Regional Update Issue 98: Mississippi Delta

By Michaela Merryday



Rory Doyle, A Cowboy named James pose for a portrait in Bolivar County, Mississippi. Courtesy of the artist.


The Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS recently hosted Confluence, an exhibition of recent work by Jerry Uelsmann, the godfather of analog photomontage. This recent work was inspired by his friendship with the art historian Moa Peterson who is currently working on a biography of Uelsmann. Peterson’s face appears in several images in the exhibition and the title of the exhibition, Confluence, refers to their shared interests as well as the bringing together of disparate elements in Uelsmann’s work. Despite the availability of digital image editing technology, Uelsmann continues to produce his work in the darkroom using multiple enlargers, masking, and dodging to create provocative images that question our sense of reality. This traveling exhibition was curated by Amy R. Vigilante, director of University Galleries at the University of Florida where Uelsmann taught for many years.  Its next stop is the Sarah Mood Gallery of Art at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.


Visual Voices: Contemporary Chickasaw Art just opened at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, MS. Visual Voices showcases work by established as well as emerging Chickasaw artists. The exhibition surprises with its broad array of themes, styles, and media; what relates the work is the artists’ exploration of the complex relationship between tribal traditions and the contemporary Chickasaw life. Some of the artists transform traditional Chickasaw symbols and design elements into a contemporary aesthetic, others explore how tribal traditions and beliefs inform their present. Visual Voices continues the Mississippi Museum of Art’s dedication to highlighting the state’s rich ethnic diversity. The exhibition will be on view until June 2.


Delta Arts Alliance in Cleveland, MS featured Rory Doyle’s Delta Hill Riders, a photographic exploration of the African-American cowboy community in the Mississippi Delta. Delta Hill Riders highlights a little-known African American subculture that centers on black heritage rodeos, horse shows, “Cowboy Nights” at black night clubs, and family farms. Doyle, who was awarded a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters award for this body of work, explains that Delta Hill Riders wants to challenge the traditional stereotype of the cowboy as well as the conventional portrayals of the Delta’s African American community and offer a counter-narrative that celebrates community and traditions handed down through generations. Although the exhibition has since appeared in several other venues, Doyle wanted to show it in the Delta first to allow the subjects of these photographs a voice in the exhibition.


This year the Fielding Wright Art Center at Delta State University was host of the Mississippi Collegiate Art Competition, a state-wide art competition open to art students from two- and four-year colleges. The competition was juried by Jenny K. Hager, Professor of Sculpture at the University of North Florida. Professor Hager selected 103 artworks from nearly 900 entries that were on view at DSU’s Fielding Wright Art Center Gallery until the end of February.


The Yokna Sculpture Trail, which consists of a rotating exhibition of large-scale outdoor sculpture that runs through the University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford, MS, is in the process of installing 8 new pieces to be revealed later this spring. Meanwhile, the Mathews-Sanders Sculpture Garden at Delta State University is accepting submissions for its 8th Biennial Sculpture Competition that will go on display this August.


Michaela Merryday is an Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Delta State University and Director of the Fielding Wright Art Center.