Rough Road

[imgbelt img=ClayCheerleaders530.jpg]Once upon a time, there was the idea that three young artists could document the life of a whole state. Today, there’s proof.

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But after hundreds of miles and many nights spent in their cars, reality began to wear the young artists wonderfully down. “The second and third year’s work was when it got really good,” says Wathen.

After photographing bridge painters in McCracken County and Derby parties in Louisville, pentacostal ministers and underage drinkers, black-lung victims and studs (both equine and human), the photographers underwent a kind of total immersion. As Wathen writes in the exhibition catalogue, “Originally we attempted to impose ourselves on Kentucky; in the end, Kentucky imposed itself on us.”

Bob Hower could never have staged what he captured one rainy afternoon in Perry County. In “Aftermath of a Family Dispute,” a state trooper, his face partially hidden by an upturned collar, looks into the glowering faces of three boys in their early teens. The eldest holds one hand on his hip in defiance, elbow aimed at the camera. Beneath an umbrella, three younger children gaze up at the officer gnawing their fingers and rapt with fear.

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