Her Fragrance Is Still Among Us at The Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, Duluth

By March 11, 2024
Detail I of Amanda Greene, Car Quilt, 2023. Full piece is 68 x 76 inches, photographic images printed on fabric, various cotton fabrics, hand quilted. Photograph courtesy of the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, Duluth, Georgia. 

Amanda Greene’s first solo show, titled Her Fragrance Is Still Among Us, at The Hudgens Center for Art and Learning in Duluth, GA, pays tribute to everyday life in the rural South, highlighting colorful images of domesticity, roadside providence, and the fading traditions that permeate the landscape. Spanning forty photographs, quilts, and photograph-quilts, Rabun County, GA, born Greene’s exhibit presents one with visions of a South that seem emptied somehow. For the most part, her photos capture scenes devoid of people—quiet front yards, abandoned church grounds, roadside signs pointing nowhere—and carry a lingering sense of mystery. The heavy and complicated history of the region is never absent, of course, and Greene’s work encourages us to reflect deeply on the complex visual information of these haunted, out-of-the-way places.

Greene, who studied photography at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, attended two Gee’s Bend Quilting Retreats in Mississippi in recent years to learn from innovative veterans of the Alabama Gee’s Bend quilting community, China and Mary Ann Pettway. The Hudgens opportunity afforded her the occasion to meld her two primary artistic passions into one. There was a practical side to the combination of photography and textiles as well. It proved more cost-effective to print photos on fabric and quilt them into traditional patterns than to frame the original prints. The results are visually striking and thought-provoking. Car Quilt (2023), for example, which makes use of a traditional hand-stitched “Baptist fans” pattern, features twelve blocks with photographs of 70s-era, sometimes derelict, cars and trucks at their centers. Her juxtaposition of “junk” cars and the association some quilts have with impoverished circumstances resonates with depictions of poverty elsewhere in the show.

Amanda Greene, Winter Window, 2018, archival pigment print, 24 x 36 inches. Photograph by and courtesy of the artist.

Bitter Southerner readers will recognize some of Greene’s photographs, such as the “Peach Fuzz” series, but a good number of the works in “Her Fragrance Is Still Among Us” have never been published or exhibited. Still, some familiar subjects in Greene’s work, such as signs—signs with arrows, signs with messages, empty signs—forge thematic connections for the viewer. A great example of this, Lord Remember Me (2023), a photograph of an old brown station wagon parked next to a sign bearing the piece’s titular words between a grocery store’s hours and the lone word Coke, demonstrates Greene’s expert eye and keen sense of humor. Another in the same vein, Forgive Me My Trespasses (2021) features an empty arrow-sign in a church parking lot, a scene snapped while the artist herself was trespassing.

The poignance of Greene’s work often emerges from happenstance or serendipity. While one might know the general landscape from one’s own travels through the South, Greene reminds the viewer that what the poet Donald Hall calls the “luminous particular” lurks around every corner and down every byway. In Towel Arc (2023), for instance, she captures the way an ordinary white, tin-roofed, one-story home becomes the background for a front-yard clothesline hung with nine bright, multicolored towels. The combination of late afternoon sun and the accidental rainbow of the drying towels leaves the viewer feeling hopeful and reassured in a nostalgic but not a sentimental way.

Amanda Greene, Lord Remember Me, 2024, archival pigment print, 16 x 24 inches. Photograph by and courtesy of the artist.

In a Southern triumph called “Collards and Cornbread,” Greene used photographs of greens and a repeating cornbread motif in yellow and orange as part of a stunning “double x” pattern quilt (Greene herself added the perfect echo to this photograph-quilt by wearing fresh-off-the-sewing-machine collard green britches to the opening of “Her Fragrance is Still Among Us”!). This piece is, in many ways, Greene’s celebration of two profoundly important traditions of the South: foodways and the imaginative art/work of quilting. A photograph of Gee’s Bend quilter China Pettway on a nearby wall also serves as a tribute to a long and storied collective creative force.

Amanda Greene, Her Fragrance Is Still Among Us, 2024, quilt, various cotton fabrics, batting, thread and yarn, lettering appliquéd, 58 x 70 inches. Photograph courtesy of the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning, Duluth, Georgia. 

Her Fragrance Is Still Among Us is on view at the Hudgens Center for Art and Learning in Duluth, Georgia through April 20, 2024.

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