Cultural Symbols: 24 Works on Paper Artist David Knox

September 4, 2013

24 Works on Paper |

Interview by Jessika Davis, Summer OVAC Intern

David Knox, Oklahoma City, Quarter, Photography (Archival pigment print with oil and varnish), 22” x 16
David Knox is an Oklahoma City-based photographer that offers “Southern interpretations” in his piece titled Quarter, taken around New Orleans, Louisiana. This piece is a part of the Indigenous series that delivers Southern stories, among other collections, of “religion, resurrections, home, ritual, the fleetingness of life and the permanence of death.”

According to Knox, influences for this piece are taken from his interests in Flemish Baroque paintings of hunting scenes and game from the 16th Century and American still life painters of the late 19th Century.

You’ve communicated that this piece symbolizes a list of “Southern interpretations.” Could you describe how each are represented in this piece?
As Flannery O’Connor once said about her native home “The South is Christ-haunted”.  Religion is a major theme that runs throughout the American South and also through my work.  Christian iconography, both literal and metaphorical, is found throughout the region and I incorporate these symbols into my pieces as I feel they are a necessary component in the telling of the Southern story.  In Quarter, the fish, an ancient and important symbol of Christianity, represent the influence of the church, of Christ and of his followers on the South. The traditions and rituals specific to the rural South, more particularly those of southern Louisiana, are conveyed in the piece through the form of taxidermy. The fish, now dead, swim upward in a broken line representing the Christian hope for redemption, salvation and ultimately eternal life in Heaven. They are also depicted as partially transparent symbolizing our spiritual transgression from this world below to the next one.  The themes of the past and of loss, pervasive in the South, are evident in the building itself – once beautiful and functioning, now shuttered and in decay. Lastly the ephemeral nature of our time on earth is represented by the peeling paint, the broken plaster, and the fading text – elements put together by man and being returned to earth by nature.
 
In your statement, you’ve stated that you are influenced by “Flemish Baroque paintings of hunting scenes and game from the 16thCentury and American painters of the late 19th Century.” Why does that influence you? What other influences do you have?

I am influenced by these painters of hunting scenes and dead game from past centuries because of the strong tie they have in their themes to the 19th Century Agrarian South.  Hunting as sport has been thriving in the South from the days of the early European settlers and continues to do so into the 21st Century. These painters depicted the beauty of these animals even after death and created from them still lives rich in color and texture.  The present day form of preserving and beautifying these animals is exhibited in the art of taxidermy, a major component of my work for the Indigenous show of which Quarter was a part.  

My other influences include Mathew Brady for his exquisitely flawed images from the American Civil War, Sally Mann for her revival of wet plate processes and her Southern focus, Clarence John Laughlin for his capturing of the decaying, grand architecture along the Mississippi, and Flannery O’Connor for her incredible ability to articulate the peculiar and haunted uniqueness of the American South.

 
This artwork is featured in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition on exhibition at Redlands Community College  during August and September, 2013 and touring Oklahoma through December 2014. See venues and more information at www.24works.org.