64 Parishes

Knowing Who We Are: A 20th Anniversary Exhibition

On view at Ogden Museum of Southern Art through February 2024

Published: August 31, 2023
Last Updated: November 30, 2023

Knowing Who We Are: A 20th Anniversary Exhibition

Gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Clementine Hunter, Chaleur: The Sun Gives Life to Everything, 1962. Oil on canvas board.

Since the moment it opened to the public in the newly constructed Goldring Hall on Camp Street in 2003, Ogden Museum of Southern Art has been celebrated for its commitment to showcasing the diverse cultural heritage and artistic expressions of the American South. Building upon a founding donation of over six hundred works by Roger Houston Ogden, the museum has continued to collect—expanding to over four thousand works of art that empower the museum to tell the story of the South through its visual art. After twenty years, Ogden Museum has had ample opportunity to develop this narrative while celebrating the diversity, complexity, and vibrancy of the region—both physical and cultural. On the occasion of Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s twentieth anniversary, the museum has reconsidered its permanent collection to mount a dynamic new installation of works by over 270 artists that spans the entire museum.

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.