Places #6: Kevin Everson

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"Places" is a new feature where local artists show us the places around town that inspire them.

Guest post by Chelsea Hicks.

For a guy who says he’s "not ambitious," the UVA professor and filmmaker Kevin Everson’s certainly seems to have made it. His solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, "More Than That: Films by Kevin Jerome Everson," was celebrated with a review in the New York Times last week, and his films—long meditations on Black American culture—find a home at some of the art world’s destination festivals.

Currently, Everson is doing post-production editing on his trilogy film about Black cowboys and rodeo riders—a portion of which screened earlier this year at Second Street Gallery—in the American South, tentatively titled The Chronicles of Tom Bigbee. He says he is also filming an experimental biopic about Alessandro della Medici, the 16th century Duke of Florence, and Gail Fisher, the first Black woman to win an Emmy.

Everson just released a DVD box set of 23 of his 70-plus short films, as well as his feature-length film on drag racing, Cinnamon. The discontinuity between the volume of work and attention Everson has and his humble words begs the question:

Would you like to be on "David Letterman"?
No, I got nothing to say. I’d like to have more money to make more art films. But…I’m not ambitious.

Where do you go for inspiration?
I usually think of shit when I’m driving on long highway trips. Usually I drive eight to 10, 12, 15 hours at a time.

What’s your routine for the road?
I just go, I don’t make stops. Only seven minute pit stop. Gas, pee, coffee, snacks.

Where do you get your film ideas?
All my films are about jesters—the intellectual practice of the nobility of labor. People don’t pay attention to how people can become good at something just through repetition and practice. So I see that people have artistic approaches to everything. I always think I’m privileged in being an artist. So I look for things out there—I don’t believe in hierarchy but I don’t believe that if people put time in and practice and repetition, they can be an expert.

So your ideas come from specific places and things you’ve seen?
I work with what I know. What I have…Like in the film Erie. People watch it and ask, ‘Oh is this about Black America?’ And it’s like ‘No, there’s fucking 41 million of us,’; there’s more Black Americans than Canadians but no one asks that about Canadians. I don’t speak for 41 million people. That’s a lot of trouble. I’m not here to teach people about Black America. I don’t know anything about Black America.

What do you see for the next year?
Just make shit. That’s my job, to make shit and teach 20-year-olds how to make shit.

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