American Ballads Through January 2020
Bristol, Tenn./Va. (August 6, 2019) – Country music star Marty Stuart is well known for his talents on stage, but a lesser-known fact about the five-time Grammy winner is that he also possesses an eye for photography. Now through January, visitors to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol will have the opportunity to see another facet of this iconic singer-songwriter through a new special exhibit, American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart.
Not only is Marty Stuart a master storyteller through his songs, but also through his revealing photographs. He has been taking photographs of the people and places surrounding him since he first went on tour with bluegrass performer Lester Flatt at age 13. His inspirations include his mother, Hilda Stuart and her documentation of their family’s everyday life in Mississippi. He also admires bassist Milt Hinton’s photographs of fellow jazz artists and Edward Curtis’s well-known images of Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.
Stuart’s photographs in American Ballads range from intimate behind-the-scenes depictions of legendary musicians, to images of eccentric characters from the back roads of America, to dignified portraits of members of the Lakota tribe in South Dakota, a people he was introduced to by his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash. Whatever the subject, Stuart is able to tease out something unexpected or hidden beneath the surface through a skillful sense of timing and composition, as well as a unique relationship with the sitters often based on years of friendship and trust.
The exhibition is organized around three themes: The Masters, Blue Line Hotshots, and Badlands. The Masters depicts a number of well-known stars in moments of unguarded intimacy and honesty. Blue Line Hotshots respectfully captures the essence of unique townspeople Stuart has met on his travels. Badlands explores the everyday life and traditional ceremonies of the Lakota people and their culture on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
“We are thrilled to have American Ballads here at the museum. It’s subject matter fits in well and is sure to be of interest to our visitors,” says Head Curator Rene Rodgers. “Stuart’s black-and-white photographs are wonderfully striking, and each one tells a story – viewers will be instantly drawn into them and want to know more!”
American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart is on display now through January 31, 2020 in the Special Exhibits Gallery of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Visitors may choose to exclusively tour the special exhibit at a lower cost than regular admission; American Ballads is also included in the museum’s regular admission price.
American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart was organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee. Special thanks to The Massengill-DeFriece Foundation for their support of the exhibit at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.