Days of the Tenant Farmers

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
2002
Plastic model knight, tin, clothing, can lids, Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood
55 x 76 x 5 inches
Description: 

Likening southern tenant farming of nineteenth­ and twentieth­-century America to the barbarism of feudal Europe, Days of the Tenant Farmers depicts a world governed by the forces of absol

Likening southern tenant farming of nineteenth­ and twentieth­-century America to the barbarism of feudal Europe, Days of the Tenant Farmers depicts a world governed by the forces of absolute economic power, a power that even exerted dominion over the very bodies that worked the fields and inhabited the quarters—as labor and as objects of sexual possession. Twisted and painted fabric arcs over the figures and then down toward the knight. The cloth, which con­nects the man and woman to the advancing figure on horseback, is made of cotton duck, a final product of forced labor in the southern cotton fields. Cotton is also the material used to make the quilts that kept the tenant farmers warm at night; here, it ironically ties them to the institution of tenancy in which they are trapped. In that the canvas is also an artmaking mate­rial, the fabric adds a final layer of questions to Dial’s critique of class and racial domination. —Bernard L. Herman