Dr. Stanton Thomas, Curator of European and Decorative Art and exhibition curator for The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South, weighs in on the origins of the exhibition catalogue, out now and available at the Museum Store.
Every once in a while I get involved with a project that really seeps into my psyche—which is how it was with the Carroll Cloar exhibition project. Although I grew up in Northern Missouri, far from the Arkansas Delta, there was something about the artist’s paintings that was achingly familiar.
For me, Cloar’s Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog wasn’t about Moorhead, Mississippi, but instead, I recognized it as an image of Millard, Missouri. This little town is almost gone today, but when I was a child it was just a short bicycle ride along back roads and country fields from my parent’s house. Looking at the painting, I always imagine when I used to pedal my Schwinn high-handle bar, banana-seat bike down to the Millard crossing to buy an Orange Crush at the gas station. For me, Cloar’s paintings evoke melancholy remembrances of not just my childhood, but of earlier eras which are now irretrievably lost. In addition, his paintings are often filled with darker, more Gothic tendencies evoking great Southern writers like Thomas Wolfe, Katherine Anne Porter, or William Faulkner. While organizing the exhibition—which is on view at the Arkansas Arts Center through June 1, 2014—I dreamt of writing a catalogue to accompany the show.
With this in mind, I drafted catalogue entries and the outline of an essay. And, thanks to a couple of private funders, and to the vision of the Arkansas Arts Center, the catalogue is now in print. It includes wonderful full-color illustrations of Cloar’s work (many of which were previously unpublished), as well as fascinating ancillary illustrations from the artist’s archives, and of course, all my entries and the essay. So, while the exhibition may be closing soon, the catalogue is a great memento and record of the project.