When you are with Hursley, discovery lurks around every corner or, at least, past the next stoplight. As soon as he sees something he would like to photograph, he will park the car, methodically set up his tripod, and, almost without a sound, begin shooting. He is so stealthy, he almost disappears into the scene..
On a kitchen wall in Oxford, Mississippi, there is a growth chart—a skinny ladder of pencil marks and names recording the heights of dozens of random family and friends. The highest notch, off the wood molding and onto the plaster, is marked “Dave Bastard” for Dave Colvin, the giant drummer for The Heartless Bastards. The lowest notch, at 3'10", reads, “Higgins 1/7/06.” James Tolliver Higgins made that mark himself. Not even average height on his feet, this is how short he was in his wheelchair, and how darkly funny he could be. He died May 24, 2009, leaving behind piles of photographs, letters, and friends who saw him as a kind of folk hero.
Out of overwhelming curiosity, we wanted to discover the most talented and thrilling up-and-coming artists in the South. So we enlisted a range of Southern experts (gallery owners, curators, critics, artists) to help us find them. To make things manageable, we limited our interest (for the time being) to those who paint, photograph, and draw. Here is a sneak preview of the results.
There he is, the artist as hippie dandy, with his cocked homburg hat, his long black braids, his carved walking stick, tiny white birds on his shoes. Jim Roche picks up the photo, taken around the time in the '70s when he was hanging out at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea and showing at the Whitney. He says, "Look at him. Is he full of himself? Does he have some ego? Is he thinking he's really something?" And laughs at his young, impossible self.