Directors’ Letter 5th & University / June, 2020

 

“The museum we closed will not be the museum we reopen.”

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsThose words are being spoken in nearly every museum across the country as we collectively come to terms with the depth of devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Mississippi Museum and William Faulkner’s historic home Rowan Oak are located in Oxford, Mississippi, removed from epicenters of the virus, but still deeply impacted. Like most museums, in upcoming months, we will have to make hard decisions to rethink and reformat elements of our work.

When faced with a tremendous, unprecedented challenge, such as the pandemic, it would be understandable to retreat inward, conserve resources, and focus on survival. Instead, the University Museum and Rowan Oak are looking outward to our campus and community, to continue our commitment to bring people together around art and cultural heritage, even if at a distance.

This kind of response started with a nimble, resilient, and talented team working from a foundation existing well before this crisis. In the days following our closure on March 17, we postponed the public Opening Reception of our Brian Dettmer exhibition, Hardcovers and Paperbacks, and shortly thereafter the University’s summer public programs closure caused us to cancel our children’s Summer Art Camps. Two lectures planned for our spring Brown Bag Series were put on hold; two Friends of the Museum / Outreach College travel partnerships to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Holly Springs annual pilgrimage were postponed; and Museum and Rowan Oak roles in the 47th annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference were also cancelled.

But simultaneously there was also a realization that our focus on connecting the community to art, antiquities, and literary heritage was not on pause, it was moving to alternate platforms. As you will observe in this current edition of our monthly newsletter, and also the May issue that preceded it, we are regularly adding new content to our website and our social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This augmented online content is keeping us moving in a positive direction, and is creating a new way of thinking and operating that will remain as the pandemic recedes. Please follow us to appreciate and participate in these online learning, collections-celebrating, and art-at-home activity opportunities.

Universities nationwide may likely face their most perilous financial challenge in a lifetime, the depth of which is still unknown. As the crisis lingers, and due to the uncertainty of when we can host large gatherings again, our annual Harvest Supper fundraiser will be moved into 2021. Substantial earned income sources, such as football gameday parking and facility rentals, will initially be smaller in extent whenever they return. Several aspects of Museum and Rowan Oak daily functioning will likely have to be rethought and reshaped, as will the building environments themselves. The next few years are frankly going to be very complex, unlike anything we have faced as communities and institutions.

In response, we must become even more resilient, nimble, and community-aligned. We will look closer to home for content, continuing to mine our exceptional permanent collection for exhibitions, public programs, and inspiration. We will reopen by this Fall, and when we do, we will join our University community in pledging to all of you who visit and support us, and everyone working here, staff and students alike, an environment that dedicates itself to adherence to public health guidelines, building hygiene, and adapted best safety practices. We will sustain a focus on being warmly welcoming and inclusive of all.

Thank you as always for your continuing interest in the University Museum and Rowan Oak. Do watch our website and social media channels for the latest in news and content. Please do not hesitate to reach me at rsaarnio@olemiss.edu or 662-915-7202 at any time, for any purpose. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Sincere Regards,

 
Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director

 

 

Dreams and Visions

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.
Lesser 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.
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.
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.

A Conversation With Theora Hamblett

Hardcovers and Paperbacks

By Brian Dettmer
Americana 54 #1, by Brian Dettmer

Americana 54 (#1), 2013

 

MARCH 10–SEPTEMBER 5, 2020

► VIEW VIRTUAL GALLERY

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 – Sept. 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 Sept. 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

 

FEATURING

 

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.

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Hardcovers and Paperbacks by Brian Dettmer

Information is the raw material of today. Ideas put in print have a tangible permanence; a strong history and stability for the future, yet we continue to replace the physical book with fleeting formats that are subject to questionable priorities of tech companies and a consistent flow of electricity to remain accessible. In my current work, I ask what erasure and loss could look like through the lens of printed matter. Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation and we are at a pivotal moment in the way we record and distribute information. Information is now constantly refreshing and recording over itself –often leaving only traces of fragmented facts and past proclamations. This malleability has been exploited and our agreed truths have been uprooted by intentional distortions, erasures, and manipulations. My work attempts to illustrate these issues and raise questions about the future of the book.

—BRIAN DETTMER

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Gallery at Rowan Oak.
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Gallery at Rowan Oak.

Hardcovers and Paperbacks by Brian Dettmer

Information is the raw material of today. Ideas put in print have a tangible permanence; a strong history and stability for the future, yet we continue to replace the physical book with fleeting formats that are subject to questionable priorities of tech companies and a consistent flow of electricity to remain accessible. In my current work, I ask what erasure and loss could look like through the lens of printed matter. Reference books have become almost extinct in less than one generation and we are at a pivotal moment in the way we record and distribute information. Information is now constantly refreshing and recording over itself –often leaving only traces of fragmented facts and past proclamations. This malleability has been exploited and our agreed truths have been uprooted by intentional distortions, erasures, and manipulations. My work attempts to illustrate these issues and raise questions about the future of the book.

—BRIAN DETTMER

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Gallery at Rowan Oak.
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Gallery at Rowan Oak.
Americana 54

Brief text here about Americana 54 works… I looked for something about these on Dettmer’s website but didn’t find anything.

Americana 54 (#1), 2013
Brian Dettmer (American b. 1974)
hardcover books, acrylic varnish
H. 39 ¼”; L. 42 ¼”; D. 2 ½”
on loan from artist
L2020.001.0009

Americana 54 (#2), 2013
Brian Dettmer (American b. 1974)
hardcover books, acrylic varnish
H. 45 ⅜”; L. 35 ½”; D. 2 ½”
on loan from artist
L2020.001.0010

Americana 54 (#3), 2013
Brian Dettmer (American b. 1974)
hardcover books, acrylic varnish
H. 33 ⅜”; L. 35 ⅛”; D. 2 ½”
on loan from artist
L2020.001.0011

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Time capsule

Brief text here about Timecapsule works…

1950s, 2017
Brian Dettmer (American b. 1974)
hardcover books, aluminum rod, archival adhesive
H. 15″; L. 10 ½”; D. 7 ¾”
on loan from artist
L2020.001.0014

1960s, 2017
Brian Dettmer (American b. 1974)
hardcover books, aluminum rod, archival adhesive
H. 13 ½”; L. 10 ½”; D. 8″
on loan from artist
L2020.001.0015

1970s, 2017
Brian Dettmer (American b.1974)
Hardcover books, aluminum rod, archival adhesive
H. 12”; L. 9 ½”; D. 7”
On loan from artist
L2020.001.0016

1980s, 2017
Brian Dettmer (American b.1974)
Hardcover books, aluminum rod, archival adhesive
H. 14 ½”; L. 9 ¾”; D. 6 ⅝”
On loan from artist
L2020.001.0017

Directors’ Letter 5th & University / May, 2020

 

“The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts also are a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times.”

Americans for the Arts, 2020

Photo of Robert Saarnio by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsWarmest of greetings to you all, from the University Museum and Rowan Oak. The entire professional staff team joins me in expressing every hope that this communication finds you sheltered safely, and remaining confident in the brighter future that assuredly awaits our communities.

The University is proving to be — as it has always been — a supportive, thoughtful, and engaged parent organization for our museum and historic house, as University leadership and Provost Noel Wilkin steer the institutional ship through complex and rocky shoals.

Emerging from the most recent meetings as of this last week of April is the fact that across the entire University all Summer 2020 camps, programs, events, and conferences have been cancelled through August 1st. This unfortunately includes our immensely popular schedule of children’s summer camps.

Staff have been telecommuting and we are all staying in contact — they remain the highly-skilled, dedicated, and innovative professionals you have always known them to be. Our development officer Rob Jolly and I remain in frequent contact as we explore available modes of sustaining meaningful connection with our stakeholders and donors. One example has been the planning to celebrate this 10th anniversary year of the founding of the Hattie Mae Edmonds Fund and Gallery for Southern Folk Art with the direct involvement of Fund creator Mike Edmonds.

Among online initiatives underway, a new Rowan Oak website is in final stages of its preparation for a live launch — an exciting development long-anticipated by us all, and one that holds such great promise to augment public awareness of the Faulkner property and its wide range of engaging stories, and its collections now formally acquired in perpetuity by the University.

As we emerge from challenging times, we believe cultural spaces like our University Museum and our National Historic Landmark literary heritage site will be more essential than ever, as people seek solace in opportunities for reflection, beauty, and engagement with the past. Until then, we hope that in some small way we can offer a refuge — even remotely — from the anxieties of this moment. We invite you to stay connected through the Museum’s website and social media channels, where our talented team will be regularly posting content to inspire creation, reflection, and learning.

Should you have any questions that I might answer, or any support that I can offer from the Museum, please do not hesitate to contact me at rsaarnio@olemiss.edu, my cell 808-284-7380, and weekdays at my Museum desk extension 915-7202.

In these difficult times, we are reminded daily of the importance of community and the greater impact of ideas and creative expression. We wish you all safe haven and good health in the days ahead.

 
Robert Saarnio's signature
Robert Saarnio 
Museum Director

 

 

Summer Camps 2019

2019 Summer Camps logo
Summer Camp is a wrap for 2019! Please check back in spring for a listing of Summer 2020 camps.


The University Museum is excited to announce its 2019 schedule of fun-filled summer camps for children.
Children will encounter mythological creatures, explore the Museum, and experiment with new art materials
in these exciting and educational camps inspired by the Museum’s collections and special exhibits.
Returning camper? —we will have new projects, so join us again!

Cost of each weeklong camp:

$65 per participant for Museum Members at the Family level and above

$85 per participant for non-members

All supplies and snacks are included in the cost.

Space is very limited, and camps will fill up quickly, so sign up today!
Registration opens March 1, 2019, 8:00 a.m.

Register Online

 

Let us know if you are unable to register online. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available. Contact Stacy Bell, Curator of Education, at 662.915.7205 or slbell@olemiss.edu if you have any questions or to request a scholarship application.

 

For Children Entering Grades 1–5:

World Travelers Camp
June 10-14, 2019, 9 a.m.–noon

In this week’s camp we will explore the UM Museum’s diverse collections and beyond as we travel around the world, learning about unique cultures and creating art inspired by a new region each day.

Birds: Art and Ornithology Camp
June 17-21, 2019, 9 a.m.–noon

Inspired by the Museum’s special exhibition, The Art of Identification by David Allen Sibley, students will learn to identify different types of birds, create art that takes flight, and explore nature in this fun week of camp.

Mythology Camp
July 8-12, 2019, 9 a.m.–noon

Inspired by the Museum’s collection of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian artifacts, we will explore ancient civilizations, mythological creatures, and thrilling legends.

Appetizing Art Camp
July 15-19, 2019, 9 a.m.–noon

From Wayne Thiebaud’s colorful confections to Warhol’s soup can to ancient Greek fish plates, campers will explore art inspired by food while also creating their own culinary treats throughout the week.

 

camp 15For Children in Preschool and Entering Kindergarten:

Mini Masters Explorer Camp
June 24–28, 2019, 9 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
For Ages 3–5 and a Grown-up*
Get the young ones ready to head back to preschool or kindergarten by making art with their new friends inspired by toddler stories and art from the Museum’s collections!
*Due to UM policies, all mini masters must be accompanied by an adult (can be one guardian for multiple children). Coffee and snacks will be provided for grown ups!

 


For Children Entering Grades 6–8

All About Art: Middle School Edition
July 22–26, 2019, 9 a.m.–noon
Experiment with drawing, illustrating, painting, sculpture, and mixed media in this fun-filled week of art inspired by Museum collections and exhibitions. All levels of experience are welcome.

Two Lives in Photography

By Maude Schuyler Clay & Langdon Clay

Photographers, Langdon Clay (left) and Maude Clay

Photo by Sarah Benham Spongberg

 

September 17, 2019–February 15, 2020

Gallery Walk-through: Thursday, January 30, 2020, 6–8:00 p.m.

 

Two Lives in Photography features married photographers Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay in their first-ever joint exhibition.

Married for 40 years this month, the Clays have both made careers as published photographers and are included in collections around the globe. Despite both having careers spanning more than 50 years, the couple has never exhibited their work side-by-side in a museum or gallery before now.

“The University Museum is genuinely honored and very excited to be the venue for the first dual exhibition of distinguished photographers Maude Schuyler Clay and Langdon Clay,” museum director Robert Saarnio said. “Given their international reputations and acclaimed exhibition and publishing histories, this is a rare and privileged opportunity for the Museum and its audiences in its 80th year.”

Langdon credits his interest in still photography to producing 8mm silent films in high school. He purchased a secondhand Pentax camera in 1968 and became instantly hooked; he shot his first roll of film of Robert Kennedy in New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade that same year. He fell in love with the process of developing in the darkroom, specifically creating a print that was tangible.

“The smell of acetic acid, the dim orange light, and the magic of the photo paper’s transformation was mesmerizing,” he said. 

Langdon printed most of the photographs on display at the UM Museum.

By 1971, Clay moved back to New York permanently and spent the next 16 years photographing much of the city.

“I experienced a conversion of sorts in making a switch from the ‘decisive moment’ of black and white to the marvel of color, a world I was waking up to every day. At the time it seemed like an obvious and natural transition. What was less obvious was how to reflect my world of New York City in color. I discovered that night was its own color and I fell for it,” Clay said, in reference to his work.

His first major series Cars (Steidl, 2016) is a collection of color photographs of cars taken at night throughout New York City from December 1974 to 1976.

While living in New York, Langdon met and married Maude Schuyler, who is also a photographer and cousin of William Eggleston, the famed photographer best known for validating color photography as a fine art medium. 

“Fifty years ago, I knew none of this, but felt intuitively the photography world was some place I could comfortably inhabit. Then I married Maudie and that world effectively doubled,” Langdon said.

In 1987, Langdon, Maude, and their first child, Anna, moved to Sumner, Mississippi, Maude’s hometown.

Maude Schuyler Clay was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. She received her first camera, a Brownie Starflash, at nine years old. She credits photography as saving her from “perpetrating more destructive teenage uselessness,” and as an activity that was fulfilling enough to preserve long-term.

After attending the University of Mississippi, the Instituto Allende in San Miguel, Mexico, and the Memphis Academy of Arts, she served as a studio assistant to Eggleston and credits him as her primary artistic role model. She remembers accompanying him on rides in the late afternoon light; she was able to observe through his lens what he found worthy of photographing.

She moved to New York City in the mid-1970s to work for LIGHT Gallery. During this time, Maude began to concentrate on color photos of people in low, natural light which to differentiate her work from Eggleston’s, she says. When she returned to the Mississippi Delta with Langdon, the landscape became her new subject of choice. Maude felt that its stark beauty seemed to call for black and white, rather than color.

“My main objective through photography,” she said, “has been to simply leave a record of how the world looks. You could say my world, specifically, but the larger truth is this: however we artists accomplish our interpretations, perhaps others — now, or at a later time — can benefit from a lifetime devoted to the act of simple observation.”

Maude has published several photography books with images of the Mississippi, including Delta Land (1999), Delta Dogs (2014), and Mississippi History (2015). Most recently, Mississippi, a collaboration with poet Ann Fisher-Wirth, was released in 2018.

Her works are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the High Museum in Atlanta, among others. She has received numerous awards, including the Mississippi Arts and Letters award.

Maude and Langdon agree, the joint exhibition can be summed up in the words of John Keats, often recited in their home: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, —that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

The Clays continue to live and work from their family home in Sumner and have three adult children — Anna, Schuyler, and Sophie.