University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Art and Art History

Book Launch for Bill McDowell's book Ground at Burlington City Arts

Saturday, April 30th 2:00PM - 4:00PM Book Launch for Bill McDowell’s book Ground at Burlington City Arts

Join us for the book launch of Ground (Daylight Books, April 2016) by University of Vermont professor, Bill McDowell.  McDowell has assembled photographs made from the “killed” negatives of noted practitioners who were commissioned by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1934-1943 to document the plight of poor farmers in America during the Great Depression.  The FSA photography division was run by Roy Stryker, who routinely defaced FSA negatives with a hole punch to prevent them from being printed, much to the consternation of the photographers.  McDowell organized these "killed" pictures of sharecroppers, farm laborers, homesteaders, resettlement officials, homes and farmland according to how and what they represent and the manner in which the black hole rendered by Stryker’s “violent” act abstracts the pictures.  In Ground, the hole is portrayed as a contemporary mark, current with the practice of intervention, alteration, and appropriation. This provides the book’s haunting photographs a temporal duality in which they present the post-Depression era through a contemporary filter. In our continuing struggle to recover from 2008’s Great Recession these photographs speak to now, even as they confer on past government programs, race and class, damaged and bountiful land, drought, flood, and exodus.

Ground includes lyrics written by Rosanne Cash, whose father, Johnny Cash, grew up in a home in Arkansas built by the FSA, and a poem about a man putting his hands into the ground by Wendell Berry. The book also presents an interview with McDowell conducted by DJ Hellerman, former curator and director of exhibitions at Burlington City Arts in Burlington, Vermont, and an introduction by Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Copies of Ground will be available to purchase at the event.  Each book purchased will be accompanied by an 8.5" X 11" archival print from McDowell's series.


BCA Center, Second Floor, 135 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401