white girls school. To help summon their memory, Lovell immersed himself in thousands of old family photographs from the Texas African American Photography Archive in Dallas.

The melodic sounds of “Rising River Blues” emanate from the phonograph you see in Rising River Blues and set the tone for the piece. The artist stimulates our sense of sound and sight with the textured layering of strewn clothes evocative of disembodied individuals, thereby inviting the viewer into a space that hovers between absence and presence.

Rising River Blues
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
They runnin’, sweet mama, like they haven’t run before

I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on your street
I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on the street
These rising river blues sure have got me beat

Mmm, mmmm, mmm, mmmm, hmmmm
Mmm, mmm, mmmm, mmm, hmmm,
Mmm, mmmmm

Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
To cure these blues gon’ take a long, long time
–lyrics by George Carter, 1929

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

Your #Panel61: Shotgun as Artistic Tool

In the final, 60th panel of The Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence leaves us with the words “And the migrants keep coming.” The story of migration is ongoing; what would the 61st panel look like today? Featured below are some thoughtful responses to this question by local artists. Submit your #Panel61 on our recently launched Jacob Lawrence website.


Panel 61 submission: Mahnaz Weldy, “Humanity in Pain”

Mahnaz Weldy
In this piece, Humanity in Pain, I tried to show that we all are connected to one another, and if we have any conscious, then suffering of others should pain us all. I aimed to not only paint the pain and suffering, but also the human resilience and strength to survive the unimaginable. My work is a combination of acrylic, collage and chalk on canvas.


Panel 61 submission: Jenny E. Balisle, “America Red, White and Blue.” 39 x 108 in. Colorplan paper and a Mossberg 500 shotgun

Jenny E. Balisle
The America series investigates diverse cultures and relationships between man-made and natural environments. Fascinated by flight or disorientation, I merge together disparate experiences to create new narratives. Colorplan sheets of cover stock sized 25 x 38 inches were brought to a gun range. Using a Mossberg 500 shotgun as a vehicle of mark making, paper was placed on a target seven yards away. The artwork records how patterns of power and inequality can be spread through distance and speed. It re-purposes a weapon into artistic commentary by altering function to explore identity, ideology, and equality. The paper represents life’s fragility and the pellet pattern explores America’s gun culture and military-industrial complex. The goal is to engage conversation on what it means to be American as a citizen and through a global context. The artwork reclaims social justice and questions what is normal. The orientation of the paper has been turned to face the viewer, confronting and asking by what means and price do we secure freedom for all at home and abroad.