You May Bury My Body
Mixed Media 2022
In the summer of 1938, the blues singer Robert Johnson was staying at a house in the Baptist Town section of Greenwood, MS and playing at the Three Folks Store. He was seeing the young daughter of “Tush Hog” who lived on the Star of the West plantation. But RJ had also been sleeping with the wife of a man known as R.D. Davis, who worked at the Three Forks Store. On a weekend night when Johnson was playing at the store in 1938, Davis gave mothball-laced whiskey to his wife Beatrice to give to Johnson, making him desperately ill in revenge for sleeping with her. The man told researcher Mack McCormick years later that he intended to sicken Johnson, but he didn’t intend to kill him. After a few days suffering with internal bleeding at his house in Baptist Town, Tush Hog’s daughter convinced her father to pick him up and bring him back to their house on the Star of the West plantation. Johnson died at their home that same night. The house where Johnson died is long gone, with only bits of glass, brick, coal, nails and tiny ephemera left, scattered in the field over an acre after years of plowing.
This mixed media piece, entitled “You May Bury My Body,” after the Robert Johnson song, “Me and the Devil,” contains a panorama triptych of 11x14 tintypes of the field where the house once stood where Johnson died in August of 1938. The deer skeleton was found at the edge of the field, photographed in situ, and later cleaned and re-assembled. The rusted metal pieces were found in the field and include farm machinery and nails from the house. The glass jar was found in a trash dump on the Star of the West plantation and contains dirt from the field where Johnson died, as well as branches from a nearby tree. Finally, the wood backing boards for this piece came from Little Zion church, where Johnson is buried in the church cemetery, about 1-2 miles away. Rosie Eskridge, who lived on Star of the West in 1938, identified the field where Tush Hog’s house stood, as well as the actual burial site of Johnson. Her husband dug his grave.