Tuscaloosa photographers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2000

to ‘Celebrate with Pike County’


Features Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"Celebrate Alabama Art with Pike County" exhibition Sept. 4 at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama will feature two outstanding, but amazingly and uniquely different Tuscaloosa

photographers, Flemming Tyler Wilson and William Christenberry.

Viewing the photographs of Flemming Tyler Wilson, one would never guess that his early experiences led him jobs in Chicago with the likes of Sears, Spiegel and Neiman Marcus.

"Flemming" readily admits that he did everything from scouting locations, casting models, handling props and wardrobe to designing and constructing sets.

That set the stage for him to transfer what he had learned to his own work, his own art, and to add the one aspect that was missing – passion.

Around 1980, he returned to Tuscaloosa and brought with him the tools of his trade and the passion for his art.

"I am blessed to find in photography a means of expressing myself," he said. "Photography is my voice."

Flemming said he loved everything from portraits to his stage-set-like scenes on mythology.

"There are two types of photographs – some you take and some you make," he said. "I stay out of the photography until the individual is either relaxed or agitated enough so that they look right past me and they’re then confronting the person who will look at the photograph.

"If I spend time, however, long, with concepts – stage sets, actors, etc. – in order to achieve my desired effect, then I consider that this is a photography that I have made."

No matter whether Flemming "takes or makes" photographs, his photography expresses the state of the world "to show humanity something of itself: beautiful progressions and senseless digressions in spirit."

Christenberry is an internationally recognized interpreter of the

American South.

Through three mediums, photography, painting and sculpture, he reveals a stirring vision of the heritage that obsesses him, said Eva Green, curator of the Alabama Art exhibition.

"William Christenberry’s original imagery and objects form a distinguished voice in American contemporary art," she said. "He specifically describes and considers the social and material culture of the South."

As a young boy, Christenberry began recording country scenes around his home county, Hale, with an inexpensive camera. Later, he was so inspired by the directness of photography that he made it a critical component of his work, a medium of its own, a seed for his painting and sculpture and a tool for the documentation of his sculptural work.

"His pictures and sculptures of Alabama buildings make up one of the most extended studies of vernacular architecture ever undertaken in the rural South," Green said.

Christenberry has been contemplating country stores. barns, houses and churches for more than 30 years. He has documented the passage of time on the sculptures he equates with the waning spirit of country life.

His surreal "Dream Buildings" and "Southern Monuments" combine farm-culture elements such as metal advertising signs, hollowed-out gourds and rough-hewn ladders with essential three-dimensional forms.

"William Christenberry’s sculptures commemorate an Alabama of both childhood memory and adult reflection," Green said. "Those who view the work of Christenberry will be fascinated by his artistic vision."

The two photographers, Flemming Tyler Wilson and William Christenberry, both from Tuscaloosa and both with deep roots in the culture of the South,

"illustrate" the artistic genius that is Alabama Art.

"To view the work of these two artist is an awe inspiring opportunity," Green said. "We invite everyone to make plans now to attend the reception and ‘Celebration of Alabama Art with Pike County’ from 6 until 8 p.m.,Sept. 4 at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama."

Editor’s note: See the Tuesday edition of The Messenger to learn more about sculpor Frank Fleming and draftsman/engraver Steve Skidmore.