Wednesday, March 11, 2009

American Masters of the MS Gulf Coast (copy)

The librarian called and I put on my running shoes! She was holding a new book for me and I could not wait to flip through the pages. Yes, I work at a library but this particular book was still on order. My book lust was too strong to let the copy sit one more minute on the public library’s shelf.

I am speaking of American Masters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: George Ohr, Dusti Bongé, Walter Anderson, Richmond Barthé by Patti Carr Black. In book form, it is the catalog for the current exhibit traveling the state of Mississippi until 2010. The closest venue for the exhibit is Oxford at University of Mississippi Museum during the month of August 2009. Can you say road trip!

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a magical, mystical place that feeds its artists’ passions. From a mad potter to an exclusive purveyor of African souls, Mississippians, whether art enthusiasts or not, will delight in the examples provided in this book. It is our coast’s natural beauty which flames the fires of imagination in our state’s inhabitants.

“’The Coast’ is abundantly gifted in arts and culture, has produced world-class visual artists, and boasts of a unique agua- and agri- culture that melds the rural simplicities of Mississippi lore with the rich eccentricities of New Orleans,” states the Director of Mississippi Arts Commission, Malcolm White, in the introduction.

The format of the book includes a brief history of the area by Patti Carr Black and then breaks into four parts for each artist. The four parts are separated further by a biography of the artist, the artist’s approach to his art and a brief sampling of works in the exhibit. Unfortunately, Richmond Barthé’s sampling of work is too brief. The artist has only four sculptures depicted on full pages where the others have over ten.

Flip through these pages and reacquaint yourself with fellow Mississippians: George Ohr, the mad potter of Biloxi who may have the honor of being the first American performance artist, Dusti Bongé, a woman of privilege who singlehandedly brought modernism to Mississippi, Walter Anderson, a recluse who rode his bike 200 miles for art supplies, and Richmond Barthé with his rags to riches then back to rags story who may be the first African-American to receive $100,000 for a single piece of art.

American Masters is well worth the run to the library, but I wish it included more art.