Home Page | Online Magazine | Forum | Book reviews | Hot links | Directory | Degree courses | Conferences | Services | Study Days | Search | Email us | Response form
The Image of the Pig in Southern Culture
"The Hog is Saint and Sinner and right up front!" South Carolina's ubiquitous pig and the art of Tarleton Blackwell.
Stephen C Kenny
Liverpool John Moores University
Presentation for Thanksgiving Lecture, American Studies Research Centre and MCCA, Dean Walters Building, Liverpool John Moores University. November 26th, 1998
" Evolving from an antebellum economic necessity, dietary mainstay, and component in agrarian cultural rituals to a modern symbol, the hog has demonstrated remarkable adaptability." (S. Jonathan Bass, "'How 'bout a Hand for the Hog': The Enduring Nature of the Swine as a Cultural Symbol in the South,' Southern Cultures, Volume 1, No.3, Spring 1995, pp301-320).
"The essence of the 'Hog Series' can be related to the series of works Velazquez created depicting the jesters and dwarves of King Phillip IV's court. Velazquez portrayed these subjects as equals to their master. I have tried to portray hogs with dignity and respect, while at the same time revealing and sharing some of my past personal experiences." (Tarleton Blackwell, Artist's Statement to accompany Asheville Art Museum exhibition, 1992).
"The work of teaching and organizing the others fell naturally upon the pigs, who were generally recognized as being the cleverest of the animals." (George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945, p15).
In the American South, as in the United States more generally, the pig business and symbolic representations of swine are both extremely popular and remarkably political. Popularly, one might think of the 'cult of the pigskin,' that is American football (the US national game, which perhaps enjoys it's most enthusiastic support in the American South), or Mel Blanc's stuttering vocals in the guise of Tex Avery's animated Porky Pig. Politically, one might recall the 'Bay of Pigs' fiasco in 1961, or, more recently, environmental concerns over the activities of giant corporate hog farmers.
Of course, the pig is much more than just the sum of its popular and political manifestations, as I shall mention in outlining the importance of the pig in the history of the economy and culture of the South. However, I believe highlighting these themes of porcine popularity and hog politics, offers an intellectually satisfying contextual reading of an important body of work developed over the last fifteen years by the South Carolinian artist, Tarleton Blackwell.1 Taking into account the stated concerns and intentions of the artist himself, together with a consideration of the historical and cultural influences on the 'Hog Series' paintings, I hope to advance an interpretation that is slightly more nuanced than some of the contemporary art-history criticism which seeks to discuss Blackwell's work. Indeed, the bulk of this criticism seems to be a deliberate, or at the very least misguided, attempt to remove Blackwell's art from its historical, cultural and political moments. For example, a recent press release for a Blackwell show stated; "With playful imagination, Blackwell tells the story of The Three Little Pigs in his own way." Further illuminations and probing critical insights follow, as the article points out the "charming," "alarming" and "sophisticated" elements of Tarleton Blackwell's work. "Interesting" is another essential, commonplace, commonsense, non-commital, ostensibly 'apolitical' adjective we frequently find deployed by the designated interpreters of Blackwell's art. This kind of 'critical appreciation' works to conceal the ideological implications of Blackwell's art and diminishes the role of the critic to that of one who simply chants meaningless mantras in the ambiguous language of 'high art' - highlighting harmless technical features, merely whimsical juxtapositions or allegedly bewildering symbolic elements in what is, in the case of the 'Hog Series', artwork teeming with a multitude of subversive and humanistic narrative possibilities. Indeed, what I find particularly satisfying about Blackwell's art, is that like all truly subversive artwork, it makes you laugh out loud and break the pious silence of the art-gallery.
Selected History of the Popular and Political Pig in America:
Some of the controversies which have developed with the appearance of a number of socially and ideologically motivated visions of America's 'Porkopolis' (and its discontents), suggest both the depth of public and political feeling on hog-related issues and the hog's longer history in America as an image ripe for satirical and allegorical purposes. For example, we might start with the publication, earlier this century, of Upton Sinclair's portrait of alienated labour (and adulterated food) in the stockyards and slaughterhouses of Chicago, The Jungle (1906).
One could not stand and watch very long without becoming philosophical, without beginning to deal in symbols and similes, and to hear the hog-squeal of the universe. Was it permitted to believe that there was nowhere upon the earth, or above the earth, a heaven for hogs, where they were requited for all this suffering? Each one of these hogs was a separate creature. Some were white hogs, some were black; some were brown, some were spotted; and some were old, some were young; some were long and lean, some were monstrous. And each of them had an individuality of his own, a will of his own, a hope and a heart's desire; each was full of self-confidence, of self importance, and a sense of dignity. And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, the while a black shadow hung over him and a horrid Fate waited in his pathway.2
In this passage, the hog acts as a symbolic stand-in for the oppressed worker - with both destined to be devoured by the same insatiable machinery of the production-line. More recently, we have had the brouhaha surrounding the Minneapolis artist Andrew Leicester's development of a public art space at Sawyer Point in Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the Bicentennial Cincinnati Gateway project, opened in 1988, in which a sculptural centerpiece recalling riverboat smokestacks was crowned with bronze flying pigs. The pigs were intended as "reminders of the product that gave Cincinnati much of its early growth and prosperity - and its nickname Porkopolis" - yet they provoked some opposition by those concerned with the city's civic image. This developed into a lively media debate, before the pigs were finally publicly endorsed at a hearing attended by dozens of pro-pig protesters, many wearing pig snouts, carrying piglets, and singing - a la John Lennon - 'All we are sa-a-a-a-ying is give pigs a chance'.3 Two years later, New York based artist Sue Coe presented 'Porkopolis - Animals and Industry' (1990), another radical reworking of the hog in the social imagination. This was a show which gave a pig's eye view of the work of the pork processing industry - the whole gruesome business of genetic tampering, factory rearing, sardine shipping, mechanized slaughter, and 'harvesting' of pig organs for use in human transplantation and medical research - a visual counterpart in many ways to Sinclair's earlier 'muckraking' novel, but not as concerned with portraying the alienation of labour, as with advancing a vegetarian vision of humanity's environmental and spiritual alienation.4
In addition to the pigskin , the popularity of the pig and its image in America can be seen in the enduring success of childrens' tales featuring hogs in a variety of media. For example, one thinks immediately of E.B. White's, Charlotte's Web (the tale of Wilbur, the runt of the litter, who, with the help of Charlotte the spider, evades the chopping-block and becomes the prize-pig), Warner Brothers' Porky Pig, the Disneyfication of A.A. Milne's (Winnie the Pooh and) Piglet too and the more recent cinematic incarnation of a talking pig (who dares to be a shepherd dog!) in the academy-award nominated Babe (and the recent sequel, Babe in the City). In these tales (as in the cute and cuddly marketing spin-offs), pigs are usually pink, divested of their earthly exteriors and represented as timid, meek, humble, simple-minded creatures. Thus the popular pig, the childhood fantasy pig, is presented in sanitized fictional terms in marked contrast to penned-in factory pig of big agribusiness.
Selected history of the hog in the South:
"The prime source of meat for the early family in these mountains was hogs. Part of the reason for this can be seen by a quick look at the recipes. There was almost no part of the animal that could not be used ... Hogs were slaughtered, cut up, cured, and smoked at home. In fact, in many mountain homes today, slaughtering remains a family venture - the only difference being that now there is no more open forest range, so the hogs are kept and fed at the farm until killing time." ('Slaughtering Hogs,' The Foxfire Book, edited by Eliot Wigginton, 1972, p189, p190).
"One of the farm events that made school attendance almost unthinkable to the boy was hog-killing. This involved so much planning, organization, expertise, and total group participation that the boy likened it to feudal preparations for siege. The frantic activity and excitement were exhilarating, and the boy was attracted to it primarily because so much of the ritual horrified and repelled him." (Ferrol Sams, Run With The Horsemen, 1982, p81)
As Southern cultural commentator Jonathan Bass has written, "The hog has become embedded in the culture of the South and remains the widespread symbol of the region and southern culture ... Much like cotton the hog developed from a simple economic staple to a broad cultural symbol." 5 One confirmation of this statement, from an academic standpoint, might be made by taking a glance at the dust-jacket of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (aka the 'Bible of the South')6 where the hog takes up company alongside such well-established and revered Southern icons as Elvis Presley, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'Hara, RC Cola and Martin Luther King.
Bass (along with John Egerton and Joe Gray Taylor, both contemporary writers on Southern foodways7 ), has highlighted the hog's endurance as a dietary mainstay8 in the South despite the region's 'modern' social and economic changes - largely characterized by a protracted shift from a rural-agricultural to an urban-industrial society - pointing to the way that barbecue restaurants, recipe books9 and magazines such as Southern Living have preserved the tradition and family and community ritual of eating pork. In terms of barbecue restaurants, we can see many examples in some of the areas I'm most familiar with as a visitor, in Columbia, South Carolina and the state more generally. Indeed, Allie Patricia Wall and Ron L. Layne's seminal guide to South Carolina Barbecue, Hog Heaven, lists a directory of 102 Bar-B-Q restaurants throughout the various sub-regions of the state, with names like Little Pigs Bar-B-Q in Columbia, Bobs Bar-B-Q in Florence, Fred Gaskins' Grocery in Lake City (hopefully no relation to South Carolina's most infamous serial killer, Donald 'Pee Wee' Gaskins!), Fat Willy's Hawg House in Rock Hill, and Pig-N-Chick in Mauldin, while one of the most well known South Carolina barbecue restaurants is Maurice Bessenger's Drive-In 'Piggie Park' - a South Carolina landmark since 1953.
Hogs played a vital role in the economy of the Old South. Bass records that in 1860 hogs and other southern livestock had a value of $500 million - more than twice the value of that year's cotton crop. The region was raising two-thirds of the American nation's hogs, while ten southern states boasted a population of more than a million pigs in 1860. The Civil War and the closing of the southern range, reduced the hog economy significantly - as did increasing agricultural commercialization, rising industrialization, and growing urbanization - so "economic reliance on the hog and the rural culture surrounding it declined." 10
However, the hog, as symbol, commodity and 'soul food' continued to range the landscape of the Southern imagination. In the literary reminiscences of several twentieth-century Southern writers (for example, Maya Angelou, Harry Crews, William Price Fox and Ferroll Sams to name just four11 ), in the folk record of the Foxfire12 project, and now in the art of Tarleton Blackwell we have ample testimony to the cultural significance of the social memories of traditions and rituals surrounding 'hog killing time' and the singular efficiency and value of this animal to a rural household and community. In cinematic and television renditions of the South and the Southern character, it has been suggested that we can see a homologous relationship in temperament and nature between Southerners and hogs (we might think here of 'Boss' J.D. Hogg, County Mayor, in the Dukes of Hazzard, or, perhaps of poor helpless Ned Beatty being implored to "squeal like a pig" by the backwoodsmen in Deliverance). For, again as Bass has pointed out:
Numerous expressions used to describe humans also emphasize the most negative characteristics of the hog: looking or acting dirty, greedy, or fat as a hog; acting pigheaded; pigging out or eating like a pig; going hog-wild or whole hog; living in a pig sty or pig pen; and the simple 'pig' (which in politically correct terms means a male chauvinist, or one of the old standards: a police officer, a fat person, or a glutton). As hog connoisseur William Hedgepeth has noted, the question remains as to whether these expressions function as an 'insult directed toward humans for acting some certain way ... or toward hogs for the fact that undesirable people are drawn to parody and besmirch their patterns of behavior.' 13
Like it or not, the pig functions as a metaphor for specific perceptions of whiteness in Southern culture. As with the term 'white trash', which has strong roots in the South, the 'white hog' is a readily recognizable regional cultural stereotype.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina's state newspaper, apocryphal and occasionally verifiable stories of giant wild hogs (ranging anywhere between 500 and 900 lbs, shot by, most often, 'great white hunters' with high powered telescopic rifles) still make the news in weekly reports of the outdoors scene and hunting 'sports'.14 But as Piggly Wiggly (and its rival Hoggly Woggly) supermarkets and grocery chains have arisen to meet the needs of urban dwellers, as state and county agricultural fairs have replaced the cherished ritual hog killings, and as barbecue restaurants have helped punctuate the visual landscape of commercial roadside architecture with painted and neon wild hogs, Southerners have, for the most part, developed a new (and distant) relationship with an old farmyard companion.
Tarleton Blackwell's MA Thesis and '60 Minutes': Reading the 'popular' and the 'political' in the 'Hog Series'.
"The Hog Series: A Visual Comparison between Mass and Rural Cultural Values through both Rituals and the Symbolic Manipulations of Images associated with Rural America." The title of Tarleton Blackwell's terminal creative project for his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of South Carolina (1984) offers a convenient starting point for a thematic analysis of his artwork, giving us several important prompts as to what he considers to be the most important elements of the increasingly popular 'Hog Series'.
As with many Southern writers and voices from the folk record (see quotes from Ferroll Sams and Foxfire on hand-out), Tarleton Blackwell has spoken of; "vivid preschool memories of helping my father and grandmother butcher hogs to supply the family's meat market."15 Set against this important Southern rural cultural memory of the communal slaughter and consumption of the hog, has been the alarming encroachment of the alien methods of industrial mass-production now used to facilitate the speedy and efficient commercial exploitation of a key resource in the United States domestic economy. Agricultural modernization and commercialization changed not only many farming methods, but significantly altered cultural beliefs and social practices in the South. As childbirth had been increasingly institutionalized and 'hidden' with the rise of the hospital in America, so too did the butchering of hogs become veiled by the rise of the factory slaughterhouse. These are but two examples of the concealment and divorce of the natural and inevitable events, of birth and death, from the community and of the appropriation and management of such potentially disorderly bodily states by 'technically proficient' professional groups.
Few Southerners today would be so naive as to look back on the rural past as a 'Golden Age'. For most are familiar with both the tales and the images of deep-rooted poverty earlier this century (especially during the 'Great Depression'16 ), and of their relative freedom from certain sorts of drudgery and dilemmas that were commonplace on a farm. For example, although Tarleton Blackwell "learned a good bit about hog anatomy and was taught traditional hog slaughtering techniques," as he grew older, he said "it was more difficult to kill animals that we had raised from conception." 17 However, increasingly, more Southerners are becoming aware of the new dangers of the rituals associated with the high speed production line - the fast feed, quick kill, mega-profit organizations which seem to show little regard for community, rural or environmental values. As a 60 Minutes report last year18 , focusing on 'Pork Power' and politics in North Carolina, made clear, the environmental hazards being caused in that state (and elsewhere, in Texas, for example) by corporate hog farms are a very real cause for concern.
At present, the television report detailed, North Carolina has more pigs than people - some ten million housed in warehouse-like barns the size of football fields in huge industrial concerns (corporate hogs, bred, born and raised in indoor pens - their future, just 165 days before the slaughterhouse sows in tiny cages, so narrow they can't turn around, their waste is caught on metal grates and flushed into large holding pits, or 'lagoons' as they are known in the hog industry). Furthermore, while the stake in and the profits from hog farming has seen North Carolina rise from the seventh largest pork farmer in the United States to the second largest in the past decade, the 'industrial' waste created by these concerns is causing huge problems. Pigs excrete four times as much waste as humans (industrially farmed pigs perhaps even more than 'free-range' animals), creating a nine and a half million ton manure mountain and a swine of a habitat for residents neighboring the huge farms. Liquefied and spread and sprayed as a fertilizer, pig manure is beginning to poison fields, rivers, streams, ground and well-water supplies in North Carolina - causing a growth in green algae, killing fish, closing rivers for swimming - thus suggesting that corporate hog farms are one of the most significant disease agents in the state.19
Documenting the disappearing world of the small rural hog farm, the early numbers of the 'Hog Series' paintings (which Blackwell has described as having "started out in a very personal way") feature largely familiar depictions of hogs as we might expect to find them - snout to the ground and feeding. The breed of the animal is mentioned (Durocs in the case of "Hog Series IV: Duroc Boar/H.Fox Tindal Farms") and, as the advertising hoarding's legend makes plain, there's no doubting the fate of these red hogs ("Red Hogs With More Red Meat"). What you see, is what you get! Pork! Underlining the hog's ultimate destination, various human figures are introduced (in, for example, "Hog Series XV: Sandra/H. Fox Tindal Farms") exhibiting decapitated heads and leading pigs to the slaughter. In "Hog Series XVI: Alyce/Piggly Wiggly", the suspended carcass evokes the ritual of the 'hog killing time,' the occasion when families and a community would slaughter hogs as a part of festival celebrations.20 This painting also introduces the popular face of the hog that is such a defining characteristic of the whole 'Hog Series'. Here, the appearance of the Piggly Wiggly corporate logo is unsettling. Positioned between the heads of the three little pigs that didn't get away and above the head of the child seated for a portrait, the logo floats dreamlike amidst the butchery. It is perhaps the image we are all now more familiar with as post-modern consumers, a smiling, sugar-coated version of the bloody scenes supporting our consumption.21 There is also another popular pig in this painting, the enigmatic face of Miss Piggy substituted for that of the Mona Lisa. Blackwell is very much aware of the art historical importance of the portrait genre (traditionally a means by which individuals demonstrated their wealth, status and power), and uses this mode as a means by which to ennoble his hogs.22
The exhibition leaflet accompanying Blackwell's 1996 solo show at the McKissick Museum, at the University of South Carolina, states that; "Being a Southerner is very important to the work of this man. It is his aim to present the landscape and people of his home in an honorable and dignified way."23 Having been introduced to the works of Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) by his eldest brother Russell (a portrait painter) on a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Blackwell saw in the Spanish painter's portrayals of court jesters and dwarves a similar desire to dignify subjects normally exploited and scorned by society.24 Appropriating some of Velazquez's most celebrated scenes, Blackwell merges Pope with pig (much like Francis Bacon in his own transmutation and melting of Pope Innocent), places Maria Teresa with a piggy-bank and has 'El Primo' (Don Diego de Acedo) in the role of a carnival barker for his "Greatest Show of Hogs III" ("Hog Series LXXVII). In this painting, "Hog Series LXXXVIII 'Pope Innocent X'", instead of a severe and suspicious looking aging pontiff, we have an equally stern looking composite pig. Part Piggly Wiggly logo (complete with 'Greenbax' saving stamps!), partially transmuted Pope - this is a savagely witty and satisfyingly subversive image. It leaves us pondering the meaning of power and rank, and recalls the famous scene at the close of Orwell's Animal Farm; "No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."25
As the 'Hog Series' progressed, Blackwell has said that; "Gradually, the hog images became secondary ..." and that their focus was now "more on fantasy."26 In these paintings Blackwell goes beyond the shared cultural memory of region's pig rituals, and draws on the universal memory of childhood tales. As Blackwell (hog anatomist and funeral director) would put it; "the story of the Three Little Pigs has been dissected to create many dimensions of the characters."27 The triptych, "Hog Series LXIX: 'Butcher's Shop I'", uses montage to assemble a seamless dream-world of playful symbols and images. Here we have a surreal blend of visual styles and subject matter. Real pigs, toy pigs, cooked pigs and storybook pigs are shown with explicit links again to the art of Velazquez (in this case, the main pictures referenced are 'Don Gaspar de Guzman, Conde de Olivares, Duque de San Lucar La Mayor, Equestrian' and 'Venus at her Mirror'). Blackwell's appearance at the edge of the canvas also suggests an a close association with 'Las Meninas', perhaps Velazquez's most famous canvas (also known as 'The Art of Painting'), in which the Spanish artist is depicted at work in the court of King Philip IV. In the 'Butcher's Shop' the artist is at work on the chopping-block of the imagination; interweaving various porcine and human subjects and objects, collapsing the boundaries between the rational and the irrational, and amalgamating a range of artforms (the canonical, the popular and the 'naive') to create a complex, multilayered narrative painting offering any number of tragic or comic (or even tragicomic) readings and resolutions.28 In "Hog Series L: 'Wolf General II'" Blackwell uses the convention of the portrait to convey the threat of the powerful Wolf (a representative of the military mindset that would pen up and butcher us all perhaps?), overlooking and overshadowing the child's painting of (the pig's?) brick-house. In the background, the hog is repeatedly presented in boxes, in profile as a commodity - a dull, grey stereotype, without individual identity - until, that is, we get to the cartoon figure of the pig tending the cauldron. This little piggie (the clever, third, little pig) can be read as a revolutionary possibility, a viable social and political option to the grim everyday alternatives of tyranny, repression and conformity.29 This painting also introduces the trickster figure30 , an African-American cultural memory, literary trope, social strategy, indeed a role adopted frequently by Blackwell's pigs, as can be seen in "Hog Series XXXIII: 'Grand Finale I'".
'Grand Finale I' is a mixture of the real and the romantic, the storybook farmyard scenes contrasting with the business of hog slaughter - with children presented as both knowing and innocent onlookers. The main action in the painting involves the contest between the pig and the wolf. In each of the three panels of the triptych we are presented with an extremely resourceful, cunning and confident pig who is more than a match for the poor wolf. Although each scene is left open-ended, we are left in no real doubt who will triumph. The swinish stereotype of hog-lazy behaviour is purposefully banished.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a very good case to be made for the pig being a metaphor for "white" Southern cultures (in other words, there is a discourse of whiteness hidden beneath the hide of the hog). For example, we might think of Boss Hog as both a physical manifestation of Southern white male hoggish behavioural traits - clearly a Bubba and a figure of corporeal excess - and also look to him as demonstrating swinishly self-interested characteristics of a distinctly Southern white economic, political and juridical domination. We don't want to let whiteness slip away and become invisible here, because of course it is always present - like the pig - a mode of indifference, a rationalization for centuries of exploitation and emiseration. So, I'm suggesting that the 'Hog Series' can also be viewed in part as a micro-history of specific community relations that have a clear racial dimension.
Blackwell's symbolic narrative play with a range of cultural memories and visions of the hog; the ritual aspects of hog slaughtering, memories of childhood tales such as the 'Three Little Pigs', and use of media and commercial pig icons - leads us to re-examine our perception of all things porcine and to reflect on our popular consumption of the ubiquitous hog and the political (and environmental) ramifications of this consumption. In choosing to incorporate personal and positive memories of a South Carolinian rural childhood in his paintings, drawing on his knowledge of art history and then emphasizing the theme of dignity as found in the paintings of Velazquez, Blackwell asks us to resist our prejudices, our tendency to stereotype and to respect and celebrate cultural difference and the value of our immediate local communities and their social, economic and cultural practices. In re-framing a traditional symbol of Southern culture and re-interpreting the classic morality tales based on the conflict between the hog and the wolf, Blackwell has tapped "an inexhaustible theme"31 - a story in which we, like the hog, can recognise ourselves and others as both saints and sinners.
So, much like that other great Southern cultural text, Elvis Presley, we can use the 'pig' as way of talking about not just pork, but issues of power and politics. For like the Elvis text, the 'pig' names a variety of experiences and cultures. The stereotyped and scorned cultures of poor white and black rural communities in the South, and also the age of mass media and global multinational commercial icons. Tarleton Blackwell's 'Hog Series' provides a commentary on the changing face and meaning of the Southern hog, charting a move from a free-ranging material staple, a shared ritual symbol and valued community commodity, to free-floating commercial symbol, appropriated by corporate interests, challenging the community to respond and invent new stories and new meanings for that which was previously enjoyed by the commonweal.
I want to leave the final word to Tarleton Blackwell. Talking about his take on Velazquez's 'Pope Innocent' image, he said; "Sometimes people are going to be offended, and I guess it's mostly people not familiar with my reason for creating it. I'm really dealing with paying homage to Velazquez and also representing Southern rural values - the Piggly Wiggly is like a way of life. It's also where I do my shopping."32
Th' th' th' that's all folks!
1 Tarleton Blackwell is an artist, as well as a teacher and a licensed funeral director and embalmer, from Manning, South Carolina, a place which he still calls home and where he maintains his studio. He was educated at Benedict College and the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the latter from which he gained his MFA in 1988. Tarleton Blackwell has been working on his 'Hog Series' for over fifteen years and has exhibited frequently throughout the South-Eastern United States, also with solo and group shows in Ohio, New York and Chicago.
2 Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906, p45.
3 This hog saga is reported in Erika Doss, Spirit Poles and Flying Pigs: Public Art and Cultural Democracy in American Communities (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1995), pp 197-236.
4 Brooks Adams, 'The Coldest Cut: Sue Coe's "Porkopolis,"' Art in America (January, 1990), pp126-129.
5 S. Jonathan Bass, '"How 'bout a Hand for the Hog": The Enduring Nature of the Swine as a Cultural Symbol in the South,' Southern Cultures, Volume 1, No.3 (Spring, 1995), p301, 303.
6 Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris, co-editors, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1989). Hog references can be found throughout the Encyclopedia, but are particularly prolific in the 'Agriculture' and 'History and Manners' sections.
7 See, for example, John Egerton's Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History (Knopf, 1987) and Joe Gray Taylor's Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: An Informal History (Louisiana State University Press, 1982).
8 The South's foodways remain one of the region's most 'distinctive' features and "consumption of pork in the South has been described" by travellers and "historians as legendary."
"Throughout the nineteenth century hog meat was the staple item in the southern diet. Southerners filled their bellies with hog parts from the 'sweet' snout to the curly tail and about the only part they didn't use was the squeal ... The reason southerners ate so much pork stemmed from the efficiency owning such an animal. Hogs remained self-sufficient during the spring, summer, and fall by foraging ... During the fall months fattening a hog for slaughter remained a relatively easy process: farmers penned the swine and fattened him on corn for a few weeks. Digestively, hogs could convert the feed to meat at an extremely efficient rate - at almost six times that of cows and sheep." Bass, p305, 306, 308.
9 For example, in South Carolina, we might look to Charleston Receipts or The Sandlapper Cookbook for instructions on preparing Hog's Head Cheese.
10 Ibid, p304, 309.
11 Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Harry Crews, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place (1978), William Price Fox, Chitlin Strut and Other Madrigals (1983), Ferroll Sams, Run With the Horsemen (1982).
12 Eliot Wigginton, ed, The Foxfire Book (Anchor Books, 1972). See also, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, for background on the Foxfire phenomena, p284.
13 Bass, '"How 'bout a Hand ..."', p303.
14 The first wild hogs in South Carolina were the offspring of swine brought by early settlers (livestock having been grazed on open range, and the hogs quickly slipped into a wild, or feral, state) This 'wild' stock is often joined by other hogs that get out of their pens, or are allowed to range freely in rural areas. They exist primarily in Lowcountry river swamps, mainly the Savannah, Congaree and Pee Dee drainages. Hunting is mostly limited to private land and commercial deer-hunting plantations offering wild-hog hunting packages. Pat Robertson, 'Hunting "humongous" wild hogs,' The State (Sunday November 10, 1996). Pinckney Benedict, in his recent collection of short-stories, Town Smokes (Minerva, 1995), includes the tale of a rogue Duroc boar named 'Booze'.
15 Tarleton Blackwell, 'The Hog Series,' The Hog Series (Columbia: University of South Carolina Department of Art; written statement in support of Master of Fine Arts Degree, 1984), p2-3; as quoted in Mark Richard Leach, 'Tarleton Blackwell,' Art Currents 7 (Mint Museum of Art, 1992).
16 For Depression era images of South Carolina, see Constance B. Schulz, ed, A South Carolina Album, 1936-1948: Documentary Photography in the Palmetto State (University of South Carolina Press, 1992).
17 Blackwell, 'The Hog Series.'
18 'Pork Power,' 60 Minutes. Broadcast in the first week of July, 1997, produced by Holly and Paul Fine. On the same issue see, David Cecelski and Mary Lee Kerr, 'Hog Wild,' in Southern Exposure, Vol. XX, No.3 (Fall, 1992), pp8-15.
20 "Whatever the 'pains, and penalties, discomforts and dejections' had been in hog raising, the hog killing days provided a 'time of genuine joy' for the farmer and an entire community." This was the time when; "Southern men symbolically expressed their 'power over nature' in this grisly ritual. More than a 'hot, ugly responsibility,' killing a hog was a 'tough, manly act performed in public.'" Furthermore; "The slaughter provided the first taste of fresh meat for a community 'famished for it' and presented the symbolic 'promise of meat through the long winter.'" Bass, '"How 'bout a Hand ..."', p306.
21 As Mark Richard Leach has suggested, the 'Hog Series' has a very distinct humanistic discourse and; "Blackwell may also be implying that submissiveness to conveniences provided by industry, commerce and technology physically and emotionally sever us from fundamental experiences that define quality of life and our appreciation for each other." Mark Richard Leach, 'Tarleton Blackwell,' Art Currents 7 (Mint Museum of Art, 1992), p4.
22 Ibid, p1.
23 'Tarleton Blackwell: American, 1956,' (Mc Kissick Museum, University of South Carolina, 1996).
24 Tarleton Blackwell, 'Artist's Statement,' in Hogs, Dragons and Other Critters (Asheville Art Museum, 1992).
25 George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945), p120.
26 Tarleton Blackwell, 'Artist's Statement,' in Hogs, Dragons and Other Critters (Asheville Art Museum, 1992).
28 Mark Richard Leach, 'Tarleton Blackwell,' Art Currents 7 (Mint Museum of Art, 1992).
30 A guise perhaps even more befitting of a pig than a rabbit! For a full exploration of the meaning and origins of the trickster figure, see Henry Louis Gates Jr, Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self (Oxford University Press, 1987).
31 Tarleton Blackwell, 'Artist's Statement,' in Hogs, Dragons and Other Critters (Asheville Art Museum, 1992).
32 Tarleton Blackwell quoted in Jeffrey Day, 'Blackwell, Baldwin making mark all over with art,' The State, Sunday, September 28, 1997, F3.
American Studies Today Online is published by
American Studies Resources Centre, Aldham Robarts Centre, Liverpool John Moores University, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool L3 5UZ, United Kingdom
Tel and fax 0151-231 3241
The views expressed are those of the contributors, and not necessarily those of the Centre, the College or the University.
© 1998, Liverpool Community College, Liverpool John Moores University and the Contributors.
Articles in this journal may be freely reproduced for use in subscribing institutions only, provided that the source is acknowledged.
Home Page | Online Magazine | Forum | Book reviews | Hot links | Directory | Degree courses | Conferences | Services | Study Days | Search | Email us | Response form
Return to Magazine Front Page