Works on Copper and Reliquary Boxes
On Sunday nights during the 1990’s, Junior Kimbrough’s Juke Joint in Chulahoma, Mississippi was the ultimate blues Mecca. Bono, Iggy Pop and members of the Rolling Stones even made pilgrimages. Junior's was an intoxicating mix of droning music, intense heat, cheap beer, and bodies moving in hypnotic synchronicity within a rural, folk art blues cathedral. Junior died in January of 1998 and then in April, 2000, the club burned to the ground.
For seven years, I documented the music, the dancers and the folk art paintings that covered the walls. Days after the fire I was photographing the ashes and collecting burned relics from the last great Hill Country blues cathedral.
Inspired by abstract expressionists such as Antoni Tapies of Spain and Southern folk artists such as Thornton Dial, Ronald Lockett and Lonnie Holley of Alabama, all of whom use found objects to create their art, in 2006 I began a series of mixed-media constructions integrating my photographs of Juniors printed on copper with the remnants of the burned building, including what was left of the band's musical instruments.
Sheets of burned and twisted tin came from the building's roof. A bridge with rusty strings and 3 oxidized tuning keys were all that was left of Garry Burnside's bass guitar. Metal straps once served as handles for amplifiers. A long undulating spring once supported Junior in his favorite chair between sets as he smoked and chatted with patrons. To me, these are holy objects worthy of as much veneration as precious artifacts pulled from ancient tombs.
Junior Kimbrough was the last great blues innovator and his juke joint was one of the last Mississippi blues clubs where the music was still integral to the lives of it's patrons. Ashes and burned metal are now all that remain of the place where Kimbrough regularly wove his musical genius into long, möbius strips of sound that hypnotized dancers for hours on end. This is my tribute to Junior Kimbrough and his music.