‘American Gothic’ explores gritty fantasy of rural America

The Rump Gallery hosted its inaugural exhibition, "American Gothic," by alumni Jessica Taylor and Riley Goodman on Oct. 12. Photo courtesy of the Rump Gallery.

Katherine Noble, Contributing Writer

Solid white walls. Dark exposed beams. Thin minimalist frames surrounding shots of crumpled flags and blue skies.

The Rump Gallery’s inaugural exhibit, “American Gothic” — from artists Jessica Taylor and Riley Goodman — is a dreamlike display, featuring almost mundane-looking photographs of rural American life. 

“I think the rustic nature of the garage itself lends well to the work that Jessica and I have been collaborating on,” Goodman said.

Both Goodman and Taylor are VCU alumni with degrees in photography and film.      

The exhibit focuses on Southern rural white America, a markedly different demographic than the neighborhood the Rump inhabits, Highland Park, which is historically African American. 

But beneath the surface imagery, it is a reflection on the opposing fantasies and realities of the American South. It’s also set in a backyard shed. 

“My work intersects with Jessica’s in our mutual examination of the romanticism and realities of American history along with the

“American Gothic” will be on display as a part of its closing show on Nov. 2 from 5-7 p.m.

country’s current climate,” Goodman said. “When combined, our work really plays well off each other in an analysis of the striking moments of reflection between the turbulent scene in the country.”

The Rump Gallery is a repurposed shed that has been restored and converted into a gallery space by alumni Noah Hook and Kim Peters, who both graduated from VCU in the spring. The two hope their space can serve as a way to connect local communities more directly to art.

Goodman says he was drawn to the Rump by the unconventionality of the space, along with its emphasis on connection and support within the VCUarts alumni community.

“I think this space is unique because it is … the investment of Noah and Kim, along with the desire to represent work by Richmond-based artists and VCUarts alum,” Goodman said. “I think there’s, unfortunately, a real disconnect between the arts scene in Richmond and its support of recent VCUarts alum.”

Hook and Peters chose “American Gothic” not based solely on the art itself, but also for the initiative the young artists display. 

“Riley and Jessica have both been super responsible and super proactive and they just have that will and that want and they’re both very active in the art community,” Peters said.

Peters said one of Taylor’s pieces that really spoke to her was a photograph that she put concrete on and stacked on top of cinder blocks.

“A lot of their work also speaks about decay and the decay of the American dream or fantasy, and how the reality of America is rapidly changing,” Peters said.

Taylor’s work fixates on gun violence, and on intergenerational trauma. Goodman’s focus is on mythologies and folktales, in an effort to understand elements of history. 

Both artists bring seemingly mundane subjects to the forefront, painting them in new lights, bestowing beauty and complexity upon the simple and rural.

The Rump Gallery hosted the opening of “American Gothic” on Oct. 12 from 5-8 p.m. Peters said the opening was a success and she was impressed by the level of engagement and the conversation that occurred.

“I think it was really awesome to see that people were actually willing to come out to a shed,” Peters said. “We probably had 50 or 60 people, and then we had a bonfire to go along with it.” 

The event drew out a wide range of people, including VCUarts faculty and students.

Goodman said the opening went well. “I really love the informality of the site and an ability to talk about our work with former classmates, current VCUarts students, and those in the community.” 

Hook said he hopes this gallery will help connect people throughout the art community and that more people will be inspired to start places like the Rump with their own available resources. 

The Rump Gallery will have its closing show for “American Gothic” on Nov. 2 from 5-7 p.m.

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