Christopher Kuhl is "Searching for Redtown"

Artist finds inspiration in Native American history in the Southeast

Artist Christopher Kuhl has traveled all over the world, but always finds himself back in Atlanta. He served as the Visual Arts Specialist for the City of Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics and has had exhibitions everywhere, from Myanmar to Europe and the Middle East. Using photography and painting, Kuhl creates layered mixed-media works that reflect his travels. His latest exhibition, Searching for Redtown, focuses on his recent travels in the Southeast in search of Native Americans' history and their current rural presence.

Kuhl talked to Creative Loafing about displaying his artwork at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library and exploring Native American culture in the South through his work.

The Atlanta-Fulton Library is such an interesting venue to display work. How did that come about? Did the location influence your work in any way?

I have always wanted to exhibit my artwork at the Atlanta-Fulton County Library, as it is a crown jewel of our ring of libraries and it's a central crossroads/ground zero of Atlanta culture and history. Serendipity brought me here — it is an open process — Chera Baugh adores art and has a Masters in Art History from Emory University and directs the gallery.

Tell me about the concept behind your show, Searching for Redtown.

Searching for Redtown came to me as a title from a series of works based upon my research, reading, and travels in the Southeast. [I traveled through] Alabama, Georgia, and Florida in search of a Native American presence or prescience in theses rural areas. It was the beginning of a 13-year journey to seek the earliest cultural imprints in this region. I gave my "REDTOWN 1" painting to my brother before he left to teach English in Afghanistan for good luck!

What inspired Redtown? Was it a place you visited during your travels?

Redtown was an actual Seminole/Creek town for over 70 years, but after the Seminole Wars and Trail of Tears, it does not exist today. It's an empty space, a deep space that could only be filled in by the imagination. Later, I realized that everyone is searching for Redtown — or a spiritual home — a place of total acceptance where self-revelation is a daily or hourly process.

My interest in Native American culture, art, language, and ritual goes back to a college course called "Poets of the Earth," and since, I have visited many Native Americans' reservations from Washington State, Oregon, [and] Arizona to the East Coast in search of experiences that tumble away one's preconceptions and lead to new ways of thinking. I hope that these recent paintings keep me moving in an open-ended journey to express emotive gestures and unconscious uncritical acceptance and surprise.

You've been all over the world, from New York City to Japan, and now you're back here again. What are your thoughts on how the Atlanta art scene has changed since you worked for the City of Atlanta?

Atlanta is mushrooming culturally — so many new young artists, recent art school graduates, and mid-career practitioners — it is really a large communal vibe here among new galleries, art spaces and emerging collectives and art colleges — a really bright future indeed if the public and artists can truly interact! Someone should invite all Atlanta artists and cultural groups to a grand convention at the Georgia Dome!