Category: Art/Photography (Page 2 of 6)

The Great Migration

The Great Migration by Jacob Lawrence. New York: Harper Collins / The Museum of Modern Art & The Phillips Collection, 1993. 
jacob lawrenceJacob Lawrence was not your typical painter. He often spent months at a branch of the New York Public Library, taking notes from journals and books and other documents before he would began work on a formal painting project. Lawrence wanted his art to teach history to his people. In describing his research efforts for The Great Migration, Lawrence remarked:

“Having no Negro history makes the Negro people feel inferior to the rest of the world . . . I didn’t do it just as a historical thing, but because these things tie up with the Negro today.”

Jacob Lawrence’s family was a family of migration. His mother and father had left the South for New Jersey where Jacob was born in 1917. Jacob ended up in Harlem at the age of 13. His mother and art teachers saw his talent at a young age, and eventually his talent earned him a position in the WPA program which provided the first artistic opportunities for many black artists like him. After Lawrence’s position at the WPA ended, he applied for a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Fund (of Sears & Roebuck) and cited his unusual research needs as a painter in the application. He asked for six months of research time before he began painting the Great Migration series.

The Great Migration consisted of 60 small tempera paintings depicting the mass migration of African Americans from the South to the North after World War I. The paintings were accompanied by captions which showed the influence of modern media: the rise of graphic illustration in mechanically produced magazines and photo books. The photo book with accompanying text was a popular genre following the Great Depression.
12 million black voices FEMany New Deal programs were designed to document rural America through oral-history projects and photography series.
Well-known photo books from this era include: Erskine Caldwell’s and Margaret Bourke-White’s “You Have Seen Their Faces” (1937); Dorothea Lange’s and Paul Taylor’s “American Exodus” (1939); “12 Million Black Voices” by Richard Wright (1941); and James Agee’s and Walker Evans’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” (1941).

Lawrence chose this same format—he only altered the format with his striking paintings. In 1941, the enlarged photographs from “12 Million Black Voices” with text by Richard Wright were chosen to accompany Lawrence’s Great Migration panels on a 15-city tour.
jacob lawrenceIn 1993, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Phillips Art Collection released a signed limited edition book of 100 copies of The Great Migration with all 60 panels and captions.
In 2015, MoMA and Phillips released a new book, “Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series,” following a 2014 exhibition celebrating the artist’s life and work.

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

Elizabeth Spencer & Walter Anderson Paired

“On the Gulf” by Elizabeth Spencer with the art of Walter Anderson. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1991.

“If I could have one part of the world back to the way it used to be, I would not choose Dresden before the fire bombing, Rome before Nero, or London before the Blitz. I would not resurrect Babylon, Carthage or San Francisco. Let the leaning tower lean and the hanging gardens hang. I want the Mississippi Gulf Coast back as it was before Hurricane Camille.”

This quote comes from Elizabeth Spencer’s Introduction to her collection of short stories “On the Gulf,” and her feelings might seem even more timely today when we think of the loss suffered from Hurricane Katrina. “On the Gulf” was published as part of the University Press of Mississippi’s Author and Artist Series in 1991. All six stories in “On the Gulf” are set along the Gulf of Mexico and the lives of women take center stage from New Orleans to Ship Island to Florida.
on the gulf by elizabeth spencerAll of the stories had been previously published, but Spencer found this republication particularly appealing when the press suggested that her stories be paired with the art of the late Walter Anderson. Every page has a banner heading of Anderson’s art work and each story has multiple full-page black-and-white drawings from Anderson. In her many recollections of the coast in her opening essay, Spencer remembered Walter Anderson: “He seemed, like the Lord God before him, to be creating every day, fish, fowl, plants, flowers, trees, sea and air . . .”

Several other books in the Mississippi Author and Artist series have become as collectible as “On the Gulf.” Here is a list of some early publications—and note the care the press took pairing our great Mississippi authors and artists.

morgana“Morgana” by Eudora Welty with the art of Mildred Nungester Wolfe (1988) includes two stories from Welty’s “Golden Apples.

“Black Cloud, White Cloud” by Ellen Douglas with the art of Elizabeth Wolfe (1989) is Douglas’s only collection of short fiction.

“Homecomings” by Willie Morris with the art of William Dunlap (1989) features Morris’s reflections on the meaning of home.

“The Debutante Ball” by Beth Henley with the art of Lynn Green Root (1989) presents the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright’s work in a new light.

“After All It’s Only a Game” by Willie Morris also with the art of Lynn Green Root (1992) includes fiction and nonfiction on basketball, baseball, and football.

The Author and Artist series was issued in both trade and limited edition series. The trade editions were large format hardbacks with decorative dust jackets, and book lovers might have had the opportunity to have them signed by author and artist. The limited editions were printed in limited number and signed by the author and artist, bound in cloth, and housed in a protective slipcase.

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

Vivian Maier and the Art of Taking Pictures of Strangers

As you may remember, I’m currently enrolled at Millsaps College, which means homework––endless stacks of homework. Oh, the piles. Luckily it’s not all math or science, I’m also taking a photography class.

In said class, I was assigned to choose a photographer to riff for a presentation. I went with Vivian Maier since I love black and white photography. Here’s the thing though, she takes pictures of complete strangers. Now, photography is hard; and creeping on strangers for street photography is weird, but I did what I had to. Luckily, Adie tagged along on one of my ventures in Fondren, which made the experience more fun.


Photograph by Adie Smith


Vivian’s stuff’s great. You should come take a look at her books: Vivian Maier Street Photographer, Vivian Maier A Photographer Found, and Vivian Maier: Self Portraits. Someone has also made a documentary about her because she is the bee’s knees right now; but that’s what happens when never-before seen photography is found in a random storage facility. Mystery. Intrigue. All that jazz.

Personally, I’m interested in how a few of the children she nannied helped take care of her financially once they were old enough; but that’s just me. If you’d like to know more about her, then you should give her some time and take a look at her work- learn her story. Or not, whatever, deprive yourself of the finer things in life; it’s completely your choice.


Photograph by Elizabeth Parkes

The Artwork of Lucia Joyce


mime of nick with glassine cover“The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies” by James Joyce. The Hague, Holland: Servire Press / New York: Gotham Book Mart, 1934.

James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet recognized for his novels “Ulysses,” “Finnegans Wake,” “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and his short story collection “Dubliners.” “Ulysses,” considered to be one of the most important works of modernist literature, is a long, complex novel. Joyce was utterly exhausted when he finished writing it in 1921. After taking a couple of years off, he began writing a very experimental work entitled “Work In Progress.” Eventually, Joyce began serially publishing “Work In Progress” in a literary magazine called Transition. Over the next 17 years, “Work In Progress” grew in length and complexity but the critical reception of it was largely negative; it was criticized for its lexical impossibility and its imperceptible plot. Eventually, the work was published in book form by Viking Press in 1939 under the title “Finnegans Wake.”

lucia joyce

During the 1930s Joyce’s daughter Lucia, a dancer who had been a student of Isadora Duncan, began suffering from mental illness. Joyce wanted desperately to find her some relief and a new artistic outlet to replace dance since she had been institutionalized. He offered her the opportunity to illustrate a fragment of “Finnegans Wake” called “The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies.” With a limited printing of 1000 copies, “The Mime” was published on Old Antique Dutch Paper and features a metallic and color cover, initial capital and tail-piece design by Lucia Joyce.

Finnegans Wake” is not tackled by most of the reading public but is still admired by scholars for its linguistic inventiveness. The work is enjoyed most by those who do not take it too seriously, by those who see its inherent playfulness and laugh-out-loud wit. Readers also should not get lost in understanding everything about the “Wake”; Joyce himself advised readers to find what they know in the work:

“You are not Irish and the meaning of some passages will perhaps escape you. But you are Catholic, so you will recognize this and that allusion. You don’t play cricket; this word may mean nothing to you. But you are a musician, so you will feel at ease with this passage. When my friends come to Paris, it is not the philosophical subtleties of the book that amuse them, but my recollection of O’Connell’s top hat.”

Written by Lisa Newman,  A version of this column was published in The Clarion-Ledger’s Sunday Mississippi Books page.

The “Hemphill Girls” of the Mississippi HIll Country

rosaleehillThese ladies, Rosa Lee Hill, Jessie Mae Hemphill, and Ada Mae Anderson, come from a long line of musicians.  They were all taught to play by their father and or grandfather.  When George Mitchell arrived in Mississippi he was introduced to Rosa Lee and her niece, Jessie Mae at Fred McDowell’s house.  He couldn’t believe he was meeting Rosa Lee Hill and asked if he could record her.  She tells him not tonight but then invites him to her house in a few days and maybe then.

Rosa Lee Hill was born in Panola County in 1911 and her father was Sid Hemphill.  Sid was a popular  jessiemaehemphillbrooksmusician in the Senatobia area.  He played every night to make money for his family and taught all of them to play too.  Rosa Lee began playing guitar at age seven and was  playing parties with other family members by the age of ten.  Jessie Mae was Rosa Lee’s sisters child and as soon as she was old enough was taught to play guitar by her grandfather, Sid.  She soon though started to beat the snare drum with some of the Fife and Drum bands that played at the picnics around the area.  Ada Mae Anderson was the daughter of Sid’s brother, George Hemphill,  she played with the Hemphill clan when she was young but also sang in a female gospel band.  Jessie Mae is probably the most well known of the adamaeanderson“Hemphill Girls” having collaborated on many albums and touring Europe and being featured in the documentary Deep Blues.  There is no doubt that the Hemphill Clan was an important and vital part of the history of the MS Hill Country Music history.



For your listening pleasure…Rosa Lee Hill singing Bullying Well.  This was recorded in Como, MS in 1967.



Othar Turner


otharturnerWhile Othar Turner was born in Rankin County, MS in 1907 he lived the majority of his life in Gravel Springs near to Como and Senatobia.  He grew up going to fife and drum gatherings and by watching other players he soon learned how to build and blow a cane fife of his own.  He often was seen playing drums with Napoleon Strickland’s band and when he was too ill to play Turner started his own band.  Turner upheld the tradition of the fife and drum until his death in 2003.  Sharde Thomas, Othar Turners granddaughter, was 12 years old when he passed away.  She took up the fife blowing in the Rising Star Fife and Drum Corps and continues to do so.

This is what Othar Turner says about how he learned to play music…

I started on a tin tub. Beat it with sticks. Take my hand and beat that drum and take me some sticks and went to doing just what the next fellow doing.  Practiced and practiced till I got my right lick.  Not just pecking on the drum, you got to play tunes on the drum.  That’s right. So I learned ’em.  I started playing on the tin tub when I was fifteen years old, and when I started playing the drum, I was seventeen.

And I learnt myself to blow the fice {fife}.

So I got me a cane and got me a nail.  Just plain cane.  Started to boring my holes; I couldn’t make none out of that.  so I went and got me a thick piece of wire and put in the stove to  burn the holes in there.  My mama then come: “Get out of the way, boy! What you doing?” I said, “I”m trying to make me a fice.”  “Oh, you ain’t going make you no fice. You don’t know how to make a fice.”  I said, ” Mama, I’m going make me a fice. I’m going learn how to blow this cane.” I learnt.

Othar Turner’s Rising Star Fife & Drum band (Turner, fife; G.D. Young, bass drum; E.P. Burton, snare; Eddie Ware, snare) playing a picnic at Othar’s farm. Shot by Alan Lomax, John Bishop, and Worth Long in Gravel Springs, Mississippi, August 1978.

Mississippi Fred McDowell

fredmcdowellWhile Fred McDowell was born in Tennessee, he lived most of his life in Como, Mississippi.  He is considered one of the ‘elder statesmen’ of the Hill Country and during the 60’s was the most well known outside of the area.  He began playing guitar at a young age for picnics and house parties and in 1959 Alan Lomax recorded him.  While he did play an electric guitar, McDowell always insisted that “I do not play no rock n’ roll.”  He passed away in 1972 just a few years after meeting George Mitchell.

When George Mitchell decided to make the trip to MS he called some friends for some leads to go about finding these “unknown” blues musicians.  He was given Fred McDowell’s name and told that he lived somewhere around Como.  He and his wife, Cathy, headed south hit I-55 and took Exit 52 and pulled into a Stuckeys to get some gas. George decides to ask the attendant if he knows McDowell and he says yes….

Do you know where I can find him? I ask.

You’re looking at him.

I’m taken aback. The first man we meet in Mississippi is Fred McDowell?! Damn! And he works in a service station?!

Mitchell tells McDowell what they are doing in MS, that they want to interview and record some unkown blues musicians from the area and Fred says that shouldn’t be a problem.  He then invites them to his house where he promises to have some folks for them to meet.  The rest as they say is history.

Mississippi Fred McDowell—Going Down to the River

Spark: How Creativity Works

sparkSpark is a collection of essays about how real life and creativity collide, revealed through many conversations on Studio 360, the fastest growing show in Public Radio International’s history. Artists, filmmakers, architects, sound engineers, writers and musicians share their experiences of creating solutions out of adversity, incorporating family and home life into their work, growing in creative partnerships, and how they get to work, start again and understand when a creative effort is actually finished.

Ulf Andersen Portrait - Richard FordOne of the writers featured in Spark is one with whom Mississippians are familiar: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford. The foundation for Ford’s creativity began in childhood out of adversity. As a child, Ford never dreamed of becoming a novelist; he rarely even read as he struggled with dyslexia. Reading out loud turned out to be faster than reading silently and as a result he became acutely aware of the sounds and rhythms of language as he lingered over sentences and eventually began to write his own stories. When he was writing The Lay of the Land, Ford and his wife, Kristina, took turns reading passages aloud to each other, discussing melody and meaning of the lines. Ford says: “I feel like if I don’t read things aloud, I don’t really fully authorize them. I have to hear everything, hear what every sentence sounds like. I write so somebody will read what I write.”

Spark is a delightful book to pack in your bag as you travel this summer. From Richard Ford to Roseanne Cash to Kevin Bacon to the collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Spark illuminates the creative life and inspires. You will also learn the story of how Studio 360 became such a successful show despite some of its key players having no radio experience. I’ll leave you with the wisdom of Zen master Shunryu Suzuki, a great inspiration for Studio 360 host Kurt Anderson: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, foreword by Kurt Anderson, $14.99

Maddie’s On All the Things

Well dang! That pretty girl named Maddie is up for preorder over on Amazon 

It’s finally here– a whole book full of pictures of Maddie on Things! For those of you unaware of what this is or how it started, a little history: Theron Humphrey, a photographer on a mission to photograph 365 people in 365 days all across the country needed a travel buddy. Enter Maddie the coon hound, an adopted and adorably passive looking canine with freckles like a baby deer. She’s precious and there is no other word for it. While feeling particularly American on his road trip, he placed Maddie on top of his truck to capture beast and machine at their finest– and she stayed! No leaping, rowdy shenanigans from this speckled girl.

“I was like, okay, what else would she stand on?” Humphrey said, “Will she stand on this trash can? Will she stand on the fire hydrant? It just grew and snowballed from there.” Humphrey has been photographing Maddie for quite some time now and posting the pictures on his website, which I have been ravenously following since I first stumbled across an almost painfully cute picture of a dog wearing a “ghost costume”. This dog has the patience of Job and we have been assured is safe at all times and is given a multitude of treats after every picture.

Halloween costume: option 2

I’m so very very excited that there is now a concrete collection of the best of these pictures that I can grab off of my coffee table whenever I’m feeling blue. And here’s the thing– these pictures aren’t cheesy stock pet photos that you might find on a calendar in a dentist’s office. The subject is smushably cute, yes, but there is a lot of artistry in these pictures. Craft+a coonhound= I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT. I have to stop typing and just show you guys pictures. Probably way too many pictures.

Boise, ID

This happened.

Austin, TX #sxsw

Brooklyn, NY

Taking to higher ground in Pittsburgh, PA

We’re going on tour! We are pumped to meet ya’ll! RSVP over on - We are making over 40 stops all over the ole USA + Canada. The tour kicks off 3/8 in AustinYou can pre-order the book on Amazon: Maddie on Things OR support your local indie bookstore!(do you follow us on Instagram? hear more about this image and our adventure over there: @ThisWildIdea)

Had a blast today KC! Thank you for being a friend

Here’s the man himself with the dog herself



Seeking the Cure: Get Out of those Downton Abbey Blues (Because Deventon Abbey Rules)

Sometimes the world gets too intense, boring, weird or any other thing the world gets too much of. When these things become readily apparent in our every day lives, we like to take a little vacation, to get away from the intensities of existence, the vicissitudes that are intrinsic to being human.

dThere are three forms of escapism: TV, Literature, and Hard Drugs. Watching the telly gives many a people great satisfaction and it’s the most accessible form of “getting away”. Turn it on and become an automaton. Literature requires much more <work> but induces a far superior stupor than television and generally the escape made is very well received. Hard Drugs produce a complete escape from reality, one is left thoroughly <gone> and without <work>. The draw to this is undeniable, but the plunge back into reality can be quite harsh, leaving the user only wanting more. Burn out is probable, and often it is the TV/Lit user that is left to maintain the physical state of the reality blasted HD user. You will become a wretch most like. Burnout is inevitable and your TV/Lit friends will leave you. So, in summation the best and safest forms of escape are indeed TV and Literature, of which literature is the triumphant winner.

But sometimes, even for us Lit users, the allure of the automaton is just too great, and you sit down, turn on the television, flip around, nothing, open up Netflix, look around, “Oh, here’s this show I’ve been hearing about, Downtown, no, Downton Abbey? Yeah… I wonder what it’s like? Let’s try it.”

So, now you’re trapped! Ensnared! Unwittingly you have watched Downton Abbey, and found it not to be what it claims to be, viz. television. You thought you were going to be watching TV, become an automaton, but what was up with all the emotions you were made to feel? The Anxiety. And what was up with the overwhelming sense of DREAD, is that not what you were trying to escape in the first place? It was, but now by means of trickery you are in a dual reality. You must deal with your life, as before, but now you’ve got to worry about a whole host of rich folks and the scurrying servants that live and snuggle and fight and kiss and plot beneath fthem! But how have they hooked you, it’s just a television show, right? No.

Here I propose that by powers unknown, wizry, voodoo, magic, whatever you want to call it, you have been given, under the guise of <just TV> , Hard Drugs. People, I warned you earlier, burnout is inevitable, your friends will leave you – you will crash and burn. If you continue on this path, you will not live to see another episode of the spectacle that has become yourlife. Oh despair! But, what if I told you there is a way out, and, for you that have been spent and used up by this show (Hard Drugs), there is still hope!

gatesAGENT GATES AND THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF DEVENTON ABBEY (A PARODY) is your antidote! This is a graphic novel that totally erases the long lasting effects of using Downton. It’s a miracle worker! It’s as if you’ve never been touched by Matthew’s back injury (he couldn’t have babies for heaven’s sake!) or Edith’s wedding day abandonment (that jerk!). Whoa! Just talking about those events makes me need to escape them. Good thing I’ve got AGENT GATES AND THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF DEVENTON ABBEY (A PARODY). This graphic novel is so funny! It had me laughing again! I hadn’t laughed since Bates was accused of stealing Richard’s cuff links. I was freed by it, and so can you! Having trouble sleeping after O’Brien killed Cora’s baby (Oh GOD kill that pickle curl headed woman now!)? I’m not, because I have escaped my dual reality with AGENT GATES AND THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF DEVENTON ABBEY (A PARODY).

Come by Lemuria today and get your cure for only 14.99 USD, a  mere pittance for it’s potency!

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