pop culture

Mammy’s Head’n to Texas!

Images from my Incongruity series keep reaping acclaim and exhibitions! A shot from last summer’s road trip to New Orleans garnered an exhibit venue down in Johnson City, Texas. The photograph, Mammy’s Cupboard was shot down in Natchez, MS, and will go on display later this month at the A. Smith Gallery. The national competition, called “Domicile”, was a juried show. I also found out the image will be used on their promo cards, which are to hit the postal mail soon.

© 2009 Terry Ownby

NOLA Road Trip ’09

Road trips have always been a big part of my life. By the time I was five years old (in the late 1950s) I had traveled the famous Route 66 numerous times with my parents (between Missouri, New Mexico, and on out to California). I’ve loved being on the road ever since. So, after more than a month of nothing but writing papers in response to my doctoral content prelim exams and completing an on-line research course, I decided to give myself a solo vacation to New Orleans to visit one of my sons and his family (read grandkids here!).

Pretty much I can’t stand driving on the interstate highways as they’re so blah, generic, or “pedestrian.” Instead, I’ll take backroads whenever the opportunity arises, which it did on this trip. I used the interstate system to get me into Mississippi, just south of Memphis, and then off the beaten path I went! Once I made my way over to Vicksburg, I drove U.S. Highway 61 along Ol’ Man River until I reached NOLA. There’s so much history along that corridor of the Mississippi River Valley, one could spend days photographing and sight-seeing the antebellum plantations and Civil War battlefields.

Photographically speaking, I captured some interesting shots, I think. After having a lunch of gumbo on my first day in New Orleans at my favorite local joint, Liuzza’s, I made my way over to City Park. The Live Oaks there are incredible with their branches touching the ground and suckering off new trees. Other photo ops included another muffler man (the King) and Mammy’s Cupboard (near Natchez, MS) for my Incongruity series; cool looking Cyprus trees in the Jean Laffite Bayou; a new balcony series from the French Quarter; and incredible views of the 275-year old Live Oak “alley” at Oak Alley Plantation.

Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation, © 2009 Terry Ownby


Mammy’s Cupboard, © 2009 Terry Ownby

Incongruity: Found American Cultural Objects

Four years ago I began a series of images that came to be through happenstance. In other words, I simply stumbled onto some unlikely situations as they presented themselves to me and I leveraged the photographic opportunity to my creative advantage. Since that serendipitous moment, I have actively sought out similar objects to photograph and so far, I’ve been nicely rewarded with different photographic opportunities.

I’m a big fan of taking road trips throughout the United States (something my father inflicted me with at an early age!) and these trips target my found American cultural objects. The thing is, these pop cultural objects are incongruous with their surroundings or sometimes just life in general. Americans seem infatuated with the notion that “bigger is better” and thus construct these larger-than-life edifices to commemorate this “bigness”.

On a recent trip to Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, I intentionally detoured my road trip to the small Ohio River town of Metropolis, Illinois, home of America’s number one super hero—Superman. I’ve been here numerous times with my folks when I was a kid and had not been back in nearly 40 years, so I was very happy to see Superman still stood next to the court house. But to my surprise, I found another giant in town, Big John, standing vigilantly outside the Big John grocery store. What a deal…two giants for the price of one!

Giant Super Man--Metropolis, IL

Superman, © 2008, Terry Ownby.

Big John-Metropolis, IL

Big John, © 2008, Terry Ownby

Summer Holiday

Ahhhhh! Finally, my summer holiday has arrived! Now I’m about to enjoy the pleasure of why I chose to become a university professor…summer break. It did come a bit late for me this year though. So back in May, when my colleagues took their respite after Spring finals and started their bike riding on the Katy Trail WITHOUT me, I’ve pressed on for six more weeks of teaching summer session. Mind you, I’m not complaining about their enjoyment out on the trail, I’ve experienced my own pleasure at what I enjoy most…teaching.

I found teaching two summer sessions rather unique. My intro studio class ran for six weeks, while my digital imaging (i.e., Photoshop) lasted only three weeks. It’s interesting to condense a full 16-week semester into three or six weeks. Nonetheless, the same material and most of the exercises are still accomplished. One thing I did notice was the higher quality of work produced by my students. I suppose there’s multiple variables to account for, such as, highly focused and motivated students, less pressure on me with a lighter load, not having to simultaneously accomplish my doctorate studies, or, maybe it’s just the simple pleasure of teaching two subjects I thoroughly enjoy.

Regardless, my students performed well, received very good marks, and now I’m ready for summer! I came straight home, kicked off my shoes and put on the flip-flops, pulled the shirt-tails out, fixed an excellent whiskey and coke, and plopped down on my favorite chair on the front porch and watched the rain come down. Now I get to relax. Soon I’ll be on a road-trip to visit the grandkids out east, then we’re off to Chicago for some serious urban and cultural infusion, and lastly back to our first married hometown—Madison, Wisconsin, to visit Army buddies and friends.

Reading is high on my list of relaxation activities for the next two months. I’m also planning some serious photography projects. Two specifically. One I see as an on-going project involving old “Fall Out” shelters from the ‘50s and ‘60s Cold War era. Below is a rough, preliminary exploration of where I’m thinking of taking the project. The other project will be solely in the studio, incorporating aspects of important moments from my life in still life format with a “scientific” flavor to it. That one will remain under wraps until finished…sorry no preview! Time to sign off, as tomorrow will be busy with preparations for vacation!

© 2008 Terry Ownby, Education Fall Out.