Willie Birch is a storyteller, compelled to document the world in which he lives. With Southern Gothic: An Insider’s View, he presents the natural world around us, inviting the viewer to observe and interpret the apparent patterns and symbology found in our surroundings. Devoid of the human figure often found in the artist’s work, these large-scale paintings on paper and bronzes explore a deliberate yet improvisational landscape. Despite the removal of man, Birch continues to address political, sociological and spiritual issues. Inspiration is drawn from his familiar 7th ward neighborhood but also from the planet as a whole. To the artist, “gothic” evokes a sense of excess, primitiveness, a baroque style that is thick, vibrant and layered. In this way, he feels that it is an apt description for New Orleans, where nature interweaves with culture.
Paper, a familiar medium for Birch, represents to the artist “what is fragile and what is wasteful in this culture, and the idea of challenging what is considered precious.” With bronze however, the artist has begun to explore a new medium, which he considers a metaphor for survival. The bronze crawfish dwellings in this exhibition represent a new dialogue – one that comes from meditation and processing the environment, such as one might do in a backyard.