The Chittlin Circuit Review
by Rik Freeman
As a child in Athens, GA, and even now I have always liked a good story, but a story based on reality. Whether read or heard I've always been able to visualize these stories. I would "overhear" grown folks conversations and feel their emotions, read a book, listen to music, and there's a movie going on in my head. This fueled my artistic style as a narrative painter, a storyteller, a Griot with a paintbrush.
The Chittlin Circuit Review is a series based on "Blues Music", and the Blues is based on life's stories. These paintings are my visual interpretation of the early history of the Blues, with my underlying objective being to portray the reality of the social and political circumstances of African Americans in the Deep South, the land and people that birthed and nurtured this music and culture. To show the links of heritage from African call in response songs, to the slave, field, and work "hollas", gospel influences, and even to the music of today. The Blues is the bridge between all this and more, and the more I've worked on this series the more I have realized it's not just an artistic journey, but an anthropological study on a segment of American history.
While this series is based on factual times, events, and conditions, the paintings revolve around fictional characters, principally "Mud Paw Willie" and the "Dawg Gon Blues Band". It is through them we experience life in, around, and on the Chittlin Circuit, (even before it was known as such) and how the music and culture of a rural agrarian people migrated up the Mississippi River, and on train tracks throughout America to the more urban industrialized cities and factories of the north, mid-west, and the growing west. In realizing these stories I paint of the Blues, I humbly and respectfully realize I paint stories of the Diaspora, of culture, and of history.