My family moved to Huntsville, Alabama two years ago. That was the first time that I had visited the state, and as we prepare for a year of estrangement, I’m returning to say goodbye. I am the second oldest of nine children, so despite our busy lives, family has always been an arms reach away. We schedule our Alabama tour to correspond with my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.
In this particular area of the state, I notice an enormous gap in lifestyles. In a clash of cotton farmers and NASA scientists, confederate flags and political correctness, this land aches of silent resentment. With that said, the company of good-hearted people and southern hospitality thrives like the freshwater catfish. When my family first arrived, my younger brothers had a difficult time understanding their teachers’ accents, but less than two years later; they have grown to love these little towns that time forgot. The youngest now sings with a country twang and helps to remind me that regardless of your age, it is okay to run barefoot and catch lightning bugs in the field.
After sharing our holiday feast, my mom decides to take us for a drive through Madison County and across several covered bridges. Our last stop is a place where we experience something more amazing than anything created by the hand of man. Along a trail of crisp autumn leaves, we look in awe at the site above us. Uniting the land with the sky is a crossing of two natural arches. In these bridges, the negative spaces reveal streams of light that have escaped the veil of clouds. An illusion is created within these open shapes. One part of the sky is a closing eye, while the other opens to endless opportunity. The locals claim that this bridge is the largest natural bridge East of the Rockies, spanning 148 feet long and 60 feet high. It is located in a town called Natural Bridge, and the land whispers of the Creek Indians that used to live here. Memories moan with every decaying inch of this inspiring rock formation, complementing new vegetation that rises without limitations.
Before leaving Alabama, we meet with a small local art gallery. Without much to show for our great undertaking, we convince them to display the Florida painting throughout the duration of our journey. I am grateful for their participation, but slightly irritated that they ask me to remove some pages from my portfolio. “This is the bible belt,” I am told in a condescending tone. The pages that I remove have nudes in them from my Inhibitions Series. I personally feel that it is a ridiculous request, which goes against all of my artistic beliefs. Regardless, I bite my tongue and Artistic Minds becomes the first gallery to participate in uniting America through art.