"It is the genius of William Christenberry to stir up intensely evocative emotions and meanings from common, even humble, pieces of the world." —Howard N. Fox, curator of modern and contemporary art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Since the early 1960s, William Christenberry has plumbed the regional identity of the American South, focusing his attention on Hale County, Alabama, from which he hails. His theme is singular: the history, the very story of place, is at the heart of his project. His poetic documentation of Southern vernacular architecture, signage, and landscape captures moments of quiet beauty in a sometimes rustic terrain that, with its worn iconography and buildings turned ramshackle, evokes the power of the passage of time.
Havana Methodist Church, Havana, Alabama, 1976 is part of a previously unseen body of Christenberry's work: a group of 35 mm Kodachromes, developed in 2006, some thirty years after they were taken, and is included in William Christenberry (Aperture, 2006). The Havana Methodist Church, which still stands, was built at the time of the Civil War and is where Christenberry's paternal grandparents are buried. The artist laments the fact that the wonderful country churches of his youth are disappearing, and are being replaced by dreary cinderblock structures. This image of a whitewashed church is simple, almost faceless, but representative of a fading part of the rural landscape; it evinces Walker Percy's description of Christenberry's work as a "poetic evocation of a haunted countryside."
William Christenberry (born Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1936) received his bachelor's (1958) and master's (1959) degrees in fine arts from the University of Alabama, studying under noted abstract expressionist Melville Price. Since 1968 he has taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. Though known more as a photographer and multi-media artist than as a painter, Christenberry continues to teach painting. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows around the world and is the subject of several monographs.