Goodbye, William Christenberry

After the loss of William Christenberry last week, I knew I wanted to take new pics of his 2001-02 ‘Dream Building (for Birmingham)’ in the lobby at the Birmingham Museum of Art this past weekend

William Christenberry: Dream Building (for Birmingham), Birmingham Museum of Art//

The exagerated triangular form made even more of an impression after listening again to Fresh Air’s 1997 Terry Gross interview with Christenberry that NPR thankfully re-ran, in which he discusses it as a symbol of the Klan:

And this hooded head that the Klan uses – this hood that – where the apex of the triangle is at the top, which sort of reverses the structure of our head. In other words, we can imagine our head – the human head – having a triangular form of sorts, the apex of the triangle being our chin. By reversing what we think of – what we know as our head, they have made this thing somewhat, well, I think, unbelievably frightening.

and the triangular form in architecture that he was drawn to:
And the churches – the country churches – the Christenberry family church, the church my father attended as a child, still stands. It was built towards the end of the Civil War – Providence Methodist Church. But it’s truly, as the hymn says, the church in the wildwood. It’s so far back out in the country now and hasn’t been functioning in any capacity for the last 30 years or more. And I, for some reason – I can’t explain this – had this fascination with this kind of pure middle form, this triangle that keeps coming back in a positive way and a negative way.

Very nice piece from the Washington Post, William Christenberry, artist of a crumbling, memory-haunted South, dies at 80

“I don’t want my work to be thought of as maudlin or overly sentimental. It’s not,” Mr. Christenberry said in a 2005 interview with photography historian Robert Hirsch. “It’s a love affair — a lifetime of involvement with a place. The place is my muse.”


“Whenever someone asks why I always photograph in Alabama,” Mr. Christenberry told photography critic Andy Grundberg in 2001, “I have to answer that, yes, I know there are other places, but Alabama is where my heart is.”

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