Talking about “Klan Room Tableau”

There’s only about two days left to catch a startling installation at the Asheville Art Museum.

Last Saturday, we went on a three-part art mission: One, to check out JoAnna Fireman‘s new show at Blue Spiral, per the knowledgeable recommendation of arts writer Connie Bostic; two, to drool a little over Julyan Davis’ deft oil paintings (love his subjects: a random street scene in West Asheville, an off-the-path house in rural Canton); and three, to catch William Christenberry’s Site/Possession exhibit at the Asheville Art Museum.

Bostic told me that Fireman’s work was not the sort you typically find in a commercial gallery. It’s definitely stark and boney, but also intriguing and worth a visit to Blue Spiral. While there, don’t miss Aaron Tucker‘s colorful, stylized urbanscapes and the soft floating figures of Duy Huynh. Huynh co-owns a sweet little gallery called Lark and Key in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood (bonus: Lark and Key shows the work of Asheville-based artist Alena Hennessy).

But it was Christenberry’s work that we talked most about later on; more specifically, the “Klan Room Tableau” installation. Visitors enter the room through heavy black curtains, walking past a warning that the art may provoke strong reactions. For this Southerner, this room filled with dozens of Klan dolls, eerie images and other memorabilia, punched revulsion into my gut.

Though some critics felt more blasé after encountering the Tableau: “I just can’t get riled up by men playing dress-up. I take it all in, and I am struck, not by the banality of evil, but by the silliness of it,” Washington Post staff writer Teresa Wiltz wrote last year when the exhibit was at American University. “To me, post-civil rights, pre-hip-hop, the Klan is so old school. Ineffectual, impotent, past tense.”

We left talking avidly and intensely about terrorism and the South and how these things were not so long ago.

(Note: This was supposed to the A&E column in next week’s Xpress, until I realized I’d misread the dates for the show. Apologies for the short notice: Christenberry’s exhibit is up until Sunday.)

Rebecca Sulock


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30 thoughts on “Talking about “Klan Room Tableau”

  1. Chad Nesbitt

    The Ku Klux Klan was the terrorist wing of the Democrat Party.

    The NC Democrat party still honors one of their leaders that killed over 300 blacks in 1898.
    They honor Charles Aycock with the Dems largest fundraiser of the year, the Vance Aycock Dinner.
    This dinner is held every year in Asheville.

    Here is a link to the story. The Ghost Of 1898 –

    Here is a commercial we made a couple of years ago. –

    Here is another commercial that might interest some of you that want to learn the truth. –

  2. Piffy!

    Yes. It is common knowledge that the Republican party has no history of affiliation with Racism, and that the Democratic and Republican parties from over a century ago are the exact same parties that they are today.

    More common Sense From chad Nesbitt.

  3. I followed the link to Julyan Davis’s website, to try and see if I could recognize the random street scene in West Asheville that was described… and saw a beautiful painting of the Rockola Motel sign. This painting should certainly command a higher price now that this iconic motel on Smokey Park Highway has been demolished.
    I only wish that I had gotten some good photos of it, and the blue VW beetle that was always parked in the driveway.

    I also wonder if any of the stone was re-used or if everything went to the landfill…

  4. Reality Check

    The modern Democratic party is Sexist and Racist. I’m going to say those in charge are more Sexist and Racist than ever. Every African American the Republicans put up is called an ‘Uncle Tom’ by the left and every Woman put up is systematically destroyed. The left only wants Women and Minorities that they agree with. Others better better watch their backs.

  5. Rebecca Sulock

    Mike, I wonder too about the stone, and also wonder what will be built on the site.

    Did you recognize the street scene?

  6. Rebecca,
    I didn’t see any on the website that mentioned West Asheville, only Montford. Perhaps the work mentioned in the article is too new to have been uploaded online… perhaps I should check out the exhibit.
    Wonder who has the old Motel signs now too…

    Was looking at Fireman’s works and some of them, namely the “young roadrunner” reminded me of the mutated infant from “Eraserhead”. Ugh, still turns my stomach.

  7. Rebecca Sulock

    Oh man, who *does* have the signs? May have to look into this further!

    So, if you go to Julyan Davis’ Web site again, the West Asheville scene is the last one down on the right-hand side. I also recommend stopping by Blue Spiral and looking at his paintings in person. I’m fond of the painting that’s on the left-hand side of his Web site, at the bottom, because it has this wooden bridge in the foreground and when I look at it, I can hear the sound of a car crossing that sort of bridge — a particular sound.

    It’s worth looking at Fireman’s works in person, too. Bring a friend and discuss! :)

  8. Reality Check

    I kind of feel bad for tossing the ‘stick bomb’ of my last comment into the room when there are those here having a nice conversation about the article. I got caught up in the ongoing duel between Chad and PFK. I’m not retracting it, but it would be best discussed in another venue at a different time.

  9. Photographer

    That might have been, but in 2008 I worked for the president of the NC Board of Elections and I NEVER experienced any racism while in his employ.

  10. Rebecca Sulock

    Reality Check,
    What a nice and civil thing to say. That’s not always the case round here. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m a fan of manners, online or anywhere.

  11. “The modern Democratic party is Sexist and Racist. I’m going to say those in charge are more Sexist and Racist than ever. Every African American the Republicans put up is called an ‘Uncle Tom’ by the left and every Woman put up is systematically destroyed. The left only wants Women and Minorities that they agree with. Others better better watch their backs.”

    Black President-elect and female Secretary of State, not to mention a racially and sexually diverse cabinet. Not seeing anything that supports your case here, sorry.

    By the way, I don’t recall Condi Rice being called an Uncle Tom, and she’s not been destroyed. In fact, a lot of people on the left believe she was one of the few reasonably competent members of the Bush administration. Same is true for Colin Powell.

  12. Reality Check

    I’m no Bush apologist, but in this case he had the most diverse cabinet ever, by far, and got no credit for it. Powell and Condi were hammered over and over in the beginning of their terms. Black Republican’s are vilified by the left and so are women. A fact. The Democrats voted in Obama because he agreed with their policies. If he had been a black republican with the same credentials, the media would have had a field day with him.

    Glad you like Condi. She could prob be President some day if she wanted.

    This isn’t a good place to have this conversation. I’ll wait for a more appropriate topic. Signing off.

  13. Piffy!

    Are you Joking, RC? Like Fox news and Rush Limbaugh talking about “the magic Negro” isnt racist? What sort of alternative reality do you live in where the Republican party is the beacon of tolerance? I’m not defending the Democratic party, either. Just pointing out the absurdity of what you and Chad are trying to say.

  14. Reality Check

    PFK – I never said the Rep party was the party of tolerance. I never mentioned Rush or Fox. Nice ‘debate’ tactic. I was pointing out the hypocrisy of the Dem party thinking they own tolerance. I could have stated that more clearly initially. This past election proved that neither party is tolerant of anything except their own views. No surprise there.

    Don’t lump me in with Chad. He and I agree on about as many things as you and I agree on.

  15. Piffy!

    I suppose I must have misread you. Can you go back and read your posts and see why one might come to those conclusions?

  16. thanks for your kind words- Mike, Rebecca. Stumbled on this on google! The Rockola motel painting is in England in a gallery in Bath. I’ve always had better reception for that kind of work over there and yes, at least a hundred of my subjects over the years: the drive ins, abandoned homes, gas stations, kudzu wastelands etc no longer exist.

    Julyan Davis

  17. batty

    The diversity of Julyan Davis’ work never ceases to amaze me. I love that he can capture the mood and light in such varying places. Mike, I also admire the Rockola painting and found two really stunning paintings not displayed on his website by following the link to the Mauger Gallery. They are of the Mountaineer Inn on Tunnel Road. As a side note, the scene mentioned about West Asheville is actually located on a small street across Broadway from the Montford district.

  18. bobaloo

    Are you Joking, RC? Like Fox news and Rush Limbaugh talking about “the magic Negro” isnt racist?

    Do you know who originally coined that phrase, by any chance?

  19. Piffy!

    Ahh, i imagine you are speaking of Spike Lee, knowing you.

    But it was limbaugh who first used it in the context i was referring to. That is, a reference to our POTUS. In fact, Spike Lee’s reference is certainly a very, very different context than the Right Wing Hate Machine’s derogatory usage in reference to Barrack Obama.

  20. Brad Johansen

    The original Republican Party did in fact engage in terrorism. During the last year of the War Between The States, Lincoln and Sherman made a plan to terrorize the civilian population of the South, in order to make the away-from-home men fighting with Lee want to surrender. On his “march to the sea” Sherman burned every farm to the ground, after stealing all the livestock and food and leaving the women and children out in the cold. The women were lucky if they were not raped, and the old men were lucky if they were not shot at random by the union army. Atlanta and Columbia were burned to the ground, with many civilian casualties. Over 20,000 women, children, and old men were murdered by the union army in the last year of the war. That is terrorism. That is a war crime.

  21. entopticon

    Apparently Chad Nesbitt’s alternate reality is so fragile and misguided that he doesn’t even know that the Dixiecrats are long gone. In Chad’s alternate universe, KKK members are liberal. Back here on the planet Earth, there is literally no such thing as a liberal KKK member.

    It is an indisputable fact that in this day and age, virtually all KKK members are either Republicans or libertarians. That is not just a flukey coincidence. Only in Chad Nebitt’s distorted imagination are KKK members fighting for women’s rights, gay rights, and more aid to minority communities that have been systematically disenfranchised.

  22. Brad Johansen

    Entopticon, Chad is technically correct. After Lincoln’s republican party raped the South, no self-respecting Southerner would claim to be republican. Just like in Chicago and New York, segregation was visited on black people by the democrat party. It was codified here, under the table up north. But racism all the same.

    KKK, communist party, World Workers United, the Socialist party, all extremists, left and right. Let us all be in the middle where charity and common sense lie.

  23. entopticon

    Brad, Lincoln actually had many supporters here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. A good resource for more info on that fact is the site.

    Are you at all familiar with the Shelton Laurel massacre? That is one very sad example of the divided loyalties. You might be interested to read the article on what happened there:

    From that article:

    “More so than other areas of North Carolina, mountain citizens visibly split their allegiance between the Union and the Confederacy. One area where the divide was especially problematic was the border counties of Yancey and Madison.

    Tensions were so high in Yancey that the county actually split in two, with the pro-South, eastern-part breaking away and forming the separate county of Mitchell.”

    Chad is certainly not technically correct in his implication that the KKK has more affinity for liberal Democrats than conservative Republicans. There is no doubt that the Dixiecrats were even worse than the Republicans, but they bore little resemblance to today’s Democratic Party. There are no liberal KKK members.

    By the way, I know plenty of ethical, intelligent socialists, but there is no such thing as an ethical, intelligent Klan member, so to conflate the two is more than a bit silly. You may not agree with their politics, which are arguably the most Christ-like of all political ideologies, but they most certainly are not white supremacist hatemongers like the Klan.

  24. Brad Johansen

    Entopticon, we really didn’t have that many traitors here in the War Between the States. Even though the mountain folk had no dog in the fight as far as paying those 50% taxes Lincoln tried to levy on the planters, they sure resented that blue coated army invading their area. And stealing livestock and food. And raping women and shooting old men. No we didn’t like those yankees one bit. And we fought them. At the Battle of Asheville (site on UNCA Botanical gardens) the local mountain people ran off the invading yankee army. My relatives fought with RE Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. proud I am of that.

    Oh, as far as the KKK and the Communist Party, I’d say neither liberal democrats nor republicans want to be associated with either group.

  25. entopticon

    Brad, did you even bother to read the link I provided? If you did, you would know that your last post was hogwash. You have clearly fallen into the same imaginary history that plagues so many from the far right. The civil war that is still raging in your imagination exists only as a catch-all boogeyman for disenfranchised right-wing extremists to blame all of their problems on. These are the United States of America.

    By the way, there are many, many Republican Klan members, such as David Duke (who was once a Dixiecrat) but there is virtually no such thing as a liberal Democrat who belongs to the KKK. Your McCarthy-esque communist scare rhetoric is just plain laughable. I don’t want to alarm you, but you might be surprised to learn that it’s 2009, not 1949.

  26. Jack Smith

    I have to step in here and agree with Brad. Entopticon, you read distorted points of view to reinforce your own leftwing bias. The Civil War was not fought over slavery. To think this is just plain ignorance. Do some research on your own. Your northern history books have distorted and flatout lied about that war to justify the war crimes they committed in the South. I have many friends who are republican, and many who are liberal. I know of no one who supports what the KKK has come to stand for. Besides, the KKK has pretty much vanished due to lack of support. I think there may be a chapter or two still, up in New York state.

  27. entopticon

    Jack Smith, I’m sorry, but you are out of touch reality. Loyalties were divided in Western NC, and that is an indisputable fact. Despite the right-wing extremists who have been trying to argue that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, there is overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that it most certainly did. As a matter of fact, the North never would have been able to amass the necessary support and the South wouldn’t have had a strong enough vested interest in the war if not for the issue of slavery.

    If you knew your history, rather than just relying on the counterfactual quasi-historical propaganda that registered white supremacist groups such as the Southern Heritage Foundation have been pushing, you would know that one of the main reasons that so many people in Western NC were Unionist sympathizers was because very few people here owned slaves due to the absence of cotton farming.

    As for your ridiculous claim that the KKK is nearly non-existent except for a chapter or two in NY State, your ignorance is truly astonishing. The modern KKK is alive and extremely dangerous. In some ways more dangerous than ever. They have been rebranding themselves as a white heritage appreciation group, and one of their main missions has been to push the ridiculous lie about the Civil War having nothing to do with slavery. If you aren’t actually a member, I am sure they are deeply grateful that you are doing their bidding for them.

    The other main focus of modern white supremacist hate groups has been their exploitation of the immigration issue. It has caused a huge surge in their numbers, despite your fallacious claim to the contrary.

    Now with the Obama election, those groups are capitalizing on hate and ignorance. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

    “The Obama era comes after years in which white supremacists have successfully exploited the immigration debate – both providing racist propaganda that seeps into the popular culture and benefiting from the vilification of Latino immigrants. Mainly as a result of the bigotry and xenophobia surrounding the immigration debate, the number of hate groups operating in the United States has risen by nearly 50 percent – from 602 to 888 – since 2000.”

    Go to the SPLC’s website and educate yourself, so that you stop spreading disinformation:

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