Cross Currents

Virtual Reception: Saturday, November 28, 7 p.m. 

Several years ago, the musician Catherine Edgerton was working on a boat off the coast of Florida when she took a snapshot of the ocean. She sent the photograph to her father, the writer Clyde Edgerton; each painted their interpretation of it. Thus began a collaborative parent-child exchange rooted in visuals—of animals, landscapes, and people—that also gave them the chance to stay in touch and glimpse how the other person saw the world.

Cross Currents, a joint exhibit by the duo, opened on November 6 at Artspace in Raleigh and runs through January 2. The exhibition features side-by-side pairings of their paintings, as well as individual works. Both father and daughter are omnivorous artists: Clyde, a renowned novelist with a keen ear for Southern vernacular, is known for darkly comic works like Walking Across Egypt; he also plays music.

Catherine has played music with the Durham folk ensemble Midtown Dickens and is the co-founder of the Durham Art Asylum. (According to Clyde, Catherine has also always written; When she was seven, she penned a 52-page novel called The Adventures of Blaze and The Black Stallion.) Both paint. 

As the holidays draw near and families navigate the difficult decision to stay apart, the project is a reminder that there are innumerable ways to stay in touch or say “I love you.” 

The Edgertons are experts at this. They made it through nine months of the pandemic without catching up over a Zoom call, however (“I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Catherine says). Ahead of the November 28 virtual reception for the show, Catherine and Clyde logged onto Zoom for the very first time to talk about whiteness, perspective, and how to stay connected.

INDY: How did this idea come together? 

Catherine: There wasn’t any kind of plan or strategic or cerebral concept—we just started painting each other’s pictures, and then thought, This is kind of cool. And as it so happened, I was working on a boat where we also didn’t have cell reception while I was out. It was a fun way to think about reimagining how to connect and how to connect over space and time. I think it’s also relevant now that it’s getting cold and we’re all in little Zoom boxes and thinking about how to maintain these webs of connection and community, regardless of our circumstances. 

Clyde: There was a house, a single house complex in the desert, I remember—that’s the first [painting] that I became conscious of, “Okay, we’re, we’re on a journey, we’re probably going to do some more of these.” And then once it started, there was always an image—usually a photograph, I think. And I would say, “Let’s do this one.” Or Catherine would say, “Let’s do this one.”

Have you learned anything about how you each see the world? 

Catherine: The first thing that pops into my head is race and the conversations about race that have come up. As we’ve decided which topics to pick, I think that I’ve learned less stylistically about the way that Clyde paints versus the way that I paint, but I have learned a lot about how we choose subjects. Who do we choose to paint? What do we choose to paint? Do we bring people of color into this group of subjects that we’re painting, and what lens are we seeing people through? These are things that I think about really analytically. And I notice a difference between that and the way that my dad just kind of paints what feels interesting. I don’t think there’s anything good or bad about either one of those things, but I hope it creates a dialogue. 

Clyde: That was also a learning experience for me. I remember being jealous—although of course we’re never jealous of each other—of seeing the painting of that dog, Harvey Sue, and thinking, Wow, I wish I could do that. 

But back to the race stuff: It is fascinating. I was 38 when Catherine was born, and I was a child of the fifties. She was a child in the eighties. Our experiences are very different and I’ve learned a lot from listening to her and talking about where she’s coming from, in terms of the role of an artist.

Do you have advice for folks looking to find creative ways to keep in touch?

Catherine: I think the thing with it is, we can sit here and try to figure out how to stay connected, or make the space and time to look for that inner voice of intuition—even if those points aren’t uplifted as forms of connection in our society, like deciding to do art at the same time as someone you love, but separately, without Zoom. There are all these quantum ways of connecting through nature or art, things which we don’t typically look at as shortcuts for connection. That’s all kind of rambling. 

Clyde: If you listened to me earlier, you know where she got that from. I think if a parent and a child have a relationship where the parent wants the child to do something in a certain way—that’s fine when they’re two, three, four, five, six. But as a parent, if you continue that, the relationship will break down. Finding overlap is key, and we have overlaps in music, art, and writing. 

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