LOOK SOUTH : Rebekah Jacob on Curating Photography

As an art dealer and curator specializing in Southern images, it has been a dutiful exploration of my own heritage to exhibit photography that has captured the beautiful, sober accretion of a place geographically below the Mason-Dixon and east of Texas (inclusive, of course). I have worked to focus on photographers whose images chronicle a region that feeds our imagination and that we trust no matter what. For the curator and artist alike, numerous exhibitions are about a land of which we profess a fondness and continue to artistically explore.

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From the beginning of Rebekah Jacob Gallery, photographers — such as, Eudora Welty, Dorthea Lange, Walker Evans, among others — have been essential to our curatorial program. The South at the center point of these WPA-era artists’s oeuvres, their pluralism of Southern themes becomes a poetic documentation that encompasses—and exceeds—Southern borders.

Perhaps current selections in our flat-files are a microcosm of a long, planned and unplanned road trips: images of clapboard churches, bottle trees, dilapidated structures — all waiting on someone to arrive. There are also images of bar-b-q joints whose interior decorations sparkle with white tiled walls, stuffed deer heads, ketchup bottles and checkered table cloths. These artstists’ raw, unstaged material share imagination between the photographer and viewer, spurring questions like, “Is this ‘for real’ or a movie set?’”

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As a curator and broker over the past twenty years, I have been honored to sift through hundreds of thousands of images, working carefully to select photos that poignantly tell of the South, my South…our South. I mostly black/white images but color images, too, that tell of the region’s mythic terrain, African American heritage, and compulsiveness with religion (God Bless; Jesus Saves). Throughout countless projects, I am always reminded of the technical genius the artists’ concise eyes, inherent skills of knowing when to click the shutter, and undeniable patience for the subject matters. Studying these artists through their visual essays, I have come to believe that it their dedication to the medium, personal kindness, and genuine spirit that grants a fate of being at the right place at the right time.

To watch concepts doodled on a legal pad evolve into coherent, visual projects is a patient and often grueling, frustrating process. However, the labor and time of these projects always manifest themselves into a stunning selection of photography. And we at the the Rebekah Jacob Gallery hope viewers alike will experience the story of a place (below the Mason-Dixon), whose intrinsic complexities are at the root of Heritage and a place for which we are proud, no matter what.

Yours Truly (And Southern by the Grace of God):

Rebekah Jacob ; Owner and Found of the Rebekah Jacob Gallery

Buyers on the Art Hunt for Cuban Art Look to the Rebekah Jacob Gallery

Featured on the Vacation Idea Blog

Discovering, curating, promoting, and placing incredible artworks and photographs from the Southern United States and around Latin America in leading collections and prime locations around the world is the aim of Rebekah Jacob through her Rebekah Jacob Gallery. A passionate expert in the diverse art and photography seen in the South and Latin America, Jacob is one of the most trusted names in the field. Here's all you need to know about Rebekah Jacob and her ground-breaking gallery: 

- A Passionate Founder - With a B.A. in English, an M.A. in Art History, and a Certificate in Appraisal Studies in Fine and Decorative Arts, as well as art history teaching experience and a lifelong love and passion for art, particularly from the South and Latin America, Rebekah Jacob is a true master of her craft. A fully certified member of the International Society of Appraisers, Jacob formed her own gallery with a view to sourcing incredible artworks from her chosen locations and bringing these pieces to art lovers and collectors around the globe.

- Striving For Greatness - Jacob has used her extensive knowledge and experience throughout the art world to launch a gallery that really is making a difference. She has brokered, curated, and consulted on countless pieces of fine art and photography for many different collections and museums, working with both private collectors and cultural locations like big city galleries to find the perfect pieces for every party. Constantly striving for improvement, Jacob continues to curate, exhibit, appraise, and broker more and more artworks from all around the South and locations like Cuba.

- Art For A Cause - A big reason why Rebekah Jacob focused so strongly on art from the South and Latin America is the immense social and political influence many of these pieces had on their repsective regions. Many of the photographs and artworks she has curated and brokered from the South, for example, explored the Civil Rights Movement. She has also taken part in talks, studies, projects, and seminars regarding the importance of art and photography in civic and political movements through history.

Read more here, all the while planning your next dream vacation.


Rebekah Jacob of the Rebekah Jacob Gallery on an Art Hunt throughout Havana de Cuba. Photo credit : J. Kevin Foltz

Rebekah Jacob of the Rebekah Jacob Gallery on an Art Hunt throughout Havana de Cuba. Photo credit : J. Kevin Foltz


In Photos, Eudora Welty Captured Life in 1930s Mississippi

By Matthew Sedacca for the New York Times

Photographs by Eudora Welty

Before her career as a distinguished fiction writer, Eudora Welty applied her short-form prowess to photographing life in Depression-era Mississippi. 

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Bursting from the fertile ground of Crystal Springs, Miss., an absurdly odd harvest blots out the horizon: a cottage-size tomato, drooping decorative leaf and all, perched atop a wooden shanty. Lured by the irresistible gravitational pull of this shrine to “The Tomatropolis,” a smiling woman poses for a photographer and offers scale, her fingers pointing childlike at the kitsch behind her.

Sure, the folks back home had to see this surreal homage to the city’s economic foundation. But even more unexpected is the photographer: Eudora Welty, the elder stateswoman of American letters.

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Before becoming famous for her short stories of comedic interfamilial strife and everyday adversities subtly imbued with issues of race and class, Ms. Welty used the camera as her vehicle to preserve life, ever-fleeting with all its joys, complexities and hardships, in the 1930s. Many of these photos were featured in “Photographs,” originally published in 1989, and recently reissued by the University Press of Mississippi.

A native of Jackson, Miss., Ms. Welty briefly left the South to attend the University of Wisconsin at Madison and, later, business school at Columbia University. She returned in 1931 to work at Jackson’s local radio station and contribute society columns to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

But it was in her stint as a junior publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration, which itself was famed for dispatching some of the country’s best photographers and writers to chronicle New Deal America, that she flourished as a photographer. Ms. Welty captured her fellow Mississippians in their daily routines, with each frame evoking the complications of everyday life, like children hauling unwieldy blocks of ice to dinner or a fatigued-looking nurse outside a clinic.

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“Poverty in Mississippi, white and black, really didn’t have too much to do with the Depression,” Ms. Welty said in an interview with Hunter Cole and Seetha Srinivasan at the beginning of the book. “It was ongoing. Mississippi was long since poor, long devastated. I took the pictures of our poverty because that was reality.”

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Prints from this period were featured in her two-week solo show at the photographic galleries of Lugene Opticians in New York in 1936, but the literary world proved more receptive to her work, with Manuscript magazine publishing her first piece of fiction that same year. Her photos were finally published for the first time in her 1971 opus “One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression.”

Given her affiliation with the W.P.A., viewers might be tempted to draw comparisons between her images and those of renowned photographers of the time, like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, who worked for the Farm Security Administration. The differences between their bodies of work are clear, something she herself confirmed: Instead of the formalism or portrait work of Mr. Evans and Ms. Lange, Ms. Welty’s images show life as it unfolded before her, distilling the solemn quiet of a blind weaver at work or the warm communal embrace of women at a carnival.

“I was taking photographs of human beings because they were real life and they were there in front of me and that was the reality,” Ms. Welty said. “I was the recorder of it. I wasn’t trying to exhort the public.”

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Ms. Welty’s photography doesn’t extend past the mid-1950s, a fact she attributed to a combination of losing her camera in Paris and devoting the bulk of her creative energy to writing. Still, the decades spent documenting the world around her played a part in shaping her point of view in writing that people would eventually revere.

“Some perception of the world and some habit of observation shaded into the other,” Ms. Welty said about her dual passions, “just because in both cases, writing and photography, you were trying to portray what you saw, and truthfully. Portray life, living people, as you saw them. And a camera could catch that fleeting moment, which is what a short story, in all its depth, tries to do.”



William Eggleston : The C-Print (or chromogenic photograph)

Snapshots of the South

While many dealers and collectors chase and broker William Eggleston photographs of the dye-transfer medium, the Rebekah Jacob Gallery focuses mainly on his c-prints (or chromogenic photograph). A small, sweet format, the images are “snapshots”, created by Eggleston as he traveled along the Mississippi River throughout its Delta, exploring small, rural towns. RJG’s ongoing exhibitions create a platform for Eggleston connoisseurs to view these small formatted photographs that capture the people, places, and quirks of Eggleston’s beloved South.

SELECTED C-PRINTS (OR CHROMOGENIC PHOTOGRAPHS) :

Many of William Eggleston’s photographs have been processed as c-prints. The colour negative or slide is exposed to Chromogenic photographic paper (wet process paper) that contains three emulsion layers, each of which is sensitised to a different primary colour. After the image has been exposed it is submerged in a chemical bath, where each layer reacts to the chemicals to create a full-colour image. Because the chemicals are so complex, the image continues to react even after the process is completed. The chemicals are also extremely sensitive to water, light, and heat, making it difficult to protect C-prints from deterioration.

‘C-type’ was originally the trademark used by photographic company Kodak for the paper they used for making prints from colour negatives, but it is now standardly applied to all colour photographic prints.

Doris Ulmann : Appalachian People

Acting on her Humanist Beliefs : Kentucky, North Carolina, i.e.

In 1921, while divorcing her husband, Ulmann underwent major surgery for chronic ulcers. Friends noted that afterwards she was changed. Although she continued to make and exhibit her art photographs to critical acclaim, she devoted more effort to pursuing her longstanding interest in people "for whom life had not been a dance." 

In 1925, Ulmann began traveling in the southeastern United States where she photographed people in "primitive and pre-industrial" communities, including religious ones. She often posed people performing outdated tasks in antiquarian clothing. Names went unrecorded; people were important to her primarily as types. She wrote about the aesthetics of her subject selections, "A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face." 

The publication record of Ulmann's Appalachian photographs suggests that she became increasingly involved with organizations founded to celebrate the handmade object and dedicated to uplifting the makers of those objects. In 1928, her Appalachian photographs appeared in Scribner's Magazine in June and in Mentor in August. 

We shift our eyes on the South to Appalachia, the highlands where Doris Ulmann created some of her most prized photographs. After many years of rubbing rosary beads and staying on the Art Hunt, beautiful material has come from the sky. We are proud to present selected works - painstakingly curated- from several private collections that are from the root of the tree, Doris Ulmann herself.

In 1930 she displayed photographs in the first exhibition of the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild in Knoxville where Allen Eaton saw them. Eaton was the leading advocate of American handicrafts and a representative of the Russell Sage Foundation that funded projects to improve social and living conditions in the U.S. Subsequently, Ulmann coordinated her mountain trips with Eaton's Foundation work. In 1932, folksinger John Jacob Niles began to assist Ulmann on her photographic excursions as he toured the same areas doing musical research and fieldwork, a collaboration that lasted even after her death. He included Ulmann's photographs in magazine articles he wrote, thus expanding the circulation of her work. 

In 1932, the feminist and social activist Southern Women's Educational Alliance commissioned Ulmann to photograph young people in rural Kentucky. Her photographs promoted discussions that soon led the organization to become the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth. In May 1934, four of her photographs illustrated the Survey Graphic article, "People of an American Folk School," about the Campbell Folk School and its cooperatives, most of them operated by women. These organizations provided practical and religious education as means of social advancement. 

At the same time, she depicted the culture of Appalachian mountain people, Ulmann also produced her best known and most artistic publication, the deluxe edition of Roll, Jordan, Roll (1933) by novelist Julia Peterkin. Visits to Peterkin's South Carolina farm inspired Ulmann to portray the life of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands, a unique vanishing culture. Peterkin's essays on the South accompany Ulmann's pictures from 1929 to 1933 of African-American workers on her farm. The portraits convey a haunting, supernatural element, as though the photographer was looking backward from the future.

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In February 1934 the Library of Congress exhibited more than 100 platinum prints of Ulmann's Appalachian subjects of which it later acquired 44. While photographing in Appalachia in July, she became critically ill and died on August 28 in New York at age fifty-two. On her death bed, Ulmann created the Ulmann Foundation at Berea School to further the work. Her Foundation also donated another 110 prints to the Library of Congress. 

When Eaton's exhibition and book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, came out in 1937, Ulmann's photographs accompanied the text. Her pictures of the makers of folk objects sometimes appeared alongside the objects themselves. Through judicious publication and exhibition, Ulmann attained her greatest wish, "that these human records shall serve some social purpose."






ART HUNT: THE FLATLANDS

THE FLATLANDS OF MISSISSIPPI

My childhood was rich. I was raised in a secure family, dwelling in the nostalgically beautiful southern town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, which sits on the Sunflower River, a small tributary of the Mississippi River, the widest river in the world and arguable the most aggressive.  This majestic entity—and its parallel levee—has appropriately been the setting for masterpieces by the literary Greats:  Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, Walker Percy, among others.    

My neighborhood, one of the oldest in the Delta, is picturesque, with wide streets, large oaks and antebellum homes and boasting expansive porches.  Throughout time, Clark Street has attracted acclaimed politicians, artists, poets, lawyers, and eccentrics.  Sundays were quiet as most magneted to the local country club for swimming, tennis or golf.  Always, whiskey.  

Historic images of Clarksdale, Mississippi c. 1920.  Photographer unknown.  

Historic images of Clarksdale, Mississippi c. 1920.  Photographer unknown.  

My childhood in the Mississippi Delta taught me almost everything I needed to know about creativity.  The Delta’s open skies were a canvas for dreams, the local librarian held reading circles presenting books on faraway places as well as Mississippi’s indigenous and seemingly exotic Seminole Indians,  the school nuns at St. Elizabeth encouraged the written word and pretty penmanship, and all the Mississippi storytellers always, by default, could find an audience.  

My mother could have written a manual on introducing one’s children to art and books.  She was often juggling a full-time job and motherhood, always hauling me off to dance lessons, piano lessons, or art lessons, even if that meant late at night or early in the morning before school bells rang.  My heart would flutter like a jackrabbit at the anticipation of engaging in that world of creativity, strategically packing my red backpack the night before with selected sheet music, pens, books, or paints.  For me, the extra circular activities were a barometer of well-achieved academics, as straight A’s were required in order to engage in the after-school activities.  Also, sometimes I got the feeling that my mother’s love and pride for me depended on how much I excelled at these art forms.  

My mother, a great reader of books, would orate to me every night until, by the young age of four, I could read on my own.  I, in my childish way, applauded her wizardry with the English language and her empathetic renderings of words to make the stories come alive.  Sometimes, she would pause and challenge me on a spelling word, still a challenge as I see many letters backwards and upside down.  My older sister Rachael, who could not keep her eyes open past sundown, quietly nested beside us, a closed-up bottle of fireflies often by our antique, quilted bed.

Rachael’s hair is “so dark that it’s blue,” as my mother would describe; her eyes the color of a Caribbean sea.  She has never been as intuitively interested in art or academics and has always been most concerned with maternal achievements, exactly like my mother. 

My mother would sign me up for me various art classes to not only explore creativity but to “eliminate my shyness.”   A quiet, loner of sorts, strange and people filled rooms were—and still are—challenging.  Feisty and gregarious, Rachael would care for me and guide me as her baby sister, walking me through long corridors and into these rooms, remaining present until I nodded “okay to leave.”  

My mother also loved the art of candid photography, and a camera was ever present in our homes and lives.  She was known to have two or three cameras strapped around her neck at dance recitals, graduations or casual family outings.  Her archive is a detailed series of images of the Jacob home and our progress as a family.  Her style direct and documentary, her camera varied from RCA video cameras to polaroid cameras.  They are still in my archive.  

My mother had a smile that could knock out a room and that’s what I remember most about her.  Raised in small town Alabama, she had a southern drawl of long i’s and spoke in contractions as much as possible.  Mama’s hair was dark black with a small patch of grey on the right side, a defiant Baptist, she always believed “that’s where an angel kissed her.”  She was a corridor to kindness and the template of a virtuous woman, the practice of which she lived; the verses in Proverbs 31:10-31, highlighted and underlined in her Bible.  She was the temple of Goodness and her gift was giving.  Her eyes were crystal blue like a clear sky and danced in the rhythm to her deep-hearted laugh, which was constant.     

However, kindness and graciousness did not completely trump her rigidness, formidability, and sternness.  She would “crack the whip,” as my sister Rachael recalls, if we challenged house and family rules.  Mama obsessed with cleanliness and order, could scrub the house down herself, top to bottom (even dusting the top of the ceiling fan blades), and then call the maid, Ms. Virginia to “redo.”  The only “messy part” of my room could be my art table filled with an array books which were juxtaposed to stacks of crayons, markers, paints, fabric and string.  My secret world?  A collection of scurried books underneath my bed, hidden by the white lace bedskirt and protected from my mother’s view as she had crickety knees.  At night,  I would read with a flashlight past designated bedtime, defaulting into stories like Black Beauty often juxtaposed with pictures.  I once checked out a book by Judy Bloom but then became hysterical that women were dying from bleeding vaginas.  That’s when my sister, three years older, explained the menstrual cycle and described a tampon.   

My art table was one of the first pieces of furniture I bought and I made the deal with the antique seller with my babysitting money.  One Saturday afternoon, my mother took me to the estate sale of a wealthy Delta family, the Peacocks.  I selected an antique Duncan Fyfe table and a small mahogany side chair with carved roses on its rail and a needlepoint cushion with mirrored design.  Preaching and insisting the furniture was nice and expensive, my mother had two sheets of glass cut to protect the table’s surface.  A quiet, contemplative child who never was keen on a lot of friends or busy activity.  I spent endless hours creating words at that art station by painting and writing.  All the while, a red-headed woodpecker nesting outside my window and sometimes flying inside to rest on my encyclopedia stack.  Every time I go home, he seems to greet me.  “Woodpeckers have special spirits,” my father once claimed, “and legend has it that they live to be 100, often nesting in the same tree until death.”  

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My mother could be utterly demanding, rigid, and complicated—her way or the highway.  Despite ice storms, sick days, travel, et cetera, we never missed Sunday church, and I had perfect attendance at school during most of my formative years.  I was always expected to be five to seven minutes early, by her watch, which was already prompted ten minutes ahead.  Honor roll was expected, and the letters on my report card never noted anything other than A.  When angered, she could slam a phone so loud it would reverberate to Kansas.  We lived on Clark Street, about two blocks from our Catholic school, St. Elizabeth, where I was trained on the piano two-three times a week by Mrs. Tavoletti.  One cold morning, moving at a sluggish speed, I had forgotten my piano books.  Mama was so mad, she drove me home all the way down Clark Street in a rant — backwards.  

I mastered the piano, dance, and writing, erring the weight that she was difficult to please and experiencing the disappointment when I failed to please her.  Mama was a perfectionist about our appearance.  As most children rolled their hair in sponge rollers for Sunday church, my sister and I had ours “done up” every single night.  Our clothes (sock and underwear, too) were always ironed, and we rarely wore the same dress twice to fancy functions where we were to be photographed.  Those expectations have manifested and perpetuated in my adult life, thus defining me to some degree as a artist of sorts, workaholic, over-achiever, and might I add, a fashionista of well-ironed attire.  

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While my mother kept the house moving to her delight and high standards, my father mostly worked, departing before daybreak and arriving after sunset.  My father, owner of a furniture company, located only a few blocks from my house in the business district.  It was a world of sofas, couches as well a cash registers and large bound hand-written ledgers.  

Daddy is still the hardest worked I have ever known.  His work ethic was instilled in me early, and I still compare my progress to his unsurmountable success early in life.  I don’t remember a day that he didn’t reflect and engage in his company, constantly “feeding the organism,” as he would say. 

My father was sort of a miracle.  He was tall, dark, and handsome and alway walked with a confident swagger.  One of seven children of French descent, he was the only one to inherit green eyes, which shifted in colors to grey or blue, depending on the light.  His eyes, set deep and expressive, said everything about his current state—stress, joy, concern, contemplation, and more.  I am often reminded of his eyes—and their honest translation of thought and emotions—as I wear them myself.  “Genetics are a funny thing,” my mother would suggest.  At work, he was conscious of his appearance (yes, slightly vain), so my mother always saw to it that his khakis and long sleeve shirts were pressed with “triple extra starch.”  Sometimes it would seem as though his garments were standing up on their own. I “inherited” the same trait.  If I am not dressed to the nines at work, I am clearly having a nervous breakdown.

Though full of love and admiration for us, my mother could be emotional, irrational, high-strung, rigid, and complicated—the antithesis of my father.  He was wonderfully tender when it came to his two daughters.  He was gentle and kind, with a diplomatic and graceful approach to life and work.  I never remember hearing him raise his voice and he tucked us in every night.  He left us encouraging notes in our lunch sacks and later, when we were in college, mailed cards and notes to say hello and to remind us that he believed in us.  He always signed off, “Dear Ole Day.”  

I shared equal love for my parents, but I was a carbon copy of my father’s personality, political interests, brain power, intellectualism, and entrepreneurial pursuits.  My mother encouraged the arts, and my father, business and financial independence.  I have perhaps magically become a hybrid of them both.

 

BILL STEBER & ADAM SMITH:  MISSISSIPPI DELTA 

By, Rebekah Jacob:  Owner & Founder of the Rebekah Jacob Gallery & Vedado Gallery

#ArtHunt #TravelDiaries #Wanderlust #ArtOfTheDeal

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AR HUNT: INTRO

WORDS WERE MY TICKET OUT OF A CONVENTIONAL SOUTH, ART MY WAY BACK HOME

There is no formula or blueprint for becoming an art dealer or for the discipline, creativity, and business style that one pursues.  It has been a long and, at times, treacherous journey, but one filled with thrill, adventure, and the unexpected.  The art hunt has been my obsession, my all. 

Perhaps my work has been a combination of fragments driven by my love of the South and the Caribbean, imagination, social justice, politics, and the burning determination to succeed, no matter what.  The art world, for me, has been place of mythology, unpredictability, cynicism and exploration instead of exactitude.  When my mentor, Hollis Taggart, first hired my in his eponymous gallery in New York City, I naively asked the question, “What is an art dealer’s career really like.”  Darling, he said in his dissipated Southern draw while staring me straight in the eyes, “you better damn well strap in.” 

To be frank, I’ve been writing the story of my life for years, through the visual arts, recording in my handwritten journals most of what I’ve seen, brokered, exhibited, and related to in one way or another.  They say an art dealer’s style and selection of artwork to exhibit and broker is a direct derivative and translation of who she is within the visual arts canon and/or what he/she intuitively wants to search out and explore.  My autobiography has been my theme, and at times, my dilemma and obsession, as I’ve tied to tell my story, document my travels, and express my ideas about politics and social justice through my work—all while mining material from exquisite and rare inventory from my two beloved homes and celebrated cultures:  the American South and the Caribbean Isles, particularly Cuba.  

To distill, write, and collate this series of writings, I did two things I swore I would never do:  I journeyed home to Mississippi for an extensive period, and reread my journals—over ten thousand pages of entries dating to as early as age ten.  The two quests were not necessarily parallel but complementary, and it was these two monumental actions that propelled this creative project into a working, malleable formation.  Word by word, mostly in long hand, I filled legal pads, writing my story within the construct of this life theme:  words were my ticket out of a conventional South, art my way back home.  

Image:  Bill Steber;  Freshly plowed field on the Stovall Plantation, Mississippi Delta  (1993); gelatin silver; image (14 x 14"), paper (16 x 20"), signed; open edition   Note:  Muddy Waters was living on Stovall Plantation outside of Clarksdale when he recorded for the library of congress in 1941.

Image:  Bill Steber; Freshly plowed field on the Stovall Plantation, Mississippi Delta (1993); gelatin silver; image (14 x 14"), paper (16 x 20"), signed; open edition

Note:  Muddy Waters was living on Stovall Plantation outside of Clarksdale when he recorded for the library of congress in 1941.

It was significant to go home to live among Mississippi’s ghosts; to interview friends, family, and teachers about certain instances in my life; and to revisit sites like Ole Miss and my father’s grave as reference points of place, some bringing great joy and others great sorrow.  Like returning to an old love, I also needed to reconnect with the familiarity of the Flatlands—their wide open skies as canvas to dream, their wide muddy river symbolic of the decisions in our lives that are turn turning points, do delicate that they lead us into waters flowing so aggressively in one direction, we can’t turn back.  

I dredged up every journal I could find from lockboxes, storage units, and my gallery drawers.  I sometimes laughed hysterically at my many adventures around the world.  I sometimes wiggled with discomfort, confusion and sorrow as I read, line by line, of their leather-bound contents.  This was important not only as reflection and reference (memories can be so tricky and malleable) but also as a means to cope with the painful and sad times.  I wanted to be honest and raw, not to veil the pain or repress those emotions that could hinder me—or this project—in any form. 

My first love is the written word, and by default—and sometimes the necessity of blanket and poignant communication—I am a passionate journal writer.  For me, the written word is the purest form of truth-telling, particularly when documented in my own handwriting.  This project includes excerpts of journals, some photo copied and archived; most never before shown. So much of what I have wanted to say about my life and career has been in the dark—until now.  

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As my father, Leslie Charles Jacob, was dying in 1997, he devised a business treatise of sorts, outlining “how to run a business,” adding notations about inventory, cash flow, marketing strategy, and more.  In handsome, clean, and all-capitalized penmanship (reflective of an architect’s lettering style), perhaps the most applicable information would concern off-course moments and methods on how to redirect a ship’s pattern.  This treatise, more than anything in my career, has been a resource and a cornerstone for growth.  

During my studies at Ole Miss is when so much of the procurement of my art dealing craft and life began.  Certainly, I wasn’t bumping into a plethora of art dealers (if any) in a condensed Grove saturated with bourbon and false hopes of a game win.  Honor roll students with insatiably curious minds, by Mississippi standards, applied to and tackled law school.  Most defaulted to marrying her high school and/or college sweetheart and pursuing a conventional Southern life of garden parties and babies, also directed to continue such traditions.  I knew in the deepest seed of my soul that I wanted to be journalistic in life, burn a trail, set out on adventure, and change the world-art dealing became my vehicle.  

First, an avid runner, I would depart the Tri Delta house interim day classes and late night study sessions, and head to the Oxford square.  In the twilight of early evening, some writers, mostly drinkers, would condense balconies as the sun set near Proud Larry’s, a haven for local music lovers.  I would pause and gawk at the art through the large glass windows windows at at Southside Gallery.  Its crisp white walls and minimally hung space of regional and local painters and photographers were undeniably intriguing and visceral.  Once on a night run with my friend and former Tri-Delta Sarah, a strawberry blonde with big smile, and confirmed, “This is what I want to do-own and direct an art gallery.”  It all starts with a wish, they say.  

Martin J. Dain, Oxford Square, gelatin silver, 20 x 16", signed 

Martin J. Dain, Oxford Square, gelatin silver, 20 x 16", signed 

Second, an English major, I was deep into the studies of Southern writers—such as Richard Ford, Josephine Humphreys, William Faulkner, among others.  Most poignantly, I discovered Mississippi’s treasure Eudora Welty, whose text juxtaposed with her pictures were art treasures of an authentic and sincere Mississippi in the 1930s.  Also, I discovered “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” with Walker Evans’s extraordinary photographs preceding the text of James agee.  Agee, along with the photographer Walker Evans, had been sent to the South to investigate the situation of tenant cotton farmers—the sort of subject that was common for Fortune during the Depression. 

Eudora Welty, Strollers (1935), gelatin silver, 17 x 10", signed 

Eudora Welty, Strollers (1935), gelatin silver, 17 x 10", signed 

Third, Larry Brown was a powerful voice in my final year at Ole Miss, teaching me in creative writing class. Larry is one of the South’s most celebrated writers, having published award-winning books like Dirty Work, Father and Son, Joe, and Big Bad Love, along with countless short stories. Had I not know Larry, my life would have been much different, and I don’t know if I would have had the courage to embrace my love affair with this book.  

During that time, my father was dying and Larry’s class was an escape of sorts through reading assignments, writing short stories, and being among so many creatives who always saw the world in shades of grey between black and white text.  But I was also learning the tools to construct and devise a long piece of writing, a skill set that would help me cope with my reality, then and later on. 

Larry’s class was a critical and conforming experience.  He always believed—and practiced in his own master of the craft—that you should write what you know, put trouble on the front page, and write like you talk.  The first day of class, he walked in in a leather coat, white T-shirt, jeans, and boots—typical attire for a writer but not necessarily in an academic environment.  He smelled of sweet bourbon and cigarettes (class started around 4:00 p.m.), wen to the chalkboard, book a piece of yellow chalk to his like, and wrote “S-T-O-R-Y.”  Then he turned to the class and said, “If you don’t have the guts to show your guts, get out.”  In the first few writing assignments, he noted my inability to do so.  

Larry, with a mere high school degree, wasn’t and of an academic setting, so most of our classes were held at the Cit Grocery  bar on the Oxford Square.  Larry spent a lot of time at bars, as that’s where he “got most of his material.”  “People act more natural to themselves in a bar,” he suggested.  My classmates and I (many who have gone on to become acclaimed writers) talked about books, shared our stories, and in many ways, learned to understand that our lives are in their truest essence, stories.  

Image:  Larry Brown by Hubert Worley Jr. of the  Oxford American

Image:  Larry Brown by Hubert Worley Jr. of the Oxford American

In 2016, I took the most counterintuitive action for a progressive, forward thinking entrepreneur like myself and I stopped.  I left art dealing for some time and I sabbaticaled from the day to day grind of the trade.  The biggest challenge was dissing technology, but I turned off all three phones, i-pads, and computers and dismissed emails and social media feeds.  If I wasn’t galloping through the Caribbean, I was in intense therapy at least once a week, looking back at my life and work, trying to discern the balance and imbalances of both.  I mainly took this time to write until my wrists and fingers felt like they would break.  As this sabattacle came to a close, I missed my work, clients and all-things-gallery life, both good and bad. I stepped back into the Art World with a new found energy, heightened connoisseurship, and roaring passion I had not felt since my early twenties.  

I do not want to be self-righteous and offer advice, so how about a mere suggestion.  Live your life so you have something to tell.  A story, any story.  My story can be traced through the “art hunt.”  And I’ve charted my course through my career.  I have visited thousands of artist’s studios all over the world, hopped on and off European trains to explore, flown on Russian planes in Cuba, and driven thousands of miles across American soil to mine material.  Perhaps my work has been a combination of fragments, completely drawing my imagination, unpredictability, and cynicism.  In this book I will write the truth as best as I can remember it, one travel excursion and one art deal at a time. 

 

EUDORA WELTY & WALKER EVANS :  1920-1930

By, Rebekah Jacob:  Owner & Founder of the Rebekah Jacob Gallery & Vedado Gallery

#ArtHunt #TravelDiaries #Wanderlust #ArtOfTheDeal

Reflection of a Decade

I am a seeker.  Born from hundreds of scribbled legal pad pages, plus blood, sweat, tears, and a generous supply of bourbon, Rebekah Jacob Gallery celebrates a decade of searching out the socially charged, aesthetically progressive artwork on which we have built our national reputation.  The path has been far from easy, but after twenty years in the art business, I know that if you stay in it long enough, you get to the truly good stuff.

Everything starts with the art.  We choose artists and estates from the American South and Caribbean Isles based on instinct, creativity, breadth of work, price point, and attitude. We aggressively mine and exhibit enlightened work that evokes the modern age of these two regions riddled with complexity and never-ending exploration, and which deeply connected via indigo, cotton, and slave trade.  Whether emerging or experienced, these artists expand the conventional definitions of their medium including paintings, works on paper, photography and video.  

Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, I was wholeheartedly seduced by the art of the American South both for its stunning visuals and for the great divides it addresses.  Many Southern fine art photographers deeply engage in the essence of place, visually examining the relationship between past and present to make sense of the peculiarities of Southern identity. I seek out artists who stay true to their Southern roots not by solely focusing on the beauty of the landscape but also by exploring the conundrums of the place we call home.  These issues of poverty, race, and inequality have become a driving point of interest for me, strongly evident in my affinity for documentary photography, whether vintage or contemporary, as it relays a strong, intricate narrative that extends beyond the place where words end.  Bringing the work of Civil Rights photographers like James Karales to the forefront likewise highlights the need for continued discussion on issues that continue (unfortunately) to remain relevant today.  My favorite WPA authors/photographers like Eudora Welty and Walker Evans traveled the Carolinas, capturing in words and images this land of elegant decay, still struggling to heal from the Civil War. Similarly, many contemporary photographers like Richard Sexton poignantly capture and document fading structures and archetypal characters in a way that still entrances me.

In a parallel construction, I believe that there is no more magical place on earth than Cuba. Since my early twenties, I have made it a personal mission to share the rich visual vocabulary of Cuban artists and photographers informed by centuries of cultural and political discussion.  Revolutionary greats like Roberto Salas, Caralse, and Alberto Kordo helped incite the revolution in Fidel’s Cuba and made phenomenal exhibitions in my home state.  Later, having become well-versed in the emerging art scene, I had the opportunity to juxtapose the work of the two regions and have curated several exhibitions of Southern and Cuban artwork in Havana and throughout the Southeast.  Over the years, I have seen many of our monumentally-themed gallery projects––both exhibitions and publications—take on their own organic forms, becoming a voice for thousands who sacrificed to change the world.  

After years of diligent research and honing my skills, I at last opened my dream gallery in early 2004.  Rebekah Jacob Gallery began in a modest thousand square foot white box in the quiet, quaint area of lower King Street in downtown Charleston.  The odds were not in my favor; at this point, neither contemporary art nor photography had a strong foothold in the Charleston market. Yet I persevered, bolstered by the entrepreneurial spirit of my father, Les Jacob, whose voice I would often hear reminding me to put my head down and get to work, no excuses.  We not only survived, we thrived, and as the economy rebounded, we decided to triple our inventory and our space. Progressive art requires a progressive neighborhood, so we headed north to upper King Street, an area at the heart of the city’s creative culture renaissance.  The large walls of this sexy 3,000 square foot Chelsea-like gallery were necessary to keep up with the increased production from my artists as well as the increased demand from our clients.  A progressive but also an ardent preservationist, I was attracted to the traditional design by a Charleston architect that was flexible enough to allow for the modern edge instilled by my designer William Bates.

However, I failed to forecast how the mercurial rise of internet commerce and the radical redirection of marketing towards social media would dramatically affect my business. Technology trumped square footage, so I downsized our footprint and invested in our internet platform. Our physical location on Broad Street is secondary to our online presence, where the majority of our art is now sold to buyers around the world.  Instead of print media buys, we focus our energies on creating an e-commerce experience that is attractive and secure. 

My father said that success happens when preparation meets opportunity. I have spent my life preparing through academic training, apprenticeships, professional networking, and global travels.  As Rebekah Jacob Gallery turns ten, I think he would have been proud to see my diligence has turned into a legacy.

- Rebekah Jacob

On Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty

I confess only one regret as a Mississippian:  that I never met Ms. Eudora Welty, the great writer and photographer whose words and images have offered me consistent, generous inspiration.  As I was reminded during a recent visit to her home at 1119 Pinehurst Street, Jackson, a failure of courage deprived me of a chance to have the privilege of knowing her. I have since tried mightily to rectify this misjudgment by immersing myself in her photography, learning about the person posthumously through her lens.  

Engrossed in my Southern Literature studies at Ole Miss back in 1997, my mind was full of Ms. Welty’s words and images as I drove to Jackson for a wedding garden party.  With the bravado of youth, I parked in front of Ms. Welty’s home at 1119 Pinehurst Street and telephoned my then-beau for a last-minute pep talk. Instead, he chided me for the southern sin of dropping by unannounced.  The sound of rapid-fire pecking on a typewriter echoed through her open window as I drove away.  I still hear that dirge nearly two decades later.

Eudora Welty; ' Chopping in the Field'  1936

Eudora Welty; 'Chopping in the Field' 1936

Since then, I have been honored to appraise, consult, and broker various portfolios and loose prints of Welty’s photographs through Rebekah Jacob Gallery.  My deep desire to address her work with the appropriate respect led to copious (perhaps obsessive) research as my team and I have chased down every possible scrap of information.  We have diligently sifted through thousands of images and supporting texts and re-read every essay/book she ever wrote. The more I slipped into her photographic world, the more I started to see how the eloquence of her written narratives was also present in visual form in her photographs.  

The upper crust of Delta life that we both grew up in was such a dramatic juxtaposition to the images she shot alone on assignment for the WPA in the 1930s, way down back dirt roads.  Suffering and proud, everyday Mississippians were imbued with the politics and economics of this complicated land when seen through her compassionate lens.  From the images—supported by many discussions with Welty scholar Suzanne Mars—it is clear the gentle, cautious hand she took when approaching her fellow Mississippians for these photographs.  No pose was forced, no intimidation used.  Instead, Ms. Welty led with respect and the result was poignant portraits of strength and dignity.  Then she tightly trimmed her kitchen-sink prints using the same critical eye with which she edited her stories.  

This intense study has only fueled my quest to get to the source of her work and to share it with others who share my respect for her oeuvre.  The negatives from 1930-1950 are lovingly preserved at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History with rare portfolios (sometimes just a loose print, others as a full unit) elusively showing up in galleries and auctions. As scholarship builds, as more new photographs are revealed, interest in Welty’s photography continues to rise.  Given the current market, I think that Welty’s body of work on WPA-era Mississippi is one of the most compelling photographic studies of the American landscape available.  There is no doubt that  Ms. Welty’s work is now considered a must-have for any true Southern photography collection.

I will continue, like so many others, to gravitate towards my North Star of 1119 Pinehurst Street where I firmly believe her legacy lives on.  There is little doubt that she will continue to inform and inspire with words and images to tell the story of our mutual homeland with grace and dignity.  Transcending her time, Ms. Welty continues to be Mississippi’s most treasured documentarian and ambassador. 

In the meantime, I am eager to tackle yet another portfolio box of gems  that just arrived at my doorstep, ready for discovery anew.

- Rebekah Jacob