Portrait of Floyd: See it and make up your own mind

(Courtesy of Jacksonville Center)
(Courtesy of Jacksonville Center)

The “Portrait of Floyd exhibit currently running at The Jacksonville Center has generated more discussion in the community than most shows that run at the old dairy barn on Virginia Route 8 just south of Floyd.

The Center departed from its usual practice of using the Hayloft Gallery for shows featuring local artists and brought in North Carolina arts consultant David J. Brown — former assistant director at the Taubman Museum in Roanoke — to “curate” a project that it hoped would bring more widespread attention to the operation.

Brown recruited Norfolk-based photographer Glen McClure to shoot portraits of people from and visiting Floyd to create a black-and-white photography show called “Portrait of Floyd.”  The Center recruited sponsors to help fund the show, including a $15 book of selected images from the show.

The result: 76 images, large and small, that overflows the Hayloft Gallery and fills the hallways and stairwell of the Center.

McClure is an accomplished portrait photographer with a strong reputation.  His photos, taken over two days spent in Floyd, include those who wandered by on Friday nights and a selected group of others like musician and instrument builder Arthur Connor and local businessman and former Supervisor David Ingram.

The display has brought mixed reviews:  Some like it, some say it’s too dark, proving the old adage that art is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

McClure’s work is good but I have two problems with the project:  I’m not sure that two days in Floyd is enough to capture a true portrait and I wish The Jacksonville Center had considered using the county’s excellent stable of portrait photographers like Jeri Rogers, Chelsa Yoder and Ladonna Cherrell Yearout-Patton.

But that’s just my opinion — nothing more, nothing less.  I originally wrote a stronger piece about the show but pulled it after taking a second look.

The Jacksonville Center is free to do whatever it wants and resident of and visitors to Floyd are free to see the show and express their opinion.  I think the show is worth seeing and urge folks to visit the Hayloft Gallery and make up their own minds.

The show runs through Nov. 24.

(Updated on Oct. 19 and again on October 25, 2012)

(WRITERS NOTE:  Some of the comments below were posted in response to an earlier, more strident version of this article)

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15 thoughts on “Portrait of Floyd: See it and make up your own mind”

  1. Thank you Doug for voicing the concerns that I am sure many in the community share. The Jacksonville Center has played fast and loose with other people’s money for a long time and I don’t see much of it going to help the local artists. This show was an exercise in waste and frivolity. I am familiar with both Ladonna and Chelsa’s work and either or both would have done a much better job. Too bad the powers that be at the Diary Barn didn’t feel the need to use their grant money to actually help the artists of Floyd County instead of wasting it on a photographer from Tidewater and an artistic consultant who helped drive the Taubman to near-bankruptcy.

  2. When I first read this I wondered if the author was guilty of sour grapes because he nor his friends were invited to participate so I visited The Jax shop to see what all the fuss was about.

    I left feeling cheated. They actually paid some high-faluting consultant to create this? The photos were pedestrian at best. Was it the intent of the photographer to attempt to recreate the old Work Progress Administration photography project to depict his view of the dark despair of Appalachia? The best way to describe this show is both boring and depressing. I wonder if a visitor to Floyd who stumbles across this show leaves with a feeling that Floyd is a dark, dreary place where people with hopelessness in their eyes stare at the camera of the visiting photographer who is here to capture images of the aborigines.

    This exhibit is not a portrait of Floyd. Far from it. It is an insult to the community, foisted upon us by some snooty conception of art by those who think they are better than us. I’m insulted and I will never set foot in the Jacksonville Center again and I certainly will never recommend it to any visitors to Floyd.

  3. I went, I saw, I concurred. The show is a poor excuse for a “Portrait of Floyd.” Are there no Afro-Americans or Hispanics in Floyd County? You might think that based on the photos that purport to represent our county. This exhibition is a textbook example of what happens when people who know nothing about their subject matter attempt to portray a community.

    • Danny:

      The show has photos of two African-Americans and at least one Hispanic that I saw when browsing the works at The Jacksonville Center.

      While the percentage of Floyd County’s population if small for both groups, the show does not reflect the role that both play in the community.

      African-Americans like Bruce Turner (chief deputy of the sheriff’s department and a Floyd town councilman) and FCHS Football and Track coach Winifred Beale have a huge impact in our community. So do business owners like Michele Morris. High school student Dorian Harris is setting records on the football field.

      Hispanics own El Charro and serve as growing part of the county’s labor force.

      All are missing faces that could, and should, be part of any true “Portrait of Floyd.”

  4. I haven’t seen the entire exhibit but I agree with Carl regarding the tone of the pictures that I have seen. They seem rather dark and present an image of a forlorn and despairing people. Frankly, my first impression was “where are the smiling faces of Floyd?”

    I’m glad some of your photography captures the life and vibrancy that is also an integral part of our community. Balance is a good thing.

  5. I am not from Floyd but visited your lovely community this past weekend and took in “Portrait of Floyd” show. I left the Jacksonville Center with the same dark mood as others, wondering is that much despair existed there. It appears that Mr. McClure approached Floyd as some explorer on Safari, photographing the sad, hopeless lives of the natives. Too much similarity existed in the photographs along with a surprising blandness. If I understood the description of the show written by Mr. Brown, the photographer spent only two days in your town? How on earth can anyone get a feeling for a community in that short of a time period? I am a regular reader of three blogs in Floyd: Mr. First, Ms. Redman and Mr. Thompson. They give me much more of a sense of your community than the erroneously titled “Portrait of Floyd.”

  6. That’s enough, Doug. Your mean-spirited, self-aggrandizing remarks are an insult to every crafts-person and artist in Floyd County, be they musicians, word-smiths, photographers, clay-workers, wood-workers, painters, textile-workers, jewelers, ironsmiths, dancers, singers, or actors. If I’ve left out any workers in other mediums, I apologize sincerely. Your continuing tirade is dis-grace-full and I’m calling you on it. Stop it.

    • Jeff:

      After reading your comment, I’m confused.

      What, in the one article I’ve written on this issue, is “mean spirited” or “self-aggrandizing”? I simply tried to point out that I felt the Jacksonville Center leadership violated its primary mission of supporting local artists by hiring an out-of-state curator who then brought in a Norfolk-based photographer to produce a show of portraits while bypassing the wealth of talented portrait photographers we have in the county and I also pointed out that I do not consider myself a portrait photographer and would not have participated in the show.

      If I have insulted all the groups of artists you mentioned why has my phone and email been busy with contacts by Floyd County artisans thanking me to taking the stand? Why did Greg Locke, an artist and one of the subjects featuring in the show, come out with strong criticism of the Center and the program?

      How is one article a “continuing tirade?”

      As my lawyer is fond of saying, you are assuming facts not in evidence.

  7. Folks, let’s tone down the rhetoric. While I have an issue with the Jacksonville Center over how this show was handled, it does not erase their record of doing good things in the artistic community. My article is simply one man’s opinion on how they handled one event — nothing more, nothing less.

  8. It shocks me that people always need to find something negative in everything. People feel this entitlement that they do not have. This was about building community, but you’ve found a way to tear it apart. This makes me sad for Floyd. I thought the exhibit was exciting and new. It is a real shame to read this.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE: Brandi Gray is the communications director for The Jacksonville Center)

  9. Brandi:

    Let’s look at a few facts:

    — I have written or produced 15,664 articles, photo features or video features on Blue Ridge Muse since the site was launched in 2004. Of those, only one has mentioned The Jacksonville Center in what might be perceived as a negative light (the above article about the Portrait of Floyd show). Another 60-plus articles have mentioned in the center in either a neutral or positive light. I have praised shows at the center, events and programs. I have taught classes and served on the board of directors and as vice president. I donated a computer, a fax machine and other equipment to the center. I hosted the web site, without charge, for many years;

    –Since 2004, I have written 119 articles about the Jacksonville Center for The Floyd Press. None were considered controversial or negative;

    –Of the 15,664 articles or visual features produced for Blue Ridge Muse, only 63 have generated controversy or brought criticism from those who thought the articles were negative. That is four-tenths of one percent;

    –I have written thousands of articles as well as produced thousands of visual features promoting Floyd County, its culture, its heritage and its traditions. I grew up here. I graduated from high school here and — after a 39-year career — decided to retire here. If I hated this community or only found negative things to say, why the hell would I live here?

    Yes, I have a problem with the way the Portrait of Floyd show was handled by The Jacksonville Center. That is my opinion and was stated as such but one article out of the 180 written for print or web about the center or 63 out of 15,664 about the area in general over the last eight years hardly indicates a pattern of negativity toward the Center or Floyd and any suggestion of such is a lie that I will not let stand unchallenged.

    Brandi, your opinion is appreciated but your comment as originally submitted did not include your last name or the fact that you are the communications director for The Jacksonville Center. I had to add both after contacting you.

    Thanks for commenting. You are, to date, the only member of the staff or board to comment directly to me on the article.

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