Christenberry’s Southern Monument? series was inspired by the artist’s memories of growing up with Civil War monuments. In 1980, the artist took his large format camera to the battlefield in Shiloh, Tennessee, where he photographed the grounds and commemorative markers. He was especially taken by abstract, non-traditional monuments consisting of matte black cannonballs in pyramidal stacks. Back in Washington, D.C., Christenberry used the photographs as the basis for this series.
Christenberry described Southern Monument XI, as “a cube form with a sphere in the top and it is surrounded by a field of real Alabama red soil. It is an attempt on my part to evoke a feeling of a monument, albeit a somewhat abstract one that one might find in the landscape. The red soil is brought back from Alabama, my native state, and I obtain it from the landscape from one of my relative’s farms- and obviously there’s plenty of it there. Then I make a window-screen sifter here in Washington and sift the pine needles and pebbles and whatever out, and get it almost down to the scale of brown sugar, and then place that very carefully around the piece. So I hope the viewer would sense even more so the landscape with the red earth and the objects sitting in it.”