Published on November 8th, 2012 | by Angela Son0
Interview with Beverly Buchanan
Throughout her three-decade long artistic career, Beverly Buchanan has painted and sculpted wooden shacks of the American South. Her latest exhibition, All in the Family, celebrated its opening last Friday at GalleryDAAS at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, featuring a series of Buchanan’s structures and paintings.
Buchanan was born in North Carolina but grew up in South Carolina with her great uncle, Walter Buchanan, who was dean of the School of Agriculture at South Carolina State College — the only state-supported school for African Americans in the South. Much of her work stems from her personal observations and experiences as a child.
A two-time recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Guggenheim Fellowship, Buchanan’s name is often associated with the term, “Southern vernacular architecture.” However, though art critics deemed her paintings to be representations of the region’s historical racism and poverty, Buchanan insists that her pieces are based on real-life people and places. As an artist, Buchanan particularly pays attention to the structures and landscapes of her surroundings, demonstrating her talent for finding beauty in impoverished areas.
Now 72-years-old with works being exhibited across the country, Buchanan has remained humble and easy-going, constantly thinking up new artistic ideas. Art Animal had the opportunity to meet Buchanan in person to talk about her work and concepts of home.
Art Animal: When you think of home, what do you imagine?
Beverly Buchanan: Plants, weather, colors (of everything – trees, birds, dirt) and design. I like designs of trees and especially buildings. I like the weather here (in Michigan). I’m probably the only one looking forward to snow.
AA: What does the concept of home mean to you?
BB: It means what I’ve established and where I am, wherever that is. And it means South Carolina, where I grew up. It doesn’t mean, to me, where my family came from. My family came from wherever they came from, but I consider home as where I grew up.
AA: Do like to travel? Do you have any particular memories of travelling in the South?
BB: I loved it. Oh, yeah. One instance that still stands out in my brain is visiting a farmer’s plantation. There [was] lots and lots of corn and there was wind going -— it was almost like a song! Daddy said to me, “Do you hear the wind?” I would never forget that. It was so beautiful, I just said yes. So now I tell people, “you know, corn sings,” and they go “Oh, boy.”
AA: What has travelling given you and how does it affect you?
BB: One of the most wonderful influences for me was going to Copenhagen in 1980. There was a women’s arts conference and I was one of the delegates from the United States. I saw sculptures that I’ve only seen in books. I’d never get over that.
AA: How easy is it for you to get attached to a new place?
BB: It depends on what I bring with me to the new place. Familiar things help in adjusting. Chairs and pictures: they help.
AA: Do you believe somewhere else is always better than you are right now? In other words, do you believe the grass is always greener on the other side?
BB: It depends on the time of the day, the food that I’ve had and the weather. Right now, this place is just wonderful. Right now, at this minute, this place is just marvelous.