Photographing chickens in Richmond, Virginia backyards and collecting vintage artifacts of chicken culture is both about chickens and not about chickens at all – the way, perhaps, Jasper Johns’ flag paintings were and weren’t about flags.
Begun in 2012 out of curiosity about how design conscious acquaintances were getting along with irrepressible chicken habits in (then illegal) city spaces, A Chicken in Every Plot touches on aspirations of our time as well as a century of feelings about food security, industrialization, suburbanization, gender roles, class, and race. Chickens – goofy, charming, anciently domesticated birds – serve in real life and in iconic reproduction as repositories for projections of our desires, fears, vanities, fantasies, and ambitions. Richmond, Virginia, my hometown, with ample space, affordable real estate, farming history, and unique geography as both new north and old south, is fertile terrain for modern backyard chickens to once again roam on land and in imagination.
The exhibition by the same name, two years in the making, opened at the Valentine Museum (Richmond VA) January 2016, and featured selections from this project, along with household objects, vintage postcards, and historic photographs from the Valentine’s awesome collection.