Southern Gothic in Color

This fall, two local venues in Charleston SC are hosting my collection of collages inspired by the fiction of Flannery O’Connor.  Half of the collages are on exhibit at the offices of Coastal Community Foundation, a public grant-making foundation dedicated to improving people’s lives in the Lowcountry.  The other half are on exhibit at Gage Hall at the Unitarian Church of Charleston, which sponsors a monthly coffeehouse specializing in local music and art.

This joint exhibit is called Southern Gothic in Color.  On September 21, 2013, The Harrows (also inspired by Flannery O’Connor) performed a program of music at Gage Hall called Sin and Redemption, and I gave a short introduction to the life and work of Flannery O’Connor.


From the coffeehouse program:

The Harrows are dedicated to blues and gospel music with a touch of Tom Waits and old time Southern gothic. Tonight’s songs reflect, or are inspired by, the stories of Flannery O’Connor and her themes of temptation, death, and regret. In the lyrics you’ll find the grotesque characters, the bloody violence, the twisted turns of phrase, and O’Connor’s special brand of religious redemption.

Similarly inclined to explore the South’s dark side, Lillian Trettin uses cut-paper collage and caricature to interpret O’Connor’s  dry humor and disturbing tales.  She finds inspiration in  O’Connor’s words:  “[To] the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
ImageHere are a few pictures of the event:


Gage Hall exhibit and coffeehouse


The Harrows

Image Lillian introducing Flannery O’Connor

Image   Hazel Ketchum

About a year ago, Hazel and Bob (already performing together) and I discovered that we shared a fascination with the dark humor, eccentric characters, and twisted turns of Flannery O’Connor’s fictional world.   Hazel (vocals, percussion) shares the name of a very famous Flannery O’Connor character from the novel Wise Blood.  Bob Culver (vocals, guitar, fiddle) and I are both from East Tennessee, also the setting for a memorable short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” in which a small-town family tangles with an escaped convict while on vacation and it does not end well (classic Flannery O’Connor).

Sin, redemption, and more sin, in color and with guitar.

To my surprise, there were about 5 people from East Tennessee at Gage Hall that night.   A woman further surprised me with the comment that she thought my work was “scary.” I think of these collages as bright and cheerful, some with a slightly disturbing edge.  But then I guess scary is OK since Halloween is coming.  More on that next time I write.


Hazel, Enoch, and Sabbath Lily

(Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor)

About Lillian-Trettin

I grew up in the Appalachian "Bible Belt" of East Tennessee in the southern United States, listening to banjo music and gospel lyrics as well as the Beatles. As a kid, I was curious about religious rituals like speaking in tongues and snake handling but resistant to the fundamentalist thinking they involved. Flannery O'Connor's tales of religious fanatics, con men, bigots, and the spiritually bereft or ambivalent resonate for me. Despite having traveled widely and lived in other places, I am (as so many Southerners claim to be) permanently "South haunted." I returned to making art full time in 2011, following a career as a teacher, researcher, and consultant and after raising two sons. I’m convinced the delay enriched rather than impeded my growth as an artist.
This entry was posted in The Other South. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s