Photographer Jane Robbins Kerr's personal philosophy reflected in RAC exhibit

August 13, 2011 12:10:00 AM

Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]


Jane Robbins Kerr was not dressed in scarlet when she flitted into Columbus Thursday afternoon, and heat rose from Main Street''s sidewalks with such unrelenting ferocity that one wonders if the dog days of summer will ever end. Nevertheless, Kerr -- a photographer, writer and painter -- blew into Rosenzweig Arts Center with all the vivacity and cheer of a cardinal on a bleak winter''s day.  


One by one, she pulled photographs from boxes, sharing the stories behind the images.  


She stopped and gazed at a picture of a Moroccan man, sheathed in white, banging a red drum. While she was shooting, the Berber people, indigenous to North Africa, had pulled her into their circle to dance with them. Gladly, she accepted.  


"So many people won''t participate," she said. "We were just dying laughing." 


Kerr has never been one to worry about what people think. A native of Jackson, and a 1955 graduate of Mississippi University for Women, she has spent her life traveling the world, photographing and painting whatever struck her fancy.  


Her current show, "Seeing Red," strives to show how the color red brings life to ordinary scenes, traversing the boundaries of culture, belief and taboo. Though she lives in Atlanta now, her love for the small towns of the South shines through in her work.  


"I''m glad I had my roots in Mississippi," Kerr said. "There''s just something we''ve got here that people don''t get in other places. You''re rooted here."  


A favorite haunt is The Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood. Another favorite place is Asia and the zen monasteries popularized by writer Natalie Goldberg''s books and workshops, which Kerr has attended. For a while, she considered writing a memoir called "From the Baptists to the Buddhists: The Transformation of a Southern Belle," but for now, she''s too busy enjoying photography, a love she has had since childhood.  


"Southern women are so crippled by the shoulds, oughts and perfection," Kerr said. "I just shoot by the seat of my pants. I don''t give a rat''s a--. It''s for me." 


The older she gets, the more committed she is to following her heart and being her own person. Instead of letting age slow her down, she''s using it to inspire her to greater artistic heights.  


"Photography has saved me from old age," Kerr explained. "On the way to getting older, find your passion. You''ve got to have something." 


Kerr''s work has appeared in the Capps Museum at Delta State University in Cleveland, the Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood, the Callanwolde Fine Art Center in Atlanta, and the Slow Exposures Show in Pike County, Ga.  


The "Seeing Red" exhibit will be on display at Rosenzweig Arts Center until Aug. 31.

Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.