The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: the face jugs of Michael Keen

Opening today, May 2, 2016, at the Vancleave Public Library is an exhibition of ceramic pots and face jugs by Michael Keen, a self-taught potter in Vancleave, Mississippi. He calls his series of recent face jugs “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” for their angelic, devilish, or disfigured features and characteristics.

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The Good. stoneware, 12 inches high. Copyright (c) the artist. Photo courtesy of Michael Keen.

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The Bad. approximately 13 inches high. Copyright (c) the artist. Photo courtesy Michael Keen.

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back view of The Bad. Copyright (c) the artist. Photo courtesy Michael Keen.

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The Ugly. 10 inches high. Copyright (c) the artist. Photo courtesy Michael Keen.

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Back view of The Ugly. Copyright (c) the artist. Photo courtesy Michael Keen.

Born in New Orleans in 1957, Michael Keen’s family lived on the East Coast until 1967, when his father retired from the U. S. Coast Guard. At age 10, Keen moved with his parents to Pascagoula, where his mother and father first met.

“I was enrolled into a correspondence course in the early 70s with ‘Famous artist course’ of Westport Connecticut,” Keen writes in an email. “This taught me drawing techniques and eventually led me to painting. After graduating high school I followed in my father’s footsteps and join the U. S. Coast Guard.”

(Click on the artworks below to view the titles.)

Eager to build upon his correspondence-course education in art, Michael Keen met some of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s most accomplished artists, including Dusti Bongé. He writes about her influence:

I read her book in the early 80s and contacted her to tell her how much I enjoyed her abstract paintings. She thanked me and invited me over several times to her watercolor studio on the beachfront and to her primary oil studio to critique some of my work. She taught me to stay loose in a painting not to take it too far. She also taught me to write a poem or a little story about each painting as she did in her book. She signed one of her books for me, and wrote keep up the good work! I wish now I would have negotiated a purchase of one of her paintings.
Another talent I met in the late 70’s was Peter Anderson, at Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs. It was great to see a man doing what he loved and was able to support his family at the same time. I am friends with Jim Anderson; he and I both served in the U. S. Coast Guard.

“I have been making pottery off and on for the past 25 years,” he says. “Since I’m self-taught on the potter’s wheel, I fall into the Folk Potter category.”

Keen’s exhibition will be up for the month of May. For more information about his pottery, contact the artist at Mikemkeen@yahoo.com.

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Michael Keen’s studio in Vancleave

 

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Michael Keen and his high school sweetheart have been married for 41 years. Here they are visiting the Smokey Mountains.

All artwork is copyright (c) Michael Keen. Photos are courtesy of Michael Keen and are used with permission.

Artist David Howell

David Howell, Peacock Island, ca. 2006. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Peacock Island, ca. 2006. artwork (c) the artist.

Growing up with a mother who was an artist, David Howell (born 1952), a painter in Philadelphia, Mississippi, recalls sleeping beside a Rousseau-inspired mural in the childhood room he shared with his brother, Mark: “We had bunk beds, and I was bottom bunk and the lion in that painting was right by my head. Always. And the eyes were always. . . you know they were real strong. I loved that, that painting, and I loved that wall.”

He remembers always creating and seeing the abstract paintings that his mother, Millie Howell, and her friends were producing. “So we had a good dose of, you know, what could be possible, not just . . . [put] in a box. . . you can be whatever you want to be.”

David Howell, Ant Movies, ca. 2006. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Ant Movies, ca. 2006. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

Except from learning from his mother, who encouraged her children to draw outside the lines, he didn’t have any formal art training until he went to the Memphis Art Academy.  Howell says that one year of art school “drove the creation right out of me.”

Several years later, to pursue a dream of being a comedy writer, he enrolled at Ole Miss and studied English. “I was there for two years, and I took creative writing. Ellen Douglas was my teacher.”

In 1982, he moved to New York City. His brother’s friend, the saxophonist George Cartwright, knew that David Howell was looking for work as a painter and told him, “Okay, I got my boss. He’s going to call you up, and he’s going to ask you if you know how to glaze walls, and you tell him yes.” Despite not knowing what glazing walls meant, he got the job and tells this story about the first day of his career as a faux-finish painter:

So the address was right across the street from Central Park and the Guggenheim Museum. Top floor suite. It was Mort Zuckerman’s apartment. Mort Zuckerman used to [own] U.S. News and World Report at the time. And also at the time he was dating Gloria Steinem so there’s pictures of him and Gloria Steinem all over the apartment.

So I walked in. There’s like 20 people, and the place was a madhouse. Everybody’s doing everything. There’s all these craftsmen doing different things. And, so, I walk in. George is there, and Mark, the boss, and he was having a heated discussion with one of the decorators. But anyway, they kept talking about this word, faux bois. ‘Faux bois, faux bois, faux bois.’ I kept thinking, ‘What the hell is faux bois?’

And I asked George, ‘What’s this word, faux bois? What the hell is that?’

[George] says, ‘Well that’s fake wood.’

[I] said ‘Yeah, so what is that?’

‘So we’re going to paint this wood to look like another kind of wood.’

I said, ‘Wait a minute. It’s already wood.’

‘Yeah.’

‘So we’re going to paint it to make it look like another kind of wood.’

He said ‘Yeah.’

I thought, ‘Man, only in New York City would people pay other people to paint wood to look like another kind of wood.’

And we had these guys from England would come over. And at the time, London had the only school of faux finishes. And they would show us different techniques. And after a while, I’m painting wood to look like another kind of wood. And it was, you know, the best learning experience I ever had. The best crew I’ve ever worked with. . . . everybody was either a writer, a musician or something else, you know.

David Howell, Deep Sea Summer. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Deep Sea Summer. artwork (c) the artist.

Howell loved working as a faux finisher, but was ready to return to Mississippi after about five and a half years in New York. In his home state, in addition to faux finishing and painting exteriors and interiors of homes, he was commissioned about a year an a half ago to create a mural for Dick Molpus’ cabin. The result was five panels, each four feet by eight feet, of the history of the four-corners area of Neshoba, Leake, Attala, and Madison counties.

David Howell, study for murals at Dick Molpus cabin in Philadelphia, MS. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, study for murals at Dick Molpus cabin in Philadelphia, MS. artwork (c) the artist.

Before the mural commission, though, Millie Howell went behind her son’s back and entered one of his paintings in the Meridian Museum of Art’s BiState Art Juried Competition, one of the oldest juried art competitions in the region. It was selected, and she surprised him on his birthday, some years ago on January 11, with the acceptance card. His painting won an award that year, and his work continued to be shown in future competitions. He also shows at the Neshoba County Fair, where he laughs about the chicken wire separates the viewer from the artwork, and at Horne Gallery in Meridian. 

David Howell, Modern Moon Bride Magazine, 2001. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Modern Moon Bride Magazine, 2001. artwork (c) the artist.

He prefers layering colors, textures, and even objects onto canvas. He explains,

I use spray paints. I like the immediacy of a spray paint. I like spraying on top of another color. Combing through it. Wiping it away. Doing another color. Just putting the objects on top of objects. Blocking things out. And I’ve gotten pretty good at controlling the spray from. . . close, far away, whatever. I’ll stand over the canvas and paint that way.

David Howell, Spectral Forest, 2015. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Spectral Forest, 2015. mixed mediums. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Who Ordered the Chicken. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Who Ordered the Chicken. artwork (c) the artist.

In addition to paintings with humorous titles, like Who Ordered The Chicken, David Howell also paints his cats. “I thought they should deserve just as much attention as a portrait,” he says.

David Howell, Self Portrait. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Self Portrait. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Bob and Scoob Are Accidentally Abducted. artwork (c) the artist.

David Howell, Bob and Scoob Are Accidentally Abducted.

David Howell

David Howell, January 2016, Philadelphia, Mississippi

More of David Howell’s work can be seen and ordered as Giclée prints on the website Society6.com/davidhowell.

Happy Birthday to Artist Millie Howell

“Well, I usually start with a line or a color. . . .  I just let the painting speak and one line, one color, another, another, another line. I actually kind of, when it becomes really very beautiful, I decide that I have to kind of destroy it a little bit. I have to take a leap of faith. I take a leap of faith. . . .  I don’t want it to be too pretty.”

Millie Howell, Abstract Expressionist painter

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Millie Howell, Homage, ca. 1979

I’ve never walked into a house quite like that of Millie and Boots Howell in Philadelphia, Mississippi, with its mosaic floors, a living vine spanning the kitchen ceiling, and a sophisticated but informal mix of color and pattern that somehow does not make the paintings and shelves of ceramics (including two plates decorated by Walter Anderson and several other Shearwater pots) seem out of place.

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Boots and Millie Howell in their kitchen

(The interior reminded me of artist Miriam Weems’ old house on Euclid Street in Jackson. Like Howell, Miriam Weems loved color and people, so there was always a comfortable place to sit and visit.) Speaking of Millie Howell’s relationship to color, she received the Best Use of Color award during Mississippi Art Colony a few years ago. At Mississippi Art Colony, she has won the most number of awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, of any other Colony member.

Millie Howell, Indian Princess

Millie Howell, Indian Princess. Copyright (c) the artist.

Born January 13, 1927, in Meridian, Howell attended workshops at Allison’s Wells from artists including Hugh Williams, Alvin Sella, and Ida Kohlmeyer. She said that the direction she received from them was the encouragement she needed to continue painting, especially in the early stages of her career. She remembers three specific pieces of advice from Ida Kohlmeyer:

  1. Less is more.
  2. When there’s one more thing to do to a painting, don’t.
  3. Don’t be commercial and slick.

“Taking the waters” did not interest Millie Howell when she went to Allison’s Wells, which was a resort with natural springs. She went only to make art. She remembers meeting Eudora Welty and Hosford Fontaine, who owned the resort with her husband, John Fontaine, Jr. Chuckling, Howell recalls being there with Marie Hull:

I painted alongside with Marie at the Allison’s Wells. . . . She was a very good artist. . . .  In fact, I think she has a painting of lilies, spider lilies. Actually, I had done a painting of lilies before that. Bess Dawson, who was a wonderful artist, she said, ‘Millie, Marie has copied your lilies!’ It’s so funny!

Marie Hull’s 1967 painting of spider lilies was recently exhibited in Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull, which ran September 26, 2015 – January 10, 2016, at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

To read the titles for the above artworks by Millie Howell, click on an image.

In addition to the instructors through the years at Mississippi Art Colony, Howell was inspired by the work of Joan Mitchell. She also clearly recalled the impact of seeing Vincent van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in person at the Art Institute of Chicago in early 1950. She said that after seeing the work of Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg when she and Boots went to New York in the 1950s, “It was just such a wonderful time that I really got hooked on that.”

Above are stained glass windows designed and crafted by Harriet Deweese (1901-?) on the left and by Millie Howell on the right. The windows are in St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, which was constructed by Boots Howell in 1964. Millie Howell had never created anything in stained glass prior to making this window.

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Millie Howell (left) and Harriet Deweese stand in front of the newly built St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, MS, in 1964. Howell’s window is visible in the upper right quadrant of the photograph. Mrs. Millicent Howell and Mrs. Harriet DeWeese, Clayton Rand papers, Manuscripts Division, Special Collections Department, Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University.

I had read in Art in Mississippi by Patti Carr Black about the “Philadelphia group” of Harriet Deweese, Millie Howell, and Lallah Perry (1926-2008). “All three embraced experimental ideas,” Black writes.* When I asked Howell about the group, she talked of Deweese and Perry as accomplished artists and as friends.

Millie Howell won Best in Show with her painting, From Paris to Arles, in the Meridian Museum of Art’s Bi-State Art Competition in 2012.**  When her son-in-law was a pilot for American Airlines, she and Boots had stand-by tickets and flew first class to France at least once. “I was influenced by the South of France,” she said.

She no longer goes to Mississippi Art Colony as both she and Boots have had to give up driving, but she is still painting in her loft studio at her house. She turned 89 today. Happy Birthday, Millie Howell.

*Black, Patti Carr, Art in Mississippi: 1720-1980. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1998), 246-247.

**Myers, Debbie Burt, “Howell’s ‘From Paris to Arles’ captures top bi-state art award,” The Neshoba Democrat on the Web, December 11, 2012, http://neshobademocrat.com/Content/NEWS/News/Article/Howell-s-From-Paris-to-Arles-captures-top-bi-state-art-award/2/297/27735#sthash.jcpmyF6x.dpuf.

All artworks are copyright (c) Millie Howell.

Millie Howell & son, David Howell

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Portrait of Millie Howell by Homer Casteel (1919-1972)

On Monday, I was in Philadelphia, Mississippi, at the home of artist Millicent “Millie” Howell. Born in 1927 in Meridian, she may be the only living artist who attended art workshops at Allison’s Wells resort in Way, Mississippi. The tradition of artists gathering twice yearly to study with a guest artist became known as Mississippi Art Colony. It met at Allison’s Wells from 1948 until 1963 when the resort burned. Millie Howell participated in the Mississippi Art Colony in the spring and fall of every year, she says, until the past couple of years.

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Photograph of Millie Howell by Florence Mars, who wrote Witness in Philadelphia (1977), about the murders of three civil-rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Mars was a native of Philadelphia. Her obituary is on the websites of NPR and The Washington Post.

 

Millie’s son, David Howell (b. 1954), is also an Abstract Expressionist painter. After a career in New York as a faux-finish painter, he returned to his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi. In Mississippi, he continued to work as a faux-finisher and returned to fine art painting. In recent years, he has exhibited at the Neshoba County Fair, at the Meridian Museum of Art’s Bi-State Art Competition, and at the Horne Gallery in Meridian.

I’ll post images of Millie’s and David’s paintings very soon: hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, has anyone seen other photographs by Florence Mars?

p’Artake 44: Ocean Springs Art Association Fall 2015 Exhibit & Sale

Also at the Peter Anderson Festival in early November, I saw one of the ancillary exhibitions, p’Artake 44: Ocean Springs Art Association Fall 2015 Exhibit & Sale, at the Ocean Springs Community Center. Surrounded by Walter Anderson’s murals were an impressive number of artworks in the 44th annual exhibition, which ran from October 30 through November 14, 2015.

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p’Artake 44: Ocean Springs Art Association Fall 2015 Exhibit & Sale, at the Ocean Springs Community Center

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Walter Anderson’s murals cover the walls of the exhibition space.

Carole Marie, who is president of the Ocean Springs Art Association (OSAA), showed me one of her artworks in the show.

Tree in Moonlight #2

Carole Marie, Tree in Moonlight #2, mixed mediums. copyright (c) the artist.

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Artist Carole Marie with her trademark purple-dyed American Indian-style braid

Carole Marie exhibits at The Art House, the cooperative gallery for members of OSAA. She works in a variety of mediums and genres, but the subject matter of classic cars is prominent in most of her current work, according to her promotional flyer and a Knight Foundation blog post, “New exhibitions at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art feature cars and parades,” written by By Barbara Johnson Ross, Ohr-Ohr’O’Keefe Museum of Art, in October 2014.

Here are two other artists I met at the OSAA exhibition: Ellen Ellis Lee and Debra Baldinger.

Ellen Ellis Lee with artwork

Ellen Ellis Lee and her mixed mediums artwork entitled Willie Ann Wasp. artwork copyright (c) the artist.

Debra Baldinger portrait

Artist Debra Baldinger stands in front of one of her drawings (clearer picture of artwork is below).

Here are more of the artworks that were on view. (To read the captions with artists and titles, click on the image.)

All images used with permission of the Ocean Springs Art Association.

From the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast

I’ve been traveling so much lately that I haven’t had a chance to write about where I’ve been and the art I’ve seen. Balancing traveling and blogging is still something I’m working on.

Art Crawl sign_750

On September 19, I was at Water Valley’s Art Crawl.

Art Crawl tailgaters Danny Rodgers, Jason Green, Sherry Green, and John Green enjoy Main Street in Water Valley.

Art Crawl tailgaters Danny Rodgers, Jason Green, Sherry Green, and John Green enjoy Main Street in Water Valley.

I stayed a couple of extra days in Water Valley to continue interviewing Katrina Geenen and Pati D’Amico and to talk with Coulter Fussell of Yalo Studio.  At Pati D’Amico and William Warren’s home on Panola Street, which was one of the stops along the Art Crawl, one room became a gallery for Jack Gurner’s photographs, which depicted Panola Street in decades past. A native of Water Valley, he was a photojournalist in Memphis and has retired with his wife to his hometown. I’ll tell you more about all of these artists in later posts.

Willie "Butch" Fox on Main Street for Art Crawl

Willie “Butch” Fox on Main Street for Art Crawl. J. R. Larson’s exhibition, HOT BLIND EARTH, at Yalo Studio and Gallery features a portrait of Butch Fox.

Also that week, I had the privilege of interviewing three creative, young men in the YOU Program for youth offenders at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. They had recently painted a mural, and I left feeling hopeful for them and grateful for their stories, which you’ll get to read after the interviews have been processed.

Yesterday, I was a guest at Mississippi Art Colony, held twice a year at Henry S. Jacobs Camp near Utica.

A mosaic on the Cultural Center at Henry S. Jacobs Camp

A mosaic on the Cultural Center at Henry S. Jacobs Camp

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Henry S. Jacobs Camp, Utica, Mississippi

The oldest, artist-run, art colony in the country, it has been meeting at Henry S. Jacobs Camp since 1973. Randy Jolly, Director of Gore Galleries and instructor in the Department of Art at Mississippi College, arranged my visit. There, I met about 40 artists, including Byron Myrick, who directs Mississippi Art Colony, and Colony president Judy Berry.

In white shirt: Elke Briuer. In pink shirt: Susan Cox Davis

In white shirt: Elke Briuer. In pink shirt: Susan Cox Davis

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Randy Jolly gave me directions to the Colony and told me he would either be painting under the pavilion or in the woods, cutting vines that he could paint and incorporate as snakes in his paintings.  The Colony artists start about 8:30 in the morning and some paint until as late as 7:00 p.m., missing Happy Hour (although it’s an hour and a half-long happy “hour” someone told me with a smile).  Each artist occupies at least one table during the entire five days of Colony, and their focus was evident when I strolled through the pavilion with my camera and hardly anyone looked up at me.

Happy Hour at Mississippi Art Colony

Happy Hour at Mississippi Art Colony

There is much to say about the Mississippi Art Colony and about the artists I met there. I’ll share images and more about them in future blogs.

View from the balcony of the board room, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, Mississippi

View from the balcony of the board room, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Biloxi, Mississippi

Monday, September 28, I was at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi for a Mississippi Museums Association meeting.  Director Kevin O’Brian generously showed me the current exhibitions: The Mysterious Play of Water with photographs and paintings by Susan Guice; I Come From Women Who Could Fly, featuring Delita Martin‘s large-scale works that layer multiple mediums from quilts to drawings to gelatin printing; The Ooma Collection of Toshiko Takaezu’s “closed form” ceramic vessels; and two George E. Ohr installations of a total of 151 pots by the master potter. I saw 151 Ohr pots in one place in one afternoon!

The Mysterious Play of Water is an exhibition of photographs and paintings by Susan Guice. On view at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art through Dec. 6, 2016.

The Mysterious Play of Water is an exhibition of photographs and paintings by Susan Guice. On view at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art through Dec. 6, 2016.

I Come From Women Who Could Fly is an exhibition of work by Delita Martin on view through Nov. 29, 2015 at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.

I Come From Women Who Could Fly is an exhibition of work by Delita Martin on view through Nov. 29, 2015 at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art.

George E. Ohr, Pitcher, c. 1895. glazed ceramic, 9 in. x 5 7/8 in. Private Collection, Biloxi, Mississippi.

George E. Ohr, Pitcher, c. 1895. glazed ceramic, 9 in. x 5 7/8 in. Private Collection, Biloxi, Mississippi.

 

One more visit that I want to mention happened last Thursday, September 17, at the Gore Galleries at Mississippi College.  I saw the alumni art show being hung and got to select the purchase prize for MC’s art collection.  Walking through the library to the coffee shop (Students don’t have to sneak coffee under their jackets when they enter the library.  They can even have pizza delivered at the library!), I passed a painting by Elizabeth Pajerski and a triptych by Kenneth Quinn. I met Dr. Quinn and will be interviewing him next week.

Elizabeth Pajerski painting at MC library_750

A painting by Elizabeth Pajerski hangs in the library at Mississippi College.

A triptych by Kenneth Quinn in Mississippi College's library.

A triptych by Kenneth Quinn in Mississippi College’s library.

Artists Randy Jolly (left) and Kenneth Quinn at Mississippi College

Artists Randy Jolly (left) and Kenneth Quinn at Mississippi College

Kudzu Crossing by William Warren

William Warren’s paintings of kudzu depict roadside sculpture gardens of fantastic, sometimes alien-looking forms. He told me there was good kudzu between Water Valley and Taylor.

“Kudzu Crossing” by William Warren is on view at Bozarts Gallery, Water Valley. Acrylic on canvas. Copyright (c) the artist.

“Mound Moguls” by William Warren. acrylic on canvas. Copyright (c) the artist.

Kudzu from the car_Taylor & WV

I wanted a photo of the kudzu near Water Valley and Taylor, but was in a hurry and took this photo from a moving car, so it doesn’t do it justice.

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, by the time William Warren was in third grade, the other children in his class were impressed by his drawing abilities and asked him to draw dinosaurs and other things. By eighth grade, the political cartoons by David Levine that appeared in New York magazine inspired him to make his own pen and ink drawings of political satire. A versatile artist, he has been sculpting since high school. At Rhode Island School of Design is where he says, “I really started to paint. And that’s become, you know, sort of a lifelong pursuit. It’s really my primary passion.”

“Journey of the One Eyed Egg” by William Warren. acrylic on canvas. Copyright (c) the artist.

Warren and his wife, Pati D’Amico, started the Waiting Room Gallery in Providence, Rhode Island, as they were waiting for their house to sell so that they could move to the bohemian Bywater area of New Orleans. This was 1996. Warren recalls an accomplishment of his and D’Amico’s that happened in Providence that year before they moved to New Orleans:

We started Gallery Night. It was kind of like another overnight success because it grew from about eight galleries in the beginning to sixteen the second time and then we had a Charlie bus that took everybody around. So it was a great rejuvenator for the city arts scene. People had thought about it for years but it was that catalyst of a couple people getting together and saying ‘Let’s do it.’

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William Warren, who goes by Bill among friends and clients of his sign-painting business, sits in front of one of his sculptures on his porch in Water Valley.

They arrived in New Orleans on April Fools’ Day, 1997. In a big, double shotgun house in Bywater, Warren and D’Amico lived on one side and eventually opened the Waiting Room Gallery on the other side. He reflects upon the positive effect that affordable housing and real estate can have on an arts scene:

Bywater was very affordable at that time. It was really a bohemian art scene. Quintessential. And that really suited me. I always thought that sort of inexpensive, funky area really suited me. There were many painters, many writers, musicians galore. So it was a place that people could afford, and that’s a main ingredient in any art scene I think is affordability. Hopefully, affordable so that artists can buy their own spaces because I think we have a lot more control over the situation. Now, after the storm, that all changed. Everything got very expensive, very quickly actually. [. . .] Our gallery was kind of a pioneer of the area. We, another gallery around the corner from us, and then one on St. Claude. [. . .] in that area, there were only about three or four galleries and now there are about ten to thirteen galleries in the area.”

Warren and D’Amico moved to Water Valley in 2008. Warren’s hand-painted signs are found on storefronts along Main Street. In fact, last year, The Huffington Post published an article about him that was written by Lauren Walser for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A hand-painted sign by William Warren in Water Valley.

William Warren painted this mural in 2013 in Water Valley. The design is from a 1907 illustration by J. G. Boyd.

Warren and D’Amico have been instrumental in the growth of the artistic community there. (Read more about their involvement with Bozarts Gallery in my previous post.) Their studios will be on the Art Crawl tour on September 19, 2015.  For more information about the Art Crawl, go to the Water Valley Arts Council’s Facebook page.

Thanks to William Warren for allowing me to interview him and to share the images of his artworks. To see more artworks by William Warren, contact Bozarts Gallery at (662) 473-2484 or visit http://bozartsgallery.com/.

Follow me through the kudzu and byways of Mississippi and learn about the art I see and the artists I meet along the way.

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Attractions at The Frog Farm

Describing what a visitor would encounter at The Frog Farm, Louise Cadney Coleman says about her creation, “When you first walk back into the garden, you would see some frog Beefeaters. They’re the guards. And they’re dressed in the costume, like the . . . British Beefeaters. But they’re frog Beefeaters and they guard The Frog Farm. And that’s the castle of The Frog Farm. It’s a garden, and, in that garden, [are] different attractions.”

A frog sculpture outfitted as a British Beefeater guards the entrance to The Frog Farm.

A frog sculpture outfitted as a British Beefeater guards the entrance to The Frog Farm.

Ms. Coleman’s imagination and wit drive the stories, environments, and activities that she invents for her sculptures. The installations also attract visitors, which is why she refers to them as attractions.

Past the Beefeater in the sculpture garden, a raised, wooden, plank walkway keeps visitors’ feet out of the mud and leads to the center of a clearing. Along the perimeter, under a grove of mulberry trees, four-feet-tall frogs appear on various structures and are painted sky blue, lime green, lemon yellow, and fire-engine red. Live frogs make themselves heard but not seen.

LCC on platform in garden_cropped, even smaller

Ms. Coleman lists the attractions at The Frog Farm:

One of them is the Mud Rockers, which is a frog band. And then we have a bird arbor back there, and there’s a Penguin Hill. There’s an alligator hill. We call it the Gator Hill. And you’ll see frog houses . . . You’ll see the . . . G & P boathouse. That’s for George and Peewee because the frogs in that boathouse are called Peewee and George.”

Louise Cadney Coleman, Mud Rockers

Louise Cadney Coleman, P & G Boathouse

Some of the outdoor attractions have been damaged by spring storms, fluctuations of the weather, insects, creeping vines, and time. The sculptures that cannot be spruced up with a fresh coat of paint are replaced. Ms. Coleman found that alligators made from logs or limbs were especially prone to decay, so she now uses treated wood for their bodies.

There are also attractions inside her showroom, the Frog Nest.  She describes one of them:

When you walk into my atrium, the first thing you see is my aquarium. And that’s one of my favorite things because you don’t have to change the water. You don’t have to feed the fish. And it’s a stunning thing, I think, when you walk in there. It really shows my imagination in full.

Tropical Fins, ca. 2010, is an indoor attraction by Louise Cadney Coleman at The Frog Farm.

Louise Cadney Coleman, Tropical Fins, ca. 2010

She continues:

The background is made from old tin and the fish are placed just along there. It’s about eight feet by eight feet. [. . .] It’s filled with tropical fish and some catfish. And there’s a couple of turtles in there, too. It’s called Tropical Fins.

Tropical Fins (detail), ca. 2010, by Louise Cadney Coleman

Tropical Fins (detail)

She shapes her critters from sticks or limbs that she finds, “Wherever I am and I’m looking around.” The natural shape and curve of the stick suggests the bird or fish it will become. Sometimes, Ms. Coleman uses a pocketknife and a wood file to shape it. She likes colors, so she coats each creature with acrylic paint. “I try to be true to nature or what people would like,” she says about her color palette.

She hopes that visitors to The Frog Farm will leave with “Joy and an appreciation for the art world and for art, especially folk art . . . This is another form of art that I want people to appreciate and to understand . . . For most folk artists, it’s a natural thing.”

Louise C Coleman portrait copy

Louise Cadney Coleman works in her studio at The Frog Farm every day that she’s not at her cytology job, which she does on Mondays and Wednesdays. The regular admission fee is $10.00, the discounted fee for seniors is $3.00, and coupons are available at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

Read the other MS Byways blog posts about this artist at Introducing The Frog Farm, Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm, and How Frog Farm Got Its Name.

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.


Articles and other blogs about The Frog Farm:

How The Frog Farm Got Its Name

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The Frog Farm as seen from the road in early March, 2015. The brown building on the left was Louise Cadney Coleman’s first studio, which she eventually outgrew. On the far right is the entrance to the sculpture garden. It is guarded by a frog Beefeater.

On the edge of the woods in Harriston, artist Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband own a piece of land, which became home to The Frog Farm, a folk art sculpture garden.  Before it became The Frog Farm, it was called Woodland Court. In addition to her husband’s hunting cabin, on the property was

. . . a low area and frogs do jump around and kids from the community like to come because they like frogs. And they came to me one day and they said to me, ‘Miss Louise, this is not Woodland Court. This is a frog farm. And I said, ‘Oh, okay.’ So I started making frogs, birds, alligators, turtles, and other things to go with that theme. And it’s grown from there.”

That was about 1999. She hopes to expand The Frog Farm one day, possibly to St. Francisville, Louisiana.

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Two frogs servers prepare the day’s special, fried crickets, at the Sunbreeze Café at The Frog Farm.

Artist Louise Cadney Coleman stands on the walkway in a low area of her Harriston, Mississippi, property.  A natural frog habitat, this area also is a folk art sculpture garden that local children named The Frog Farm.

Artist Louise Cadney Coleman removes a fallen branch from the walkway in a low area of her Harriston, Mississippi, property. A natural frog habitat, this area became the folk art sculpture garden that local children named The Frog Farm.

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“Penguin Hill” is one of The Frog Farm’s attractions. Read more about the attractions in a future post.

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Turtles shaped from found wood are camouflaged on a log.

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In this sculpture, “Woodland Shops,” miniature frog figures pose in front of store fronts that advertise fresh crickets and cool mud for sale.

The Snack Shack and The Frog Nest are two of the structures that Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband have built at The Frog Farm. The Frog Nest houses her studio and showroom.

The Snack Shack and The Frog Nest are two of the structures that Louise Cadney Coleman and her husband have built at The Frog Farm. The Frog Nest houses her studio and showroom.

The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

Click on the following links to read other posts on The Frog Farm: “Introducing The Frog Farm,” and “Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm.”

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Use the form below or email bbatton@msmuseumart.org to comment on this post or to suggest other Mississippi artists for this blog.

Natural Creativity at The Frog Farm

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The guitarist of the Mud Rockers is constantly on stage at The Frog Farm.

Louise Cadney Coleman sculpts whimsical creatures from sticks and tree limbs. Her Frog Farm is a garden of folk art sculptures, mostly of anthropomorphic frogs doing un-amphibian-like things such as playing in a rock band or visiting a tiki bar.

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A frog bartender awaits visitors at the Tiki Bar inside The Frog Farm’s Sunbreeze Café.

Ms. Coleman was born in the small, rural community of Harriston, Mississippi, in the mid-twentieth century, and she grew up there on a hill with her 10 siblings. “We were true country children,” she said.

Scientist and Folk Artist
“I got started as a child making stick dolls,” she explains, “. . . Because there were a lot of us and they were not able to afford all the dolls I wanted, and I was a doll person. So I started making the dolls myself out of sticks, and I made clothes for them, and I gave them names.”

After graduating from high school in Fayette and earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, she was trained as a cytotechnologist (one who studies cells) at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago. She never took any art classes.

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Louise Cadney Coleman

“Art is natural,” she says. “Science is a learned thing for me . . . If I had known at the time that I could have probably made a living as an artist, I probably would have been an artist all the way. But science is something that I knew I could make a living doing. And that’s the way I went. But then . . . art is my first love.”

After having established her career as a cytotechnologist, she returned to art and began selling her work at art shows and community heritage festivals. One customer in particular, a well travelled man from the Caribbean, saw tremendous creativity and promise in her work and urged her to have a showroom and museum representation. That was the encouragement she needed to indulge her sculpted frogs with an indoor and outdoor space of their own.

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Small beefeater sculptures are for sale inside the “Frog Nest,” which is the showroom and studio of The Frog Farm.

Next time, read about how The Frog Farm got its name and the attractions there. The Frog Farm is located at 186 Old Highway 61 Road, which is south of Lorman as you travel on Highway 61 South. The Frog Farm is on Facebook and can be reached by phone at 601-493-3420.

All artwork is copyright (c) Louise Cadney Coleman. All photographs are copyright (c) Beth Batton and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

To comment, fill in the form below or email Beth Batton at bbatton@msmuseumart.org.