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Mississippi’s history, seen through an artistic lens

Sun Herald

‘Tea Leaves’ by William Steene (1888-1965), not dated. Oil on canvas. From the collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson.
‘Tea Leaves’ by William Steene (1888-1965), not dated. Oil on canvas. From the collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College/Mississippi Museum of Art

Past and present, famous and less so Mississippi artists’ works have been brought together for “A Social Art: Mississippi Art in the Early 20th Century,” part of “Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities.”

This component of the Mississippi Museum of Art’s statewide bicentennial initiative will be on display at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Jackson County Fine Arts Gallery from Sept. 26 to Oct. 27. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

“We are always excited to have exhibits from the Mississippi Museum of Art on our campus, and this one is particularly special,” MGCCC Fine Arts Instructor and Gallery Director Marc Poole said. “It serves as a unique visual example of Mississippi’s rich history and artistic heritage that our students and community at large can experience up close.”

To celebrate Mississippi’s bicentennial, the Mississippi Museum of Art is curating exhibitions from its collection for 12 host venues across the state. These exhibitions feature artworks by regionally acclaimed artists — past and present — including Walter Anderson, William Dunlap, William Ferris, Ke Francis, Marie Hull, Hystercine Rankin and Sulton Rogers, among many others, both Mississippians and those influenced by Mississippi.

“Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities” provides residents throughout the state with an opportunity to enjoy high-quality exhibitions from the Museum’s permanent collection in their own communities, to reflect on the heritage of Mississippi’s visual arts, and to contemplate the meaning of the bicentennial moment. The Museum’s entire exhibition features more than 175 works by more than 100 different artists.

Gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. For more information, contact Marc Poole at 228-497-7684.

The title of this component reflects the emergence of Southern artists making their mark on the art world. At the same time, as many local artists seemed to skirt post-Civil War sociopolitical issues, artists like Marie Hull felt it was important to depict African Americans in dignified representations, which was Hull’s way of protesting racial injustice in the state.

Also, by the early 1900s, Jackson and Biloxi had begun to see some revitalization and, as a result, art societies and museums were established throughout the state. Artists living and working in Mississippi learned from established painters and, while many still traveled to New York, Philadelphia, and Europe to study and paint, their desire to depict the people and land around them was a significant step in Mississippi’s creative industry, the MMA stated for an earlier exhibition of “A Social Art.”

Prominent subject matter in the art produced in the early decades of the 20th century included the Southern landscape, interior scenes, and portraiture.

“The Museum’s collection of art is made more valuable every time Mississippians have encounters with it,” said Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “The celebration of our state’s bicentennial is the perfect opportunity for the Museum to share its collection with people across the state. We are honored that our partners are hosting these exhibitions in their communities. We are excited to share how, during the past two hundred years, artists have helped us to see our hometowns and each other with new eyes and increased sensitivity to the beauty around us.”

“Art Across Mississippi” shares this artwork from the Museum’s collection as a precursor to “Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain and Promise,” a landmark exhibition of more than 175 artworks interpreting the state’s artistic legacy over two centuries, brought home to the Museum in Jackson. The exhibition is the latest in The Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin Memorial Exhibitions series. It will proceed chronologically and thematically, giving visitors the opportunity to perceive the evolving depiction of Mississippi.

“Picturing Mississippi” will be on view Dec. 9 to July 8, 2018, at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.

1: Marie Hull (1890-1980), Magnolias, not dated. oil on canvas board. Collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson. Gift of the artist. 1953.008.

2: William Steene (1888-1965), Tea Leaves, not dated. oil on canvas. Collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson. Gift of Better Painter. 1968.017.

3: Exhibition postcard

If you go

What: “A Social Art: Mississippi Art in the Early 20th Century” exhibition, part of “Art Across Mississippi: Twelve Exhibitions, Twelve Communities.”

Where: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Jackson County campus, 2300 U.S. 90, Gautier.

When: Sept. 26 to Oct. 27

Cost: No charge

Hours: Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment.

Opening reception: 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at the MGCCC Jackson County Fine Arts Gallery in Gautier.

Details: Information and appointments, Marc Poole, 228-497-7684

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