Into the Flatland by Kathleen Robbins

Issue 21

In the fall of 2001, after completing my MFA at the University of New Mexico, I relocated to the Mississippi Delta to live on my family’s farm, Belle Chase. Following the events of September 11, my brother, Steele, and I felt compelled to return home. He moved his family into my grandmother’s former house, and I moved into a large Victorian house built by my great-great grandparents. Both houses, which sit fifty yards apart and face one another on a vast lawn, were unoccupied for decades. They had begun to settle into the earth, and we felt we were doing something important by re-inhabiting them.

I ate from my great-grandmother’s china, drank form her crystal and slept in her bed. At dusk I rocked on the porch and watched the blackbirds descend on the canebrake planted by my great-grandfather. Living on the farm I existed in a strange continuum. My family’s history and their connection to this place were markedly present in my everyday experience.

I lived on Belle Chase for two years before leaving Mississippi (again) to take a teaching position at the University of South Carolina. Into the Flatland explores familial obligation and our conflicted relationship with “home.” The photographs in this series were made during regular trips home to visit family over a period of several years. These are the people I love most in a place that I am deeply connected to. I chose to leave the Mississippi Delta for many of the same reasons anyone ever chooses to leave a rural area. This is land that my family has inhabited for generations, and I am pulled to this place in a way that I am not able to fully articulate. It is not my nostalgia alone that creates this longing; it is that of my mother and my mother’s mother.

Kathleen Robbins is a Columbia, SC based artist and teacher.
To view more of Kathleen's work, please visit her website.

  Ryles Chapel 

Ryles Chapel 

  Dad's Apple Tree 

Dad's Apple Tree 

  Ben. Christmas. 

Ben. Christmas. 

  Ryles Chapel 

Ryles Chapel 

  Dad's Skinner 

Dad's Skinner 

  Me Somewhere in the Delta 

Me Somewhere in the Delta 

  Commissary 

Commissary 

  The Pink Filling Station 

The Pink Filling Station 

  Gravesite at Ryles Chapel 

Gravesite at Ryles Chapel 

  Finn in the Cornfield 

Finn in the Cornfield 

  Me on Belle Chase. Christmas. 

Me on Belle Chase. Christmas. 

  Mom, New Year's Eve 

Mom, New Year's Eve 

  Little Steele in the Cotton Field. Christmas Day 

Little Steele in the Cotton Field. Christmas Day 

  The Skinning House 

The Skinning House 

  Brooklyn Chapel 

Brooklyn Chapel 

  Big Steele in the Ivy 

Big Steele in the Ivy 

  Dad's Ducks 

Dad's Ducks 

  Blackbirds 

Blackbirds 

  Me with Asher in the Rose Garden 

Me with Asher in the Rose Garden 

  The View from Dad’s Cadillac 

The View from Dad’s Cadillac