By Cory L. Higgs
Finding meaning and beauty in the mundane is something that Radford University senior and Meadows of Dan mountain girl, Amber Rodgers, does with the snapping of her camera’s shutter.
Rodgers is a mountain girl, born and raised in the hills of Meadows of Dan. She has always felt a deep connection to her roots.
“I, myself, feel a deep sense of pride because I am able to walk the same paths that my great-great-grandparents walked,” Rodgers said. And, with her photography show, she hopes to convey that deep sense of pride of home.
Rodgers is nearing the completion of her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in which she has invested countless hours and painstaking work to express her vision. While cleaning out her closet, she came across an old Blue Plate Shortening bucket, which turned into a treasure trove of nostalgia and inspiration.
“It didn’t look like anything important, but when I opened it, I realized it continued several deeds dating back more than a hundred years.” She said that the bucket must have belonged to her great-great-grandmother, Rosa Jane Conner, who used to live in the room Rodgers does. Rodgers said that the seemingly unimportant bucket of memories became one of the main focal points and inspirations of her show.
She said her work is a photographic representation of the relationship that is formed by the people and the land. The old bucket of deeds and her family’s homestead provided ample inspiration. By taking photos of her grandfather (“dad,” as she calls him) and the Conner homestead, Rodgers said she believes she can showcase a dying breed and lifestyle of small farmers.
They “live every single day, a way of life that is far from easy and usually not kind. It’s a way of life threated by development and the sheer reality that the next generation is moving on from this harsh, albeit rewarding, lifestyle,” she said.
Part of the completion of her degree is the task of filling a gallery space with her work. With no other students graduating, Rodgers was tasked will filling the entire gallery only with her works and brief explanations about the artifacts that helped make her visions come to life.
Rodgers said her advisor defined the works as “part archeological dig, part soul search.” Her work is based on what Rodgers said was most important to her, what makes her feel alive, and what she loves.
Her stunning photos showcase, as Rodgers said, “everyday mundane sights, things people wouldn’t give a second look.”
Pictures of her digs in Meadows of Dan can draw the emotion of home as one patron of the show, Debbie Higgs noted.
Higgs said she was moved to tears. “I know I’ll be heading home to Meadows of Dan this evening, but these photos make me so homesick, you can feel the ‘I’m home feeling’ in every photo.”
Rodgers said her favorite photo was ‘Portrait of Dad in a Blue Shirt,’ which features her grandfather, Doyle Conner.
Much of Rodgers’ works feature her grandfather, who modestly joked that her subject matter wasn’t the best (referencing himself), but gallery patrons and Rodgers differed.
The “two are ‘joined-at-the-hip,” said Rodgers’ mother, Sylvia Conner.
Rodgers gallery will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 10 at Radford University’s Art Museum on Tyler Gallery on Jefferson Street.