A Place in Time

"Haitian Celebration: South Florida Collects Haitian Art" and "A Sense of Place: Gullah Images" at the Coral Springs Museum of Art

Farther on is The Meadow (1990), another large (as in six-foot-by-ten-foot) landscape consisting of a field dotted with dozens of haystacks, along with two trees and two horses. It's Green's version of impressionism, with perhaps a touch of cubism thrown in, with almost everything in the painting made up of little daubs of pigment that start out quarter-size in the foreground and then get progressively smaller as they recede into the background.

With Memories (1990) Green introduces what turns out to be a favorite element into the landscape: white sheets on clotheslines, flapping in the wind. Here they take up maybe half of the canvas, with the rest of the space devoted to a bright red house, birds in the yard, autumnal trees, and a Hula-Hoop leaning against one tree.

Green gets the same sense of airy motion in Dancing Hat (2000), in which a broad orange hat with a long, thick white ribbon is chased across a grassy meadow by a large woman in a billowy white dress. And in one painted wooden box, he brings his sheet-bedecked clotheslines, haystacks, and women in wide-brimmed hats together in one piece, with the tongue-in-cheek title Homage to Sheets (2000).

Green reminisces about daily Gullah life in Laundry Basket (1993)
Green reminisces about daily Gullah life in Laundry Basket (1993)

As the exhibition's title indicates, Green's Gullah images are all about a sense of place. But as I indicated earlier, it's a place the artist re-creates from a distinct remove, and therein lies a sense of poignance. Green is, in effect, in self-imposed exile from his past, from the Gullah culture that, having always existed precariously on the fringes of mainstream Southern culture, may now be on the verge of being absorbed altogether.

As someone born and raised in the Deep South, I always saw the movie version of Gone With the Wind not as star-studded Technicolor melodrama on an epic scale, but as an elegy for a vanishing way of life. Not the way of life that rationalized the slavery that was its ultimate undoing but one that embraced old-fashioned Southern hospitality and romantic chivalry -- a sense of place and belonging to that place, despite the apparent inevitability of its passing. That's the sort of sense of place I think Green is seeking in his Gullah images, and he achieves it magnificently.

"Haitian Celebration: South Florida Collects Haitian Art" and "A Sense of Place: Gullah Images" are on display through July 16 at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs City Centre, 2855 Coral Springs Dr., Coral Springs, 954-340-5000.

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