back bounded-next cafe calendar-large calendar cart close coat-check collapse donate download elevators expand explore filter grid-view hamburger heart hours join link list-view location mail more next nursing-room phone print programs ramp restrooms right-arrow search share shop thumbs-down thumbs-up tickets up toilet heart-filled zoom Skip to Content

Past Exhibitions


Way Out There: The Art of Southern Backroads

March 2–May 19, 2019

In the early 1980s, poet Jonathan Williams invited photographers Guy Mendes and Roger Manley to hit the road “to document what tickled us, what moved us, and what (sometimes) appalled us in the Southeastern United States.” This exhibition brings to life their resulting encounters with self-taught artists who “make up beauty out of the air and out of nowhere,” such as Howard Finster, Mose Tolliver, Thornton Dial, and Mary T. Smith, along with dozens of others.

Williams had intended for Mendes’s and Manley’s photographs to illustrate the poetic, often humorous reflections he compiled into a guidebook—“a true Wonder Book, a guide for a certain kind of imagination.” He titled it Walks to the Paradise Garden to honor Finster and his Edenic art environment as well as the many other artists who were “directly involved with making paradise for themselves.”

For the first time, Way Out There brings together Mendes’s and Manley’s enthralling photographs, works in the High’s permanent collection by some of the artists they profiled, and excerpts from Williams’s book, which recently was published. This exhibition takes its name from a title Mendes preferred for the book, Way Out People Way Out There, which alludes to both the highly original mindsets of the featured artists as well as their geographical distance from conventional art-world capitals.

Click on an image below to learn more.

“If you ever travel the Deepest South, please take a respectable guidebook with you.” –Jonathan Williams, Walks to the Paradise Garden

Mapping a Journey

Between 1983 and 1992, Jonathan Williams, Guy Mendes, and Roger Manley visited artists and their art environments in nine states and around 74 towns. This map shows the many stops they made. Some of the states they visited most frequently were North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia. Florida was the only Southeastern state they intentionally excluded. Williams explained his reasoning: “Ever since Frederick Delius [an English composer who created a celebrated orchestral suite dedicated to Florida] left Picolata, Florida, in 1886, the place has given me the willies.

Follow in the footsteps of Williams, Mendes, and Manley and take a road trip of your own! Grab a friend and hit the road to find your own paradise.

Organization and Support

Way Out There: The Art of Southern Backroads is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta

This exhibition is made possible by

Exhibition Series Sponsors

Premier Exhibition Series Supporter
The Antinori Foundation
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot

Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation

Ambassador Exhibition Supporters
Tom and Susan Wardell
Rod Westmoreland

Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Corporate Environments
Marcia and John Donnell
W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole
Peggy Foreman
Robin and Hilton Howell
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Margot and Danny McCaul
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust

Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Marjorie and Carter Crittenden, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, Massey Charitable Trust, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund, and Dr. Diane L. Wisebram