Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Uncle Billy’s Got His Eyes on You. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on July 23, 2014

UncleBilly

In Atlanta:

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Do not run for cover, good citizens. It’s only Sherman’s stern visage that has returned in “Apparitions,” artist Gregor Turk’s temporary public art installation commissioned by Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Art on the Beltline.
 
Sherman’s eyes stare down from five different billboards clustered together along the Atlanta Beltline adjacent to Piedmont Park (a quarter mile north of the intersection of 10th Street and Monroe Drive), and have since March.
 
This is actually the third phase of Turk’s project. In the first phase, which went up last fall, the billboards were covered with images of blank billboards, photographed in a previous Turk project and suggesting mischief to come. It arrived in the second phase when the billboards were plastered with life-size images of the very views they obscured.
 
Part three, titled “Look Away,” strikes a more serious and provocative note.
 
“The configuration of the encircling billboards could be construed as an inverted version of the Cyclorama featuring Sherman’s eyes rather than the battle he witnessed from nearby Copenhill,” Turk wrote in an email to the AJC, referencing the site of the current-day Carter Center.
 
The artist clarified that his intention was “to reflect on the city’s progress and shortcomings since its destruction 150 years ago through the intimidating gaze of Sherman.”

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Remarkably, not everyone seems happy about this public art installation. Imagine that.

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12 Responses

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  1. OhioGuy said, on July 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Uncle Billy. My ancestors loved him so much that two of them gave their sons, one conceived on furlough, the middle name of Sherman. He was the Omar Bradley of the insurrection — the GI general.

  2. Bob Nelson said, on July 23, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    If Turk’s idea was a celebratory statement meant to say “Look how far we’ve come in 150 years, Atlanta,” why Sherman’s eyes looking down from the billboards? His name may not be Mudd in Atlanta but it might as well be so it’s not surprising that the billboards were vandalized. Without the hoopla in the press, I bet that a vast majority of Atlanta’s residents could not identify those eyes were they not told by Civil War buffs and Confederate heritage folks. Couldn’t Turk have found a better set of eyes from somebody else associated with Atlanta? How about Martin Luther King? Oh wait, I know. Artists like to be controversial. We have this huge ArtPrize thing in Grand Rapids each fall. Hundreds of artists putting stuff up all over town and going after some really large cash prizes (I think $250,000 for the winner). A few years ago, one of the pieces set up right near the museum where I worked was downright lewd and crude. When asked about it, the artists replied something to this effect — “My intent all along was to jar people’s consciousness, to rattle their cages.”

    • Andy Hall said, on July 23, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      I agree entirely that sometimes an artist’s intent is to “rattle the cage.” On the other hand, in those cases over-reaction by those offended or upset really is giving the artist exactly what he wanted.

      • Neil Hamilton said, on July 23, 2014 at 11:59 pm

        “I’m offended because I can, and want to be, offended.”

        Guess who?

        Sincerely,
        Neil Hamilton

      • jarretr said, on July 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        On the other hand, folks in Georgia spent plenty of decades “rattling the cage” by exaggerating Sherman’s fairly limited “reign of terror” to make it seem like Uncle Billy torched the whole state.

        • Andy Hall said, on July 30, 2014 at 2:44 pm

          Yes, I remember a while back a young man from Georgia was asking about Sherman’s route through the state. He had become convinced that his ancestor was a wealthy planter who’d been burned out and ruined by Sherman, and that his modern-day family’s financial struggles were the direct, lineal result of that 150 years later. He was undoubtedly disappointed to learn that his ancestor was in another part of the state, unsullied by the polluting tread of Sherman’s bummers. Bummer.

  3. Rob Baker said, on July 23, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Ha! How awesome.

  4. Ryan Q. said, on July 24, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Cue outrage about Sherman the terrorist burned the entirety of Atlanta and that none of the damage could have possibly been caused by the giant ordnance train Hood exploded prior to his evacuation.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 24, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Sherman’s actions, like everything else, are and should be open to debate and criticism. But Sherman does serve as a convenient focus of a lot of angry nonsense and misrepresentation, too.

      We have the gift of time and perspective to look at the past rationally, without getting all bent out of shape about it. Some folks obviously choose not to do that.

  5. Blair Hues said, on July 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    [edit]

    So you’re going by “Blair Hues” now? Say hello to Reed, Jennifer Cotton, Clarissa, Carmichael, Mr. History and the rest of the crew in Springfield!


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