At 26, Meshakai Wolf is already a gallery owner (New Street Gallery in Decatur), documentary filmmaker and oft-exhibited artist featured this fall in a solo show at New York's Tatistcheff Gallery. One of his most compelling endeavors has been f.o.r.d.: found on road dead, a multifaceted project featuring graphically detailed photographs of squirrels, opossums and other roadkill ground under the tires of urban motorists.
How did you wind up in Atlanta, and with the name "Meshakai"?
I was born in a small valley town in northern California that was made up of white ranchers, back-to-the-earth hippies (my parents), and around 11 indigenous tribes that had been previously forced onto a reservation. "Meshakai" was the name given to the valley by one of the tribes; it means "valley of the tall grass." My father's family came from New York, so we moved back there for better schools and that's where I lived until high school graduation. In 1997 I moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University and have been here ever since.
What inspired f.o.r.d.?
Coming from New York City, I was used to seeing only living squirrels in Central Park, so it was slightly shocking to see all of the road carnage here in Atlanta. I didn't know what to make of it, so I began to photograph almost every dead animal I passed. The more I photographed, the more I noticed that there was a unique beauty that could be captured on film.
Is your artwork activist?
I think that the f.o.r.d. series addresses the issues of urban sprawl and car-centric culture, but there is also a humanistic side to the photographs and my other work, especially my documentary films, that deals more with human connection and understanding than with social or political change.
Wolf's work is on view through Jan. 28 in Out of the South: Five Contemporary Photographers at the Atlanta Photography Group Gallery, Tula Art Center, 75 Bennett St., B-1. 404-605-0605. www.apgphoto.org.