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Visions of the Black Belt

"Visions of the Black Belt" is a joint show featuring paintings by Amy R. Peterson and photographs by Robin McDonald whose photography is featured in the book by the same name, "Visions of Alabama: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama." Copies of the book will be available the evening of the reception with a book signing by Robin. 

Here's what Robin McDonald's had to say about this show:
In 2014, I was commissioned by the University of Alabama Press to photograph, co-author, and design the book "Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama," to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Black Belt Treasures in Camden, Alabama, which exhibits and promotes the work of Black Belt artists and craftspeople. For seven years previously, I had done extensive photography of the Black Belt for a series of calendars, each with a different theme, to promote the mission of the Alabama Black Belt Heritage Area, one of several federally designated heritage areas in Alabama. These photographs formed the basis of Visions of the Black Belt. During the next two years, in collaboration with my co-author, Valerie Pope Burnes, director of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama, I did additional photography for the book, which was essentially divided into two parts, one on the places in the Black Belt, and one on the people: writers, musicians, artists, craftspeople, farmers, and entrepreneurs. Our aim was to present a positive, forward-thinking vision of the Black Belt without ignoring its troubled history. At the Aldridge Gardens reception, I will have copies of the fourth printing of Visions of the Black Belt for sale and for signing.

This is what Amy Peterson said about the exhibit:
Many of the paintings in this show were painted on the side of the road, under the shade of a wide brim hat, in sweaty boots tall enough to keep the bugs at bay, with two dogs and three children in tow, in the heat of July! This road trip was an opportunity to finally take those back roads I had too often bypassed for lack of time. This trip was all about the back roads! I set out to paint whatever called me, and I felt most drawn to the rural churches... the Carpenter Gothic churches with their white wood siding; churches with metal roofs as bright as the sun; steeples of white that cut right through the dense humid green around them; churches with hundred and fifty year old windows that still open to let out the heat and let in a breeze; churches with graveyards and family names that go back 200 years; black churches and white churches that have witnessed and held so much through decades and generations. The Black Belt is grand and it's rough; it's gilded and it's run down; it's tarnished and it's dignified. The frames I selected for these paintings are a reflection of this paradox. They are gold; some are old; they are thrifted; vintage; repurposed and renewed."

Artist Bio - Robin McDonald
Robin McDonald is an independent photographer and graphic designer in Leeds, Alabama. He was born in England and emigrated with his parents to the United States, moving to Alabama in 1966, He received a BA cum laude from Emory University in 1972 and an MA from Columbia University in 1973, both in art history. Returning to Birmingham, he began a career in graphic design. From 1979 to 1984 he was the art director of Horizon, a national arts magazine, where he won gold and bronze awards from the New York Art Directors Club in 1981. He founded Robin McDonald Graphic Design in Leeds, Alabama, in 1984. Among other accounts, he designed state history textbooks for Clairmont Press for 25 years, and, since 1991, has been the designer of Alabama Heritage magazine. He is the author of two books, Heart of a Small Town: Photographs of Alabama Towns (2003), and Visions of the Black Belt: A Cultural Survey of the Heart of Alabama (2015), both published by the Alabama Press. Visions of the Black Belt recently had its fourth printing.

Artist Bio - Amy R. Peterson
Amy R. Peterson is an artist and art teacher known for her plein air landscapes and Birmingham city scenes, and her endeavors in historic preservation. Amy painted in Selma for many years during the annual pilgrimage and has made lifelong friends there. "Selma itself feels like a friend. Every time I visit there, my spirit is renewed in some way, usually in creative and unexpected ways." In 2021, Amy was one of 25 artists featured in a 2-year project called "Love Letters to Selma." In 2022 she led a Black Belt Art retreat that enabled her to share her love for the area with other artists. In April 2023 she hosted the Gee's Bend quilters for a special event in her hometown of Trussville, AL. Most recently, in July she planned a road trip to the Black Belt region in preparation for this show.

The show will be on exhibit at Aldridge Gardens from November 13th through January 8th.

An artists reception was held the evening of Tuesday, November 28th.

While visiting our gallery, be sure to see our special collection of Frank Fleming bronze sculptures, donated by Hoover resident Ken Jackson.

Please call us (205.739.6558) before visiting the gallery to make sure we are not hosting a luncheon or event during the time you plan to visit. The gallery is normally open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

A selection of work from the exhibit is shown in the photos below.

AmFirst is Aldridge Gardens' Arts and Sculpture Corporate Sponsor