Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Art Museum Exhibit Closing Today

The latest exhibit in the campus art museum is closing its doors today after a lengthy showing. As an art major - and just someone who enjoys art in general - I felt it was my duty to pay tribute to it somehow.

The subject matter of the exhibit is Gulf Coast artists. The spotlight is definitely on Walter Inglis Anderson (pictured right courtesy of Mississippi Writers and Musicians), whose work pretty much everyone is familiar with. Anderson seems to be a big name here in Mississippi; he's to art what Elvis is to music down here, and what William Faulkner is to writing. We love him for what he's done and also because he's expanded his name beyond the state borders to an international level. While I do love his work, there are also plenty of other great artists on display, and they're the ones that make the exhibit really worthwhile.

The other figures are George Ohr, Richmond Barthe, and Dusti Bonge. Ohr, the "Mad Potter" of Biloxi, is almost as famous as Anderson, but tends to get the short end of the stick; my guess is because of his eccentricity. Ohr was a strange man. He had a ridiculous handlebar mustache, his workshop looked like something out of the Universal Pictures monster cycle with all the dilapidation and Tesla Coils coming off, and he once actually entered a parade dressed as Christ carrying the cross as a symbol of his own social alienation. What's most interesting about Ohr, though, is his work: his pots (one pictured to the right, courtesy of Antiques and the Arts Online) look as though they've been built up and promptly smashed. The beauty in this is that all of them have been painstakingly crafted to look this way on purpose. All of George Ohr's work has this remarkably odd and surreal, maddening quality to it, and just looking at it will probably drive you that much closer to insanity. I can't think of a nobler pursuit.

Richmond Barthe specializes in powerful sculptures that display the struggles faced by African Americans in the early 20th Century, and all of them have a poignant grasp: they're weary and drained, but hopeful and strong-willed. Dusti Bonge work is more in line with abstract surrealism, constructing bizarre images with dreamlike qualities.

This particular exhibit has sure been an interesting one. With my final sentence, I just want to issue this exhibit a farewell salute and raise my glass to the inevitability of the next one.

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