Captivating the culture: Louisiana Trail Riders


Nicholas Herring

The “Louisiana Trail Riders” photography collection by Jeremiah Ariaz is currently on display in the Contemporary Art Gallery until Monday, Nov. 15. The collections “Vanishing Black Bars” by L. Kasimu Harris and “Celestials” by Jill Frank are also on display until Nov. 15.

On Oct. 18, the Contemporary Art Gallery opened a photography exhibition containing work from three artists. The exhibition will be closing on Nov. 15, the final day for guests to view the art.

The largest exhibition displayed in the gallery is “Louisiana Trail Riders” by Jeremiah Ariaz. Ariaz stumbled upon his inspiration on a motorcycle ride seven years ago.

“I was out for a Sunday motorcycle ride in the fall of 2014 and crossed paths with a trail ride. I pulled over for the riders to pass as I waited and watched. I took a few pictures of the riders, who waved and nodded as they rode by. A gentleman at the end of the procession, Henry, invited me to join them. At the cookout after that ride, I was introduced to a number of riders. That led to the body of work, Louisiana Trail Riders,” Ariaz said.

Ariaz expressed how these trail rides felt similar to his upbringing in rural Kansas, but it was an event unlike anything he had encountered within his eight years of living in Louisiana. 

His photos focused on the Black trail riding clubs and the obscure image of Black cowboys. His photos show the generational bonding through these trail rides.

Ariaz said, “Media and pop culture have long sought to minimize the contributions of people of color to our society. What is particularly striking about the erasure of Black cowboys is that they were an estimated quarter of the population hired to drive cattle during the second half of the 19 century.”

Atlanta-based artist Jill Frank exhibits large scale images and video of youth culture with its adolescent growing pains, titled “Celestials,” in the Contemporary Art Gallery until Nov. 15. (Dasyonne Brashear)

Ariaz depicted people of color in a way that the media does not. His images help create the imagery of the Black cowboy culture and the traditions that carry through these trail rides.

“With the photographs, I was seeking to create a counter-narrative to the limited depictions of Black life we see in popular culture. The people in the images exhibit strength and compassion, grace and joy,” Ariaz said.

Ariaz’s artistic style helped deliver his message. He chose to have his photos in black and white because he wanted the viewers to take in and understand the photos more clearly.

“Though the images are dense with information, I think being in black and white allows them to be digested with ease – though I hope a viewer finds they reward prolonged engagement,” Ariaz said.

Also on display are the collections “Vanishing Black Bars” by L. Kasimu Harris and “Celestials” by Jill Frank. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays. 

For more information on upcoming art exhibitions featured at Southeastern visit the Contemporary Art Gallery website.