Tarleton Blackwell has established himself as one of the leading visual interpreters of the rural South. In his celebrated Hog Series, begun nearly twenty years ago and now consisting of over two hundred and fifty works, Blackwell explores the rich iconography of the region, incorporating elements of art history, children's tales, persistent stereotypes and even commercial imagery. The South Carolina native not only populates his visual world with hogs, opossums, wolves, pit bulls and cats but also with images inspired by his experience as an art teacher and as a devoted fan of the seventeenth century Spanish School of painting. Much of the allure of Blackwell's work rests in his complex, dense, and often ambiguous imagery that plays as part allegory, part fairytale, and part social commentary. Blackwell creates a complete topography of the rural South, grounded in his experience but overlaid with historical and literary musings. Blackwell has pointed out that hogs, so central to his work, emerged out of his experiences raising them but that over time, they began to mean something more. He articulates our shared cultural and social perceptions about the animal, whether derived from the Three Little Pigs, Porky the Pig, industrial pig farms, and so forth. The same investment of meaning holds true for the wolf, often seen in Blackwell's world as an authority figure.
"My continuing quest or mission is to visually articulate the culture of the rural Southeastern United States. I am trying to interpret and to create a visual language to express this way of life."