Rotan Switch: An Exhibit of Photographs by Lisa McCord

by - September 03, 2013

Rotan Switch: An Exhibit of Photographs by Lisa McCord
Opening September 28, 6-9pm
Cotton Museum
65 Union Avenue

The Cotton Museum invites you to celebrate the opening of Rotan Switch: An Exhibit of Photographs by Lisa McCord. Guests will meet the artist, sip beer from local High Cotton brewery and enjoy live music from the Swamp Katz.

Through compelling and personal photographs, the collection documents life on one of the last tenant-run cotton plantations to operate along the Mississippi River.  During the opening reception from 6pm to 9pm guests will have the opportunity to meet the artist, sip beer from the local High Cotton Brewery, and enjoy live music by the Swamp Katz. The event is free and open to the public.

The tenant-run cotton plantation featured in the exhibit is located in Northeastern Arkansas near Osceola. This rural community was called Rotan Switch after the nearby railroad stop where cotton bales were loaded. These vernacular images reveal not only the hardships faced by African Americans who lived on tenant farms in the Delta, but the strength, dignity, and love that can be fostered in the face of adversity by a strong community.

Lisa McCord was born in Arkansas in the late 1950’s to a young artist whose parents owned the cotton plantation at the heart of the Rotan Switch community.  Though her mother’s work would carry them far and wide, McCord always thought of her grandparent’s farm at Rotan as her home. She became interested in photography at school in Michigan and continued to pursue her interest at schools in New York, Paris, Greece, and California. Her work has been exhibited in galleries from New York to San Francisco.

In the early 1980’s McCord returned to Rotan to photograph the people that had given her a sense of place. As both documentarian and insider, she captured intimate portraits that preserve the history of the tenant farmer with the grace of an artist and sensitivity of a family friend.  At the same time, the duality of her perspective invokes a whisper of the complicated relationships between black families and the white children they tenderly embraced. “These photographs are my way of giving back to a community that raised and molded me,” says McCord. Today, the community of tenant farmers at Rotan Switch no longer exists, and this exhibit serves as an epitaph to its way of life.

The event is part of the Cotton Museum’s “Making the Delta” program, supported by Arts Memphis, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Downtown Memphis Commission. The program shares the work of our region’s most innovative artists in the Cotton Museum’s unique historical setting. Rotan Switch will remain on view at the Cotton Museum (65 Union Avenue) through October 20, 2013. The opening reception is at 6pm on September 28 and is free and open to the public.  

Making the Delta is funded by an Arts Build Communities grant - a program funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and administered in cooperation with the Tennessee Arts Commission and ArtsMemphis.

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