Tuscaloosa native William Christenberry has spent his lifetime exploring and recording Alabama’s Black Belt, particularly rural Hale County, where his grandparents, who had lived since 1917. Christenberry was born in 1936, the same year that Fortune magazine dispatched writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans to Hale County to work jointly on an article about sharecroppers. This collaboration led to their famous book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The text and images of the book so resonated with the young Christenberry when he came upon it in 1960 that it set his creative course for life.
In 1961 Christenberry moved from Alabama, eventually settling in Washington DC, where he still lives and works. Except for yearly forays home, Christenberry has spent his adult life away from Alabama, a fact that has greatly influenced his artistic approach, which stems from his early experiences and memories.
Christenberry set about a lifelong aesthetic reconstruction of Hale County through drawings, photographs, sculpture and mixed media tableaux that conflated his own personal vision with a larger rural Southern consciousness. His work exists as a prolonged investigation into both the distinctiveness and gradual dissolution of his beloved native land.