The American Delta

by Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe

2008 Press Release

by Shelley Ritter, Delta Blues Museum Director

The American Delta is an exploration of modern Delta Blues culture as seen through the eyes of a young woman. Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe's work is a high contrast, gritty and grainy tribute to the men and women bleeding their souls into the blues. Shot completely in analog, The American Delta looks as if it had just been found in a dusty trunk stowed away at the turn of the century. Accompanying her photography are some of Brandy's boldly painted and expressive works, in acrylic and watercolor. 

Focusing on live performance, local heroes and southern landscapes, this collection is distinctively the American Delta.

Introduction from The Delta Blues Museum exhibit:

I stumbled upon the blues while I was working as an art education outreach teacher for The Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. My job was to travel to different elementary schools each day and teach 6-7 art classes in underfunded schools lacking art programs. The Dixon allowed me a 60-mile radius to travel, encompassing Memphis, Northern Mississippi and North Eastern Arkansas. When the parent of a student in Clarksdale contacted me I spoke with my supervisor about extending the parameters to include Clarksdale, which thankfully she did. After my day of teaching, the parent took me out to lunch and on a tour of the little blues town. I was in love! That very weekend I began my trips to Clarksdale and took one of my most favorite images, Robinson Chapel Baptist Church. 

I was very lucky, I had only been taking photos for about 6 months when I discovered my love of the blues and Clarksdale, what a wonderful gift of subject matter for a budding photographer! Soon after I began traveling to Clarksdale just about every weekend to attend shows and take photographs. I got to meet so many incredible people and made memories never to be rivaled. The kindest people that I have met in my life, I met in Clarksdale. My husband and I spent New Years Evein an almost empty Red's Lounge (just Red, Robert Whitefield, Djerek,and myself) listening to Red's stories about growing up in Mississippi in the 60's while Robert nodded along. I think some of my best memories are of giving copies of photos I took to Puttin and Mr.Tater the Music Maker, whose proud appreciation struck me so strongly. 

A few years later, my husband and I took off for the west coast. Although it was beautiful I became increasingly homesick for the first time in my life. I stopped taking pictures altogether and sat for a few months without creating any art at all. Then one day I decided to begin painting seriously for the first time and used my images from Mississippi and Memphis as my inspiration. My very first painting was of Boone, the trumpeter, well, double trumpeter, whom I saw perform with Wesley Jefferson's Southern Soul band. I followed that with paintings of or inspired by Big George Brock, Michael Powers, card and dice shark Puttin Hatchett, Memphis juke joint Effie's Lounge and a detail study of Boone's hand and trumpet. I suddenly felt back home and happy. The only serious photos I have taken since my departure from the South were of Alvin Youngblood Hart performing in Seattle, funnily enough, as he is from Memphis! Since moving I have developed an intense love of painting, both in acrylics and watercolor. While I deviate now and then, my subject matter tends to remain with the men and women of blues, roots and jazz music.   

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