Knowing Who We Are: A 20th Anniversary Exhibition
On view at Ogden Museum of Southern Art through February 2024
Knowing Who We Are tells the story of the South through the museum’s permanent collection. This exhibition reconsiders the development of visual arts in the American South from the nineteenth century to the present. In doing so, it shifts focus from antiquated stereotypes of region, period, style, and subject to address a contemporary understanding of varied histories reflecting broader inclusivity and representation. This installation explores the contributions of artists who were transformative yet largely unrecognized—all in consideration of the indomitable presence of place, often an all-consuming and monolithic lens through which art produced in the South is perceived.
Drawing inspiration from Ralph Ellison, who said, “Knowing where we are has a lot to do with our knowing who we are,” this exhibition provides a portrait of place that challenges conventional notions of southern identity. With a geographic region spanning from Baltimore to Miami to El Paso, Knowing Who We Are celebrates the diversity of the region—its histories, cultures, and proximate traditions—offering a view of southern identity that is more fully representative of its people. Museums can play a critical role in confronting the past, embracing the future, bridging the reconciliation of both. This exhibition traces how artists in the American South, with every developing art movement, responded with a characteristic blend of tradition and innovation, while vigorously and authentically questioning the complicated and often tragic history, in both perception and reality, of the region.
Knowing Who We Are serves as a testament to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s unwavering commitment to celebrating excellence in southern art. Through a thought-provoking collection of artworks, the exhibition challenges preconceived notions, empowers marginalized voices, and celebrates the depth and breadth of southern culture. It is a testament to the power of art to ignite meaningful conversations, foster empathy, and connect individuals and communities. Knowing Who We Are represents a journey of self-discovery for both institution and individual, exploring the role of each in defining a regional identity.