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The Revenant

From: Southern Cultures
Volume 19, Number 3, Fall 2013
pp. 46-56 | 10.1353/scu.2013.0028

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The gaps between experience and history are filled with unauthorized cosmologies. Worldview. Origins of myth. While artifacts of war are found in pawnshops, artifacts of survival are found in cosmology. Through my work, I chart the southern imaginary—from the Culture Wars back to Reconstruction, from a Food Lion parking lot in Appalachia to the utopian plots of the Lower Ninth Ward—in search of cosmological artifacts.

This series of photographs dramatizes the narrative displacement of familiar pictures and text caused by drilling Bell Irvin Wiley’s Embattled Confederates: An Illustrated History of Southerners at War (Harper & Row, 1964). Like a failing dam, what began as one spontaneous hole gave way to a compulsive perforation. I drilled until the book was lace. Loosed from the pages that previously gave them context and gravity, historic images became dislocated and unrecognizable. The book’s unmaking betrayed it as something man-made, its narrative sovereignty jeopardized by an impolitic process.

The images perform and critique the southern gothic tradition of memorialization. They offer a reflection of how the Civil War feels to someone searching for its mark on the present, trying to square our experience of the South today with what we imagine about its past. Thus, this work addresses memory as a creative process, and questions the value—and the values—of history. [End Page 46]


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… a most disagreeable mirror, 2012

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Righteous Wound, 2012

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usoughtorewind, 2012

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Undiscoverers, 2012

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The gnawings of conscience, 2012

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Rabble, 2012

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Spine, 2012

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Domeciled, 2012

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To rend and redress, 2012

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Nothin’ scarier than stupid ghosts, 2012

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Matthew P. Shelton

Matthew P. Shelton was born in Danbury, North Carolina. He received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA from Guilford College. He lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he teaches in VCU’s Art Foundations program and serves as Gallery Coordinator at 1708, a non-profit space for new art.

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