Celebrating The Forgotten South at The Met In NYC

You know Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, right? One of the guys who books acts there is Matt Arnett. He also owns this amazing music venue called Grocery on Home. It’s one of my favorite places in the city, perfect for date night if you’re a music lover. Anyway, that’s how we met Matt.

Celebrating The Forgotten South at The Met In NYC

The work he does around the city is tireless, and the more I learn about it, the more I see just how big his heart is. He started an organization called Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Their focus “is the important achievement of black self-taught artists of the American South, born of extreme deprivation and social cruelty, raw talent and fragments of lost African cultures.” (via the NYTimes)

His foundations holds over 1200 pieces of art, a collection of which is now on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The collection, dubbed “History Refused to Die,” spotlights several artists’ mixed-media creations…and we had the honor of seeing them today.Celebrating The Forgotten South at The Met In NYC

In the above picture, the sculpture on the right is from Birmingham’s Joe Minter, called Four Hundred Years of Free Labor. It’s made of old rusty tools held together with chains. “They confront the viewer like ghosts of their former users, evoking multiple and different groups of African Americans subjected to forced labor over time, from enslaved people harvesting cotton before the Civil War to chain gangs in the 20th century.”

Celebrating The Forgotten South at The Met In NYC

The above piece is from Thornton Dial (a major contributor of the collection here) headlines the show with History Refused To Die. Dial is self-taught, and combines mass-produced works with organics here. This piece includes okra stalks – a metaphor of the peoples with personal genealogies back to Africa…also a Southern food staple made popular (as many Southern foods) when it was introduced through international slave trade. It’s a piece about forced displacement and the enslavement of millions of Africans.

Celebrating The Forgotten South at The Met In NYC

Dial also created two of my other favorite pieces here: The End of November: The Birds That Didn’t Learn How To Fly and Victory in Iraq. November depicts dead birds on a wire…the birds symbolizing Jim Crow laws, and the subtitle suggests the lynching and terror blacks in the South were subjected to because of early denial and absence of liberty.Victory is cynics view regarding the activities in the Middle East and the chaotic war zone.


If you’re in NYC before Sept 23, I highly recommend a stop here. The Foundation is also seeking more museums for further displays, and your donation is full tax deductible.


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