Work of Art: North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, 1982
Elizabeth Matheson
born 1942
North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, 1982
Gelatin-silver print
9 1/4 x 12 1/8 in. (23.5 x 30.8 cm)
Purchased with funds from the William R. Roberson Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowed Fund for North Carolina Art

Drive-in theaters were once common institutions offering entertainment in a casual setting, usually on the outskirts of towns and cities. The open-air screenings provided social gathering places that are nostalgically remembered by those who grew up with them or who took a carload of kids for an affordable summer evening. In the late 1950s there were more than 200 drive-ins in North Carolina, but fewer than 10 survive. Wilkes County had three, all now closed. Elizabeth Matheson’s image suggests a mood of quiet, lonely emptiness, but the grid of white car-speaker posts brings to mind a lively shared experience. The only “projection” remaining for her camera to observe is the shadow of North Wilkesboro’s tree-covered hills on the screen.

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