Chad Cole is a contemporary painter whose work is inspired by the landscape, stories, and architecture of the Southern United States. His recent series of oil paintings explores the transformation of the landscape throughout Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, specifically how modern changes to agrarian life are physically manifested through the abandonment, destruction, and subsequent loss of agricultural and industrial architecture. The artist is constantly searching the backroads of the South for unique examples of Americana to use as subject matter in his paintings. Barns, textile mills, and vintage signs are a few of subjects that Chad often uses in his art work.
Great paradigm shifts in the American economy have made abandoned, overgrown architecture in the Deep South a defining feature of the rural landscape. The decline of the agrarian-based economy, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the textile industry, and the rise of Walmart have dramatically affected countless small Southern towns and farms. The impact of these forces on the economic trends within the rural populations have often led to the desertion of many interesting buildings. Across the South today, countless forsaken gas stations, stores, barns, and farmhouses in various states of decay litter the landscape along old state highways and roads. Chad is fascinated by these nostalgic signs and symbols of the rural South, and the concepts of time, change, and culture as observed in the landscape have become important concepts in his current paintings.
Mr. Cole's work closely follows the popular tradition of barn and landscape painting, but his subject matter is rendered in a style to suggest certain qualities of the “Southern Gothic.” The Southern Gothic style is characterized by grotesque, mysterious, and macabre themes within the setting and culture of the Deep South, characteristics most often identified in the twentieth century stories of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Both Faulkner and O’Connor have had a profound impact on the artist’s work and style, and the ideas of the Southern Gothic can be experienced through Chad’s consistent use of subjects, symbols, and stories in his paintings that suggest abandonment, decay, the bizarre, and a sense of being “haunted” by the history, religion, and culture of the Deep South.
Narrative and the themes of the Southern Gothic continue to be major forces on the style of the painter’s work. The architectural subject matter in the artist’s paintings serves as a metaphor for Southern culture and suggests the influence that Southern Gothic themes such as faith, consumption, violence, isolation, and reconstruction have on Southern consciousness. Dilapidated barns, crumbling plantations, homemade UFOS, and unique roadside vestiges are some of the “grotesque” forms frequently used by the artist in his pictures to symbolize the impact of time, history, and culture on and within the Southern landscape.