The American artist Neill Slaughter grew up mostly in the South, but these days New York is more his milieu.
Celebrated by his peers and with an international following, Slaughter’s prolific output of landscapes and portraits and other work shed light on the world in an important way.
Slaughter’s long list of accolades include fellowships from both the Ford Foundation and the Fulbright Foundation, and various prizes and grants. During 38 years as an art professor, Slaughter spent a considerable amount of time traveling throughout the world to teach, conduct research and create art.
His bio states that Slaughter’s “extensive travels have influenced what he paints, which often reflect the social conditions of his surroundings.”
But we remember him when he was younger and still of the South.
After college, we were upstairs-downstairs neighbors in a beach duplex one memorable summer in the 1970s on Hilton Head Island.
While the rest of us were writing newspaper and magazine articles about fleeting sports stars of the moment like Bjorn Borg and Johnny Miller and Chris Evert, and drinking beer nightly in watering holes from the tip of Harbor Town to the up-island tackiness of the renowned Golden Rose, Neill was honing his craft.
Day after day, he worked at his easel on a screen porch with an Atlantic view, inventing himself as an artist.
The paintings shown here are mostly set on the Chesapeake Bay, which in its lower reaches marks a boundary of the South that flows away with the tides… then gradually disappears from view. We reflect on Slaughter as he created these works on that boundary, an artist who started in one place and has ended up in others.
Slaughter notes that while he has lived in many places since he departed the Georgia of his youth, he has usually lived within a short distance of the sea.
“Drawing or painting on location is quite challenging because the artist must deal directly with constantly changing environmental conditions, therefore one has to concisely capture the essence of what is being portrayed within a finite amount of time, generally two to three hours before the light changes thereby altering the subject,” he wrote in an artist statement for a maritime exhibit. “As a result there is a sense of urgency and spontaneity apparent in the brushwork.”
A location by the sea seems apt for Slaughter.
Some of his works will be on display April 14-May 29 in the East End Collected3 exhibition at the Southampton Arts Center in Southampton, NY
His website is located at http://www.neillslaughter.com/
In 1947, after the United States had recovered from a rationed economy that must have seemed like it would never end, and had beaten the odds to conquer world fascism. anything was possible.
The short film here from the great Alan Lomax examines Southern music as it existed to that point. A banjo-playing Pete Seeger is joined by luminaries Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, among others, in an exploration of folk, country, blues and gospel music. They celebrate the Scotch-Irish roots of much of the region's music, its patchwork tapestry.
What strikes us is the air of innocence about the culture to that point, the absolute lack of irony in what the characters say and do, their open faces. This was the moment before rock & roll burst onto the scene from its roots in the Southern Delta.
American society may be much coarser now than then, but we are certain rock & roll is not the cause. Rather, it may be some consolation. Perhaps rock & roll can even help lead us back around to the honest expression that we see here.
Here are some of SouthernAirs' choices for the best songs associated with Alabama, in no particular order. Maybe it's easier to see where you're going if you know where you've been, but these tunes are also not organized by any particular era. Maybe it's best to just dive in here anywhere and see where you end up. There have been more famous songs written about Alabama than any other state, according to some accounts.
ALABAMA BOUND, by Huddie Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly, blues musician from the 1930s-1940s who was prolific and influential in the history of the genre. His mastery of the 12-string guitar is fairly wondrous.
ALABAMA GETAWAY, Grateful Dead. Here is the studio version of the definitive jam band's take on the state. We don't know whether they are getting away TO Alabama, or getting away FROM Alabama, but maybe it's just the trip that counts.
ALABAMA PINES, Jason Isbell. Sometimes you can see both the forest and the trees. A formidable alt country talent who pushes the cross-over envelope, and a Drive By Truckers alum to boot. He's from Green Hill, Alabama, and probably proud of it.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The enduring classic from the star-crossed talents who became a pillar of the Southern rock genre. When artists make great sacrifice for their talent, it's worth remembering.
STARS FELL ON ALABAMA, Billie Holiday. Everybody who was anybody covered this standard from the great jazz singer, musician and song writer. Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Patti Page are among the luminaries who recorded the song, but it still belongs to Billie.
BIRMINGHAM TONIGHT, Delbert McClinton. A honky-tonk favorite from a musician who is familiar with life on the road, and whose fine body of work spans the blues, rock, country genres -- and whatever else comes at him next.
THE THREE GREAT ALABAMA ICONS, Drive By Truckers. Existential musings from the rock-country group known for spending a lot of creative energy plumbing the Southern experience. Look for some rough and revealing insights here.
STUCK INSIDE OF MOBILE WITH THE MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN, Bob Dylan. This song may not really be about Alabama. But then again, it might be.
SHOUT BAMALAMA, Otis Redding. An energetic shouter from the titan of soul.
BAMA BREEZE, Jimmy Buffett. Mood piece. Nostalgia drinking song about a bar where everybody would like to have a beer -- if they could just find the place.
John Morgan was an executive at Billboard Magazine's parent company for nine years, and notably led the launch of the magazine's Website, www.Billboard.com. He was also founding editor of the "This Day in Music Almanac," and created the BPI Entertainment News Wire. He has a special fondness for Southern music and other Southern art, from literature to crafts and photography.