Hillbillyland: Myth & Reality of Appalachian Culture

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The hillbilly stereotype is one that is alive and well in American popular culture as a quick survey of the cable dial reveals with such shows as Moonshiners, Appalachian Outlaws, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and countless others. Surprisingly, it is one often displayed among educated sorts here in Western North Carolina who would never dream of disparaging any minority or "out group," but do not hesitate to characterize native Western North Carolinians, as a group, as ignorant, in-bred, hopelessly retrograde, violent, snake-handling, moonshining/meth-making rednecks.

The Hillbillyland Exhibition explores the power, prevalence, and persistence of the hillbilly stereotype from the days of its beginnings in the late 19th century to the present day. The exhibit takes a unique approach by focusing on photography featuring the people of the region, some of them stereotypical images, combined with poetry and short prose pieces that challenge and complicate these stereotypes.

Man Holding Case, Wearing a Suit, circa 1927-1932   Aunt Sophie, circa 1927-1932

Photographs in the exhibition include historical ones by Bayard Wooten, George Masa, and Doris Ulmann and modern photographers Rob Amberg, Tim Barnwell, and Don Dudenbostel, and other photos from UNCA Special Collections and other regional collections. Most of these photographers hale from outside the region and reflect the fascination with the region and the people who live in its deepest coves and hollows. 

All of the poetry and prose in the exhibit has been written by individuals with deep roots in Western North Carolina. They include the late Jim Wayne Miller, Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Michael McFee, Jane Hicks, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Ron Rash, and Wayne Caldwell.

This exhibit ran in WNCHA's gallery rooms at the Smith-McDowell House Museum from June - December 2014.

Broadway Street, Asheville, N.C., 1992