Off the Wall: Backseat View

Reintroducing "Off the Wall," a recurring feature that spotlights local curators and the works they most want to share with Pelican Bomb readers, drawing special attention to the state's diverse public collections.

William Christenberry, GHOST FORM, 1994. mixed media sculpture and Alabama red soil
. Courtesy the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, new orleans.

Who: Richard McCabe, Artist and Curator of Photography

Where: Ogden Museum of Southern Art
, New Orleans

What: William Christenberry, Ghost Form, 1994, mixed media sculpture and Alabama red soil

When: Ghost Form was made in 1994. It was purchased by Roger Ogden in 1995 and donated to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in 2003. Ghost Form has been exhibited in several permanent collection exhibitions at the Ogden including “Story of the South,” “Sense of Place,” and “Vanishing South by William Christenberry.”

Why: As a child growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, our family would drive outside of town on weekends to visit our cousins who lived in the country. I always loved sitting in the backseat of the car, looking out the window, watching the flat landscape zoom by as my father drove the family past cotton fields and woods to our cousin's farm. My favorite sight on these weekend drives was seeing a little white house sitting in the middle of a cotton field nestled amongst a clump of trees. I thought that house looked so cool out in the field all by itself. It just looked neat—the rectangular shape with a triangular roof. The open front door was a mouth and the two windows were eyes.

Time passed, my family moved away from Montgomery, and I grew older; but I never forgot about the house out in the cotton field. Sometimes I would think about that house and I’d wonder to myself (as with many childhood memories): Was it a dream or was it real? Thirty-something years later I came to New Orleans and got a job within the curatorial department at the Ogden. My first day at the museum, I walked into the art storage vault and I saw Christenberry’s Ghost Form. The sculpture is based on the house in the middle of the cotton field that I saw as a child. Christenberry made four accompanying photographs of the house, collectively titled Abandoned House in Field Near Montgomery, Alabama. I was not dreaming after all.

William Christenberry, Abandoned House in Field Near Montgomery, Alabama, 1971. Chromogenic color print. Courtesy the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans.