For a long time, Jordan Scoggins ran from his background.
“I bought into the stereotypes,” he said. “I thought I am this backwoods hick. I was afraid of that for a long time.”
For years after leaving north Georgia for a life in New York City, Scoggins didn’t want to face that his roots are tied to a farm in a rural area. The interdisciplinary artist who now lives in Greenwich Village was born in Dalton and grew up on a farm in Villanow.
“I’ll be 35 this year,” he said. “As I moved into the middle of my 30s, my perspective on my own life has changed a lot. That’s why I did ‘Jordan’s Journey.’ I started embracing my roots.”
“Jordan’s Journey” is a book published in 2012 that explores Scoggins’ heritage and family. The book includes writings as well as photographs detailing his history and family connections.
“Jordan’s Journey” was a turning point for Scoggins.
“Now I embrace where I came from,” he said. “It’s an important part of who I am.”
His new project, “INTERSECTION,” uses the same concept of exploring who he is but through a different approach. This project is being released under the name luke kurtis.
Scoggins calls it an interdisciplinary project, featuring writing and photography. The project includes a book and an exhibit, which will be featured at the Massillon (Ohio) Museum from March 8 to April 19. The museum focuses on art and history. The exhibit showcases photos and information from Whitfield County as well as other counties in northwest Georgia.
“This show is the first time I’m exhibiting this body of work,” Scoggins said. “I would really like to show the work in other places. My ultimate dream is to come back and show it in northwest Georgia so these people could see it in person. They’re familiar with it, but they’d see it from a different point of view.”
“INTERSECTION” evolved from “Jordan’s Journey.”
“That project was very specifically about my genealogy and my heritage in a very literal way,” Scoggins said. “I was documenting the facts in a very literal way. It was very exciting and very successful. I wanted to approach the same subject matter, but in a much more poetic, subjective point of view.”
A lot of the material gathered, and a lot of the photos taken, for “Jordan’s Journey” didn’t make it into that book. But Scoggins still wanted to use that material somewhere.
That’s where the idea for “INTERSECTION” came from.
“From there I started collecting the images and thinking about what kind of story do I want to tell visually here,” he said. “There were a lot of images that I consider part of this body of work that aren’t in this show or in this book. I’m still working on it. Every time I come back to visit, that’s what I want to do. I feel like there’s a lot to explore there.”
Scoggins hopes this is the first part of a series that showcases northwest Georgia.
“I think that’s something I’ve learned over the years as an artist — writers write about what they know,” he said. “We use our imagination and come up with stories and things, but it’s always sort of rooted in who you are and your experience in life.”
Scoggins’ mother, Rhonda, isn’t surprised her son is continuing his interest in his family’s heritage and northwest Georgia.
“We lived in Whitfield County for nine years and moved back out to the farm where I grew up,” she said. “I often wondered if that was the right decision. He always tells me don’t ever regret it. Even though he’s living in New York City now, he has a lot of pull toward the country.”
Being close to family allowed him to spend a lot of quality time with his grandparents, something Rhonda Scoggins thinks a lot of children miss out on today.
“I wanted to give my children roots and let them feel the family,” she said. “So many children are never around their extended family that much. We were always a close-knit family. ... My mother (Mary Pope Jordan) was sort of the glue that held us together. She was the matriarch.”
Most of the Scoggins family still live on and around the farm in Villanow.
“At least a part of my family has lived there since before the Civil War,” said Jordan Scoggins, who graduated from Trion High School in Chattooga County in 1998.
Rhonda Scoggins’ work on her family tree helped spark Jordan Scoggins’ interest and revitalized hers.
“He’s gotten us involved in it and given us a hobby, too,” she said. “It’s something for us to do together.”
As for the current project, Rhonda Scoggins hasn’t seen it yet.
“He surprises us,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going to be in the book. ... I think he tries to look at people and life realistically — how there are different characters, different personalities, different ways that everyone projects themselves. He highlights things that made up the past and what affected people’s lives.”
Jordan Scoggins said the area is ever-changing, and he’s noticed considerable growth in Villanow since his childhood and teen years.
“I wanted to document what I could before it’s too late,” he said. “I think about the perspective on history, the ‘Jordan’s Journey’ project, thinking of my family living there 100 years ago, what it was like then.”
“INTERSECTION” includes clippings from newspapers from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and Scoggins said he included those to help explain what life was like for people in the area 100 years ago. Then he attempted to capture that feeling of heritage through current photos.
“I grew up on a farm. That’s what I think is so unique,” Scoggins said. “I can’t speak about growing up in Dalton or LaFayette. I can speak on my experience growing up in the backwoods, having deep family roots there. That’s part of what’s being lost. People move around so much. It was unique to say I grew up on land where my ancestors lived before the Civil War.”
Scoggins doesn’t consider himself a photographer or a writer.
He takes several different mediums and combines them to create his style. He uses collages, digital processing and graphic design and puts that together with photography and writing.
“My approach is to explore ideas,” Scoggins said. “I use all the different mediums to express these ideas.”
Scoggins studied interdisciplinary art at the City University of New York. He studied several areas of art, including visual arts, music and literature. He also took photography courses and worked in the darkroom.
“I haven’t put my camera down since then,” he said. “When I started college I thought of myself primarily as a writer, but the visual has become a larger part of my process.”
Bradley Wilson, an instructor and former gallery director for the Creative Arts Guild, is familiar with Scoggins’ work.
“He had approached the gallery about exhibiting his work,” Wilson said. “We’re booked up to two years in advance. But we liked his work.”
Wilson encouraged Scoggins not to give up and to enter a display in the Guild’s annual festival where he won best of photography in 2013.
“That was a pretty nice honor for him,” Wilson said. “I think it boosted his self-confidence and his work.”
Wilson said he looks for something different when considering an artist.
“His landscapes, they were presented very unconventional and unusual,” Wilson said. “I like to be surprised. I would see that in his work. He would compose in such a way that it looked fresh. It didn’t look like something you had seen 1,000 times before.”
The book was published by Scoggins’ publishing company, bd-studios. “Jordan’s Journey” was the largest publication Scoggins had done. He has also published books of poetry and photos and memoirs, among other things.
Scoggins said he’s had positive response from the few people who have seen “INTERSECTION.”
“Friends who have never been to northwest Georgia are very struck by the work,” he said. “I hear the comment, ‘I really want to go there now. I really want to see that in person.’”
The book is not yet available for purchase, but should be soon. It will be available on the website bd-studios.com.
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