Hardcovers and Paperbacks

By Brian Dettmer
Americana 54 #1, by Brian Dettmer

Americana 54 (#1), 2013



Virtual Artist Lecture: Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 2:00 p.m. CST


Brian Dettmer’s exhibit Hardcovers and Paperbacks, both memorializes the written word and reincarnates it. With great reverence, he has transformed books into sculptural works providing them with a new voice that pays homage to their former lives. Exhibit is on view at both the University Museum and Rowan Oak.

William Faulkner's Rowan Oak logo

Exhibit Breathes New Life Into Old Books at UM Museum, Rowan Oak
Artist Brian Dettmer on view Mar. 10 – Dec. 5

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum and Rowan Oak present a new exhibition of artwork by New York-based artist and book sculptor Brian Dettmer. “Hardcovers and Paperbacks” will be on view Mar. 10 through Dec. 5, 2020 at both locations.

“Not only is this the first show ever of an internationally-acclaimed artist to be exhibited dually at both the Museum and at Rowan Oak, but Brian occupies a position in the art world of a unique technique and approach to sculpting of hard cover books, and the international acclaim that goes with being a pioneer and visionary,” said Robert Saarnio, director of the UM Museum.

Dettmer’s work is a response to the recent cultural shift in the way information is gathered and accessed. He values the book and uses it to explore issues of accessibility, permanence and truth. Dettmer uses preexisting books, usually retired reference books, to create sculptures and other forms of media, all without moving or relocating any pages in the book. He begins by sealing the edges of the book and then uses knives and tweezers to carefully carve around the images or words he finds interesting and wants to display. Dettmer describes his work as “both archival and anti-archival,” and that he resurrects the contents of books that would otherwise be thrown away.

“Information is the raw material of today. We have an overabundance of text and imagery constantly at our fingertips. In digital media, it is often as fleeting as it is abundant,” Dettmer said. “Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation and we are at a pivotal time in the way we record and distribute facts.”

His work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum; The Art Institute of Chicago; The High Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

The University of Mississippi Museum is located at the corner of University Avenue and 5th Street. The galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is always free. Rowan Oak is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the house is $5 per person. The Rowan Oak grounds and Bailey Woods Trail are free and open to the public daily from dawn until dusk.

For more information about upcoming exhibits, events and the permanent collection, visit museum.olemiss.edu or 662-915-7073.

Southern Quilts


January 22–December 5, 2020




Sadie May Blackburn

Amanda Gordon

VT Price

Lutie Malone Vick

Pecolia Warner

Minnie Watson

Southern quilts are one of the purest forms of southern folk art. It is a craft handed down from generations, often done communally, that represents family, region, and the love and embodiment of its maker/s. Born from necessity, where resources are limited, it is a way to use scrap cloth. Although most quilters typically adhere to patterns, the competitive spirit of southern folk artists often sparked experimentation, spontaneity, and creative choices in color and print that manifested into individual artistic voices.

Most of these quilts were collected and gifted to the University Museum by Dr. William “Bill” Ferris, founder of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. A native Mississippian and folklorist Dr. William Ferris spent much of his time documenting Delta folk artists who would tell their stories while demonstrating their craft. His inevitable collection of their work would later also become the foundation of the Southern Folk Art Collection at the University of Mississippi Museum.

SQ title
SQ title

Dreams and Visions

Angel's request by Theora Hamblett

Angel’s Request #2, 1956.

“Parents didn’t like for their children to play ball games Saturday afternoon. That was too against Belief. And Mama fussin, I went to the fireplace to get a hot iron. I picked up the hot iron and went back to the ironing board and began ironing and I heard a noise. And I looked up right in front of me and there was an angel. It was papa. As I saw him in lights, only he was white with large white angel wings and grey robe, with both hands extended out towards me, and the right one nearer me and he says “Baby”. I had said I was going too [to the ball game]. And he says, “Baby, for my sake, don’t go.” So I didn’t. Of course I didn’t go. But, that vision was a big guiding in my life. After that, when I needed to make a decision, I would get off to myself and wonder, would papa be pleased with what I was doing? And really I think what I am today is from that.”




Theora Alton Hamblett was born and raised in Paris, Mississippi, and lived the latter part of her 80-year life in Oxford. A schoolteacher by training, she had a lifelong interest in art, but didn’t begin painting until age 55. Hamblett passed away in 1977 after gaining fame throughout the nation as a self- taught artist who’s brightly colored paintings of children’s games and childhood memories had universal appeal.

A Conversation with; Theora Hamblett link to video with Hamblett's photoLesser known are Hamblett’s religious paintings inspired by the dreams and visions she experienced during her last 25 years. This third category of her work was considered by the artist to be her most important work, therefore she preferred to keep most of the paintings rather than exhibiting them for profit. When Hamblett bequeathed her collection to the University of Mississippi, she gave explicit instructions that her religious paintings be given priority over all her other works in terms of exhibition, conservation, and scholarly study.

“she saw a vision of her brother with ‘shining eyes of glory’”

On the morning of July 3, 1971, Theora Hamblett received a phone call notifying her that her older brother Hubert had suffered a heart attack, but was stable. Despite reassurances, Theora spent the day anxiously pacing between three rooms of her house. As the day turned to evening, her pacing continued until, while turning into a room, she saw a vision of her brother with “shining eyes of glory”. Believing that this vision meant her brother had passed Theora spent the rest of the evening crying on her bed. Then between 10-11:00 pm, she received another phone call confirming her greatest fear that Hubert had indeed died.

Several weeks later, following the funeral, she painted this vision of Hubert she saw the day he died.

The tea towel is an addition made by Theora Hamblett to ceremoniously uncover and cover him daily.

Hubert, #137, 1971, Theora Hamblett Dreams and Visions Series
Oil on canvas, H: 38 ½”; W. 30 ⅛”
Bequest of Theora Hamblett, 1977.012.0174, 1956.

Hamblett’s overarching concern for this work can be attributed to the spirituality of her youth, a permutation that Protestantism scholars have dubbed Popular Southern Evangelicalism. The belief that her psychic episodes were religious experiences was therefore partially conditioned by the prevalence of such views within her early churches, but also latter collectors of this category. Five years after she began painting, the Museum of Modern Art acquired one of her dream paintings and changed the title of her work from The Golden Gate to The Vision. Listen to Theora discuss the Museum of Modern Art acquisition here.

Theora Hamblett’s work remains influential in contemporary southern art. The University of Mississippi Museum is proud to be the stewards of the majority of her art.

Mississippi Women

Untitled, n.d., by Mae Helen Flowers. On loan from the Collection of Carolyn Carothers.

Untitled, n.d., by Mae Helen Flowers. On loan from the Collection of Carolyn Carothers.


Mississippi Women highlights works by fifteen Mississippi women artists of the 20th century. For most, their gender, geographic origin, and timeline are where their similarities end. Their choice of mediums vary widely from painting on a pair of shoes, to the traditional oil on canvas, or encaustic pigmented wax on copper plate. A strong Southern Baptist faith may play a central theme in one artist’s work, while other artists have chosen nonrepresentational styles such as decorative post minimalism or abstract expressionism.