Welcome to Mississippi Byways, a research project of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson (the Museum). The Museum wants to learn more about visual artists, from the self taught to the academically trained, particularly those relatively unknown, but also those well known, in our state.
The Museum also wants to hear from you about artists who you think are interesting. Which artist does everyone in your town or neighborhood know about but no one in Jackson seems to have heard of? For example, that awesome mural at the hair salon, restaurant, club, or church? Tell us about it!
With your help, and using grassroots and traditional research, for the next year and a half, I will explore communities for the stories of artists, art collectors, and art supporters. You can read about what I find here. Rather than this being a place for me to share deep thoughts about art, I mean to find art and narratives that reflect the diversity of Mississippi so that the Museum becomes more and more a physical and virtual place where folks from all over the state feel included and excited about visiting.
I’m starting my tale in Tupelo. Barely 24 hours there one day in late January energized me about the art there: art being created now, art created decades ago, and art being exhibited and sold. Although visual art is not limited to the walls of museums and galleries, I saw wonderful things at The Caron Gallery and at the Oren Dunn City Museum. I look forward to visiting the Gumtree Museum of Art on my next trip.
At the Oren Dunn City Museum is an impressive painting by Mississippi artist Wade Herbert Armstrong, who lived in Tupelo. The Legend of Hummingbird hangs above display cases of arrowheads. The wall label explains that a Chickasaw man, named Hummingbird, and other Chickasaw warriors attacked a wagon train of white settlers. Most of the settlers were killed, but Hummingbird spared a young girl. Back in Hummingbird’s village, his family took her in and reared her. She and Hummingbird were married when she was old enough to wed.
Tupelo historian Boyd Yarbrough told me that a mural by Armstrong, now deceased, depicting the history of Tupelo is displayed at the Lee County Public Library. Armstrong was active as a portraitist in the 1960s, according to Patti Carr Black’s book, Art in Mississippi, 1720-1980 (University Press of Mississippi, 1998). On my next visit to Tupelo, I look forward to seeing it and to learning more about Armstrong.
What do you think is important to know about artists in Mississippi? Who are some Mississippi artists – living or deceased – whom you find interesting?
Write to me via the comment box, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or snail mail at Beth Batton, Mississippi Museum of Art, 380 South Lamar Street, Jackson, MS 39201.