Get a glimpse into first pod at Ohr-O'Keefe

Ceremonies planned for Saturday at museum

tmsmith@sunherald.comJuly 8, 2014 

The four stainless-steel pods at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art were designed, architect Frank Gehry has said, to "dance among the Live oaks" around them. Look through the skylight of the first completed pod, and you can see the oaks join in the dance, their limbs gracefully swaying. These dance partners both lead and follow.

This first pod -- the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino Gallery -- will be introduced to the public Saturday during ceremonies at the museum. Events begin at 2 p.m. when Eugene Hecht, author of "George Ohr: The Greatest Art Potter on Earth" and "After the Fire: George Ohr, an American Genius," and co-author of "The Mad Potter of Biloxi: The Art and Life of George Ohr," will present a slide show and will answer questions about Ohr and his pottery.

At 4 p.m., ceremonies for the pod's opening will begin, and that is when visitors will get to enter the pod. July 12 happens to be George Ohr's birthday as well as that of museum patron Jeremiah O'Keefe. In honor of the opening, admission will be free Saturday.

Prized, honored, cherished

The pod will house a new exhibition of Ohr's works: "George E. Ohr: Prized, Honored & Cherished."

"He said one day his works would be prized, honored and cherished," said Barbara Ross, Ohr-O'Keefe curator.

Indeed they are. The museum has been 10 years in the making, and the four pods are the final elements. Each will hold specific installations of Ohr's works, with a different theme in each one.

The new exhibit will give tantalizing tastes of Ohr's works. The largest case holds studio items -- examples of small pot lids, kiln stilts on which pots sat while they were fired, even molds for Ohr's infamous brothel tokens.

"We have a total of about 159 of the pot lids," some glazed and some unglazed, Ross said. "There's also part of the handle for the Monumental Urn, some small bottle stoppers.

"We also have an original slip bowl he used," Ross said. "It was donated in memory of Bobby Davidson Smith. She used to have Ohr shows at Edgewater in the 1960s."

There's even an intriguing small circa-1890s cement-and-clay grave marker, found after Katrina, that appears to have an Ohr connection. An enlarged replica of one of Ohr's original business cards is displayed in the case.

"The original one is just too fragile, so we made this copy," Ross said.

First glimpse of works

There are 35 pieces in the installation, including nine on loan from private collections and several donated to the museum over the years.

"Three of the vases have never been shown before," Ross said.

A watercolor portrait of Ohr by William Woodward will overlook the exhibit. The work was donated by Hecht.

At Saturday's celebration, Hecht will sign copies of his latest work, and entertainment will be provided by Jesse Hill. Activities include $5 pinch pots, art demonstrations and "The Color of Mississippi" book signing by photographer Paul Smith.

The museum is working to complete the remaining three pods.

"We still need to raise money for the interiors," Executive Director Kevin O'Brien said. "We're doing one at a time, and we're gearing up for a major capital campaign for that."

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