In 1932, Garnet Carter founded Rock City and in 1937, in an effort to attract travelers, he hired Clark Byers to paint the roofs of country barns, sheds, and other buildings along the local highway system. Using bold, white lettering on black, Clark Byers painted messages such as the iconic “See Rock City."
Over the course of three decades, Byers painted more than 900 barns and buildings in 19 states ranging from Florida to Michigan, effectively making Rock City a symbol of southern Americana. Tourism media crafts an alluring image in the mind of the viewer and affects not only the final experience in the place, but also influences what is collectively considered to be of value, what is “worth seeing."
In these signs, I appropriate the language of Rock City’s iconic barn painting promotional effort of the 1950s, capitalizing on the perceived persuasive power it held, and continues to wield, that revolutionized tourism media. Rock City is a construction, a place subjectively deemed as more beautiful or more worthy of recognition than others. The signs tell you what you need to see and how you should look at them because of the higher value placed upon them through repetition and scale.
Emphasizing the absurdity of the added significance a billboard gives a place, I have attributed value to a rock which is both the most important and the least important thing to see. Through repetition of the message, all attention is then drawn away from the rock, as it is overwhelmed by the very signs which represent it.