Meet Whitney, The Appalachian Image Collector
Meet 2018 SRP Participant, Whitney Withington!
Each year, we award five women a week-long stay at Hopscotch House for participation in our Summer Residency Program. SRP supports feminist visual, media, and performing artists who need time, space, and funds to create and work on their art.
Whitney Withington plans to use her stay at Hopscotch House to create video slideshows that
feature vintage photographs of African American women and their families in Appalachia. The
slideshows will form the foundation of a future documentary that will increase the visibility of
African American women and families. She looks forward to the opportunity to receive both
inspiration and feedback through close interaction with other feminist artists this summer.
We asked Whitney a few questions about her art, mission, and how her stay at Hopscotch House will help reflect the power of art to shape conversations and action around feminist, social change art.
How do you envision your time at Hopscotch House?
Withington: I will use my time at the Hopscotch House to create new video slideshows
featuring vintage photographs of African American women and their families found
primarily in Appalachia. I will share these slideshows in public forums to raise awareness
of African American women’s lives in Appalachia. These slideshows will form the
foundation of a future documentary to increase the visibility of African American
women and families. The slideshows will become work samples which enable me to
collaborate with women artists in Appalachia to complete the documentary in future
How does your art influence your view of feminism?
Withington: Feminism has always been for me about uplifting women, sharing dignity and
respect with women’s lives. As a feminist artist I want to participate in creating imagery
with an ability to defy stereotypes by presenting an unique perspective of women’s
lives. It is very difficult to find images of African American women and their families in
Appalachia in both modern and historical media and literature. The invisibility plays a
part in creating the opportunity for stereotypes to persist. I believe it is important to
share for these photographs publicly to reverse the invisibility and present imagery
which contrast stereotypes.
Can you describe your creation process?
Withington: I look for family photograph collections to be able to present images of women
and their families with the intimacy of an insider’s view. I am particularly drawn to
vintage vernacular photography’s ability to provide an unique historical perspective into
real women’s lives often ignored in media and history books. I search for photographs
which give a sense of place and daily life, seeking everyday snapshots over studio
photography whenever possible.
I am always concerned about applying an ethical approach to interacting with
the photographic images in my artwork. I understand that my slideshows are a
collaboration with unknown photographers and unknown people in the photographs. In
working with vintage photographs, I am always thinking how the unknown
photographer’s perspective influences our present understanding. I am deeply
concerned in presenting the images of the women in the photographs in a way that
honors their lives.
Do you have any additional thoughts on feminism, art, and social change?
Withington: I believe that being an artist committed to feminism and social change requires
an interesting mix of both the introverted and extroverted skills. Spending time quietly
working on my artwork relies on my comfort with introversion and isolation. Sharing my
art with people requires more extroverted social skills, where I must be courageous,
step outside my the comfort of my familiar work spaces, and be confident to engage
with new people. I welcome the opportunity to mix the two skill sets at the Hopscotch
House as a catalyst to promote personal growth and confidence with the more
extroverted aspects of being social change artist.
It is my intention to raise the visibility of the lives of African American women and their families in Appalachia by using the slideshows to inspire future creative writing, reflections, and artistic responses
to the photographs by many artists and writers in Kentucky.
I hope the images selected for the slideshows will promote awareness of the
lives of African American women and their families which have been historically
underrepresented and made invisible in Appalachian media and history. I hope that the
slideshows will dispel stereotypes surrounding both Appalachia and the African
American communities in Appalachia. I hope the slideshows will prompt important
conversations and reflections leading to the inclusion of African American people in
dialogues about regional history and community presence. I also hope the images within
the slideshows will create a deeper understanding of African American women’s lives
within Appalachia for all viewers.
Stay tuned for more updates on our 2018 SRP participants and their artwork!