Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art

Dates: April 30 – October 14, 2017
Location: North Building
Pricing: FREE for members / $5 for non-members in addition to general admission
Remember to visit the Speed on Free Owsley Sundays!

Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art is the first contemporary art exhibition to question and explore in-depth the complex and contested space of the American South. One needs to look no further than literature, cuisine and music, to see evidence of the South’s profound influence on American culture, and consequently much of the world. This unprecedented exhibition investigates the many realities, fantasies and myths that have long captured the public’s imagination, and presents a wide range of perspectives to create a composite portrait of Southern identity through contemporary art.

William Faulkner once described the South not as a “geographical place” but an “emotional idea.” Southern Accent looks at the South as an open-ended question and concept in itself. The exhibition encompasses a broad spectrum of media and approaches, demonstrating that “Southern-ness” is more of a shared sensibility than any one definable culture or style. The exhibition primarily focuses on artwork from the past 35 years, but includes earlier work from the Civil Rights Era as important foundational and historical markers. The exhibition includes work by approximately 60 artists as well as a curated music-listening library. No region in the United States has contributed more to American music than the South, and a music chronology that speaks to Southern life provides an invaluable sounding board for the artwork in the exhibition.

Find out more about the exhibition.

View a pdf of the Southern Accent Music Library booklet.

View a pdf of exhibition related programming.

Upcoming Events

Thursday, September 28, 6 – 9 pm: Queer Eye on the South. All are welcome to this celebration of queer artists and the LGBT Center’s 10th anniversary!

Friday, October 13, 10 am – 3 pmSouthern Symbols: Remembering Our Past and Envisioning Our Future. A public conversation led by prominent artists and historians exploring the South’s complex history and its symbols.

Friday, October 13, 6 – 7 pmSouthern Symbols Keynote: Lost Causes and Causes Not Lost: Confederate Memorials, Then and Now by Dr. David Blight. Dr. Blight of Yale University will deliver a lecture on why the Confederacy in its various memorial manifestations never seems to go away. He will address this issue as a matter of origins and about our contemporary political culture.

Saturday, October 14, 2 – 4 pm: Sonya Clark: Unraveling. For this artwork, Sonya Clark will carefully unravel a confederate flag thread by thread and invite members of the public to join her in this process.

Southern Accent is co-organized by Miranda Lash, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and Trevor Schoonmaker, Chief Curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue with scholarly essays.

Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art is supported by
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
A. Cary Brown and Steven E. Epstein
Paul and Deborah Chellgren
Colin and Woo Speed McNaughton

Support for the Speed Art Museum’s exhibition season is provided by



Homepage image:

Amy Sherald
High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes, 2011
Oil on canvas
Collection of Keith Timmons, ESQ, CPA. Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, Illinois.
© Amy Sherald