Jim and Mancy Massengill started this family side-business to make ends meet. The country was in the throes of depression and on the verge of entering the Second World War. Work was scarce in rural Arkansas, but the Massengills understood that even in rough times, life continues. Babies are born, children play, couples meet, and we all grow older. Someone needed to be there to capture those moments and that person could perhaps make a living doing it.
A few years later, the Massengill’s sons, Lance and Lawrence, and their wives, Evelyn and Thelma, worked their way into the business. They outfitted their own trailers and made their own pictures, traveling across the state in search of clients. The surviving family diaries and notes from this period attest to a very strong and entrepreneurial work ethic, with little mention of aesthetics or technique. The men and women of both generations describe where they went, what they did, and how much they made with only fleeting mention of life’s details. With few exceptions, the stories are left to be told by the pictures they made.
The Massengill family photographs can be playful, serious, strange, and at times, haunting. Originally created as precious souvenirs, these photographs recorded moments experienced by the very young, the very old, and everyone in between. Viewed today, the images provide us with honest and intimate portraits of life in the rural South in a bygone era. The photographs collected in this book were all created by members of the Massengill’s extended family in the 1930s and 40s, but the individual photographers remain, for the most part, unknown.
It is the stuff of literature, film, art, and music – life turns on a dime. Mancy Massengill walks into a store and has the idea to start making photographs. Almost seventy years later, Maxine Payne, a photographer from Arkansas, reconnects with a family friend, Sondra Massengill, the daughter of Lance and Evelyn, and is invited to discover hundreds of photographs that she never knew existed. Those two events, not excluding everything that happened in between, have brought this project into being. Today, thanks to luck or providence, or both, we have been afforded the opportunity to see these photographs that would have otherwise been lost to the slow but inevitable passage of time.
- Phillip March Jones
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same title, co-published by Dust-to-Digital and Institute 193.
Austin Eddy: It’s Not That Simple
Using the figure as armature, Austin Eddy builds his works onto raw canvas with cut paper, canvas, and paint. Eddy’s figures communicate the full-spectrum of human emotion: they are playful, sad, kind, lonely, confused, or loving. Like the materials he uses, the tone of the works is raw, articulated in quick, but honest lines, curves, and shapes. The palette, dominated by various hues of black and brown, is determined chiefly by those materials: browns from canvas, yellows from wood glue or the reaction of gel medium on news print, whites from bleach, blacks from charcoal, and greys from pencil.
Eddy’s most recent works, the subject of our exhibition, are simple compositions depicting scenes from the artist’s personal and visual vernacular of flat-faced figures and impossible landscapes.
Austin Eddy (b. 1986) received his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.