The place is the thing: 69 artists from, or currently living in, 13 Appalachian states interpret the region through folk- and fine-art techniques in a grab-bag show at the National Museum of American Art. The 105 works in "More Than Land or Sky: Art From Appalachia" are full of coal miners, trailers and diners, gas pumps, mountain landscapes and Holsteins. Craft dominates art, if one dare classify, but with dignity. Sculpture made from fire-hose nozzles, collages of found objects and handmade paper outnumber the photo-realist paintings and fine pencil drawings. Excepting a room full of lackluster landscapes and some inventive handmade paperworks, the show focuses on concrete images close to home. Caryl Jones-Sylvester's 8f x 11f painted assemblage "Suppertime" is a tribute to trailer owners. Genessee beer cans are strung across a clothesline, a cinderblock supports the front. Stark cutouts of her upstate New York neighbors populate the interior. A fluorescent light flickers on and off every few minutes, simulating the camper's look at different hours. Outside, the RV is accoutered with reflectors nailed on snuff cans, rear-view mirrors, gun racks, a swing set and CB. Home is where the reflector is. Or, as Jones-Sylvester puts it, "Everyone has a dream of something that's lovely to them." The artist, who has traveled the country interviewing trailer people, describes her work as a transcribed "oral history" of this vagabond American subculture. An Alabama artist who calls himself Nall satirizes his neighbors and the rest of Southern society in a series of etchings depicting a surreal tea party. Ron Isaacs paints thinly carved plywood to simulate women's clothing in successful trompe l'oeil sculptures. Apocalyptic sci-fi/religious works by the Rev. Howard Finster, artist-singer-preacher- banjo player from Georgia, are full of hellfire and hallucination. Finster's original song composition provides the show's title: "I've got more than land or sky, I've got more than all the money in this old world could every buy, I've got more than land or sea, Let it be, oh Lord, let it be." Not destined to be a classic but, like the exhibit, expressive.
MORE THAN LAND OR SKY: ART FROM APPALACHIA -- At the National Museum of American Art, through Jan. 3.